Touareging through the Cordilleras
COUNTERFLOW - James Deakin (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2015 - 10:00am

At first it looked like a typo. Leave Baguio 8 am; lunch in Sagada; leave for Baguio by 2pm; dinner in Manor, cocktails, socials etc. Surely this can’t be right. Who drives all the way to Sagada for lunch? Well, Volkswagen does. Apparently.

Then again, they’ve always done things a little differently, these Germans. And this was no different, if you’ll excuse the pun. If their goal was to be remembered, then they get a full 5 stars. But for what exactly? I’ll tell you after my massage.

But jokes aside, it is rare to see a manufacturer go back to basics this way—drive for the love of driving. Not that I’m discouraging the others from planning those wonderful trips where you have more seat time at the restaurant than the car, but you have to admire the confidence of a brand that dared to make it all about the product. Especially on their first ride and drive ever.

The 900km loop was designed to showcase the performance, comfort and efficiency of the new VW Touareg Sport, which has just been launched with a host of goodies, not to mention a “20% down/0% interest for 36 months” promo. And what better way to do that than to take around 15 editors hostage for three days in a cellphone-signal-less trip through the glorious mountains of the Cordillera region. Many would gladly write the story in exchange for their release.

But as crazy as it sounds, the trip ended up forcing us into bonding with the vehicle. I say crazy because as much as 900 kilometers is plenty of time to get intimate enough to share a toothbrush with something, sometimes, with all the distractions on these convoys, it is easy to sort of skim through what is important, like driving enjoyment and good old fashioned engineering.

You see, the Touareg doesn’t have a Bluetooth-capable stereo. And the mountains don’t have 3G signal. And while that may sound like hell on wheels, their combined absence forced us to either talk among ourselves and appreciate what else the trip had on offer, which is basically the good company, the driving enjoyment, and scenery you’re only used to seeing on someone else’s Instagram account.

Mile after mile, the roads would unwind before us, revealing one postcard after another. Sure there were the typical Philippine street scenes, like the sari-sari stores and vulcanizing shops, but they were framed within a landscape that have been the subject of masterpieces and inspiration of poetry. And once more, with lack of anything good to listen to on the old Jukebox (it does accept a USB stick, but none of us had one) we started to feel the real texture of the Philippine landscape.

Some roads were good, others not so, then there were the odd great stretches, but whatever the terrain, the Touareg swallowed it all up exceptionally. It begins with a fantastic 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine that also finds a home in other hotties like the Porsche Macan. It is extremely smooth for a diesel, with tidal waves of torque coming in as early as 1,750 rpm. The low-end power allows it to climb effortlessly, while the chassis––which is used to handling more than twice the power when it dresses up as a Cayenne––is more than capable of translating everything fluently to the road.

By morning of the third day we were headed back to Manila. The downhill portion of Marcos Highway was the perfect breakfast for the Touareg as it danced through the curves with the grace of cars half its weight. The air suspension adapted fabulously by firming up when you leaned hard on it, and at a flick of a switch, stopped holding its stomach in, so to speak, to be more comfortable during straight line cruising.

The result is a relaxed drive that betrays the numbers on the odometer. I won’t say we went looking for more roads once we were done, but it felt a lot less than what Waze had claimed. Speaking of which. Waze is great. But it doesn’t speak all dialects. And it is only as good as your mobile data connection. I’ll leave it at that for now, but let’s just say that thanks to an immoveable object in the middle of the road (a house) we got to do an unplanned 4x4 extreme test in the only turn around point available. Then again, just like the Bluetooth Audio, maybe it was all part of the plan.

ACIRC BLUETOOTH BLUETOOTH AUDIO GOOD INSTAGRAM LEAVE BAGUIO MARCOS HIGHWAY PORSCHE MACAN SAGADA TOUAREG SPORT WAZE
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