This time, I did not drive.
It took a lot of resolve to resist being in the driver seat of the Nissan Terra throughout the two-day event that guided motoring journalists through about 300 kilometers of city, highway and off-road terrain in Bicol. The variety of roads was a clear indication that Nissan is confident of its latest SUV, the Terra.
There were long winding highways that snaked through the mountains, even through two volcanoes — one of them, Mayon Volcano — where the marshal allowed the dozen Terras to take a pause — just to absorb the significance of that specific spot.
Meanwhile, most of the way, Mayon Volcano — with a cloudless peak — stood majestically over the landscape. Urban legend says that Mayon only shows its peak to those who are pure in spirit. So the spirit that drove all us there must have been pure.
To most it was “pure driving pleasure.” To me, it was the pure pleasure of being comfortable on the back seat. Like a señora in the countryside. Except that the drivers were far from the men who would drive a señora out surveying the farm. They are VIPs in the motoring group.
I am referring to Ira Panganiban, radio talk show host and editor-in-chief of Autocar magazine; and Vernon Sarne, editor-in-chief of Visor, known for automotive news and motoring stories without the glare.
To me, Ira and Vernon were the perfect companions in a long drive, especially in a Nissan Terra whose comfort features made the journey pure business class. Both are seasoned motoring journalists, expert adventure drivers, good conversationalists and loyal friends.
Meanwhile, in the Terra, the leather seats, dual-zone automatic temperature control, and the rear seat air-conditioning with personal vents all provided thoughtful touches to personal space.
And so I avoided being driver, lulled by the comfort of being in the spacious back seat, and the extraordinary chance to just enjoy the ride. Sleep came easy to whoever was not driving during a segment. Even during the tough off-road terrain of Mayon Volcano, where all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) — now a popular tourist adventure there — hobbled like moon rovers.
As the Nissan Terra crawled through rocky trails, it was comforting to watch the rear view camera and the around-view monitor track its position from the nearest obstacle — a rock or mound of earth — as viewed from the central LCD touch screen. That new feature totally impressed me! Now my role as “spotter” when we drive through mountain trails has been replaced by that new feature — only if we are driving the Terra.
From the backseat, I appreciated the sounds of the Nissan Terra’s toughness.
Its 2.5-liter common rail turbo diesel engine hardly roared in the sudden downhills and uphills of the mountain highways. And it woke up a burst of power from the seven-speed automatic transmission to overtake long trucks in narrow two-lane roads.
Once in a while, there was the beep that warned the driver that he was cruising out of the lane, or of the presence of a vehicle at his blind spot.
I thought of the beating that the Nissan Terra was getting from the off-roading exercise, grunting as it hit the stones and gravel. But no one from the Nissan Philippines, Inc. (NPI) team or the drive marshals led by Georges Ramirez, looked worried at all.
I shouldn’t have. Nissan has a history of building vehicles with a full-length, full-boxed ladder frame that can go just about anywhere. And the Nissan Terra has the best-in-class ground clearance of 225 mm.
And the smooth ride, whether as driver or passenger, is also assured by the steel double-wishbone front suspension and the multi-link rear suspension.
And of course, it was made purely enjoyable by the company of good friends like Ira, Vernon, and Dax Avenido of Nissan (a very good friend for a very long time). And the pleasure of the company of Ramesh Narasimhan, president and managing director of NPI, a fine gentleman who knew how to make guests feel welcome with his amiable smile.
By Pinky Concha Colmenares