How to Pick the Right SUV for Your Lifestyle
Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are the fastest-growing automotive segment in the world. According to market research company Euromonitor, SUV sales grew from just five million units in 2000, to about 20 million in 2015. It’s expected to hit a staggering 42 million units by 2031.
American car company Ford mirrors these projections, with officials saying the SUV segment will grow 40% over the next 20 years. The company is confident it can take a leading role in development technology as well as global production and sales of SUVs, noting its rich 50-year history of building automobiles in the segment, which began with the Bronco in 1965.
Today Ford has a diverse lineup of premium SUVs all designed to cater to every imaginable segment of driver and/or car enthusiast. Asian models of their SUV range were the focus of a media drive held in Clark, Pampanga last week. Ford has hosted numerous driving events in the region over the years, but this is the first time the Philippines has played host to the drive.
Journalists were split into teams so everyone could have the chance to get behind the wheel of all the models available for the test-drive. I was teamed up with Binky Siddayao of Autocar magazine and we were first assigned to drive the Everest. At the pre-drive briefing, Ford officials threw out words like “functional,” “safe,” “ergonomic,” and “tough” to describe the Everest, but we experienced that for ourselves through a bespoke drive that took us to the ash and lahar-laden plains of Mount Pinatubo.
The course was designed to highlight the Everest’s 4x4 capabilities and it proved to be more than up to the task. Through streams, mud, and rocky paths, the Everest powered through and made it feel like we were just going through a particularly bumpy, pothole-filled city street. Ford made driving over rough terrain simpler, too. A dial-selector in the center console makes it possible to go from Normal, Sand, Snow, or Rock with just one switch.
One thing I noticed though is that it was sometimes difficult to figure out exactly what mode you’re on because the selector light disappears under intense sunlight. I had to look at the digital display behind the steering wheel and even then there was a bit of a lag from the time you switch modes. Still, it was a small grievance for the experience of conquering the unique landscapes in around Mount Pinatubo.
The Everest is good for: Off-roading junkies, families living in areas with rough roads
After lunch, our group got to try the EcoSport, Ford’s compact SUV. Officials say it's designed for the urban jungle, so for this part of the drive, we drove it in the avenues of San Fernando, which is famous for its Christmas lanterns. Our first stop was a small lantern-making shop where we got to make our own little “parol.”
The Ecosport is small enough to easily weave through light traffic in the city. It’s a no-nonsense, easy-to-drive and fuel-efficient SUV that should make for a good transition between a sedan and a full-sized SUV. While I have driven it before and had no trouble connecting my phone to the car via Bluetooth, for some reason the model we drove couldn’t identify my phone, even with a physical connection via USB cable, so Binky and I spent the rest of the afternoon listening to FM radio.
We made our way back to Angeles where we made a stop at the Nepo market for some pasalubong shopping. Organizers asked us to complete a shopping challenge at the market. It was a clever way to draw attention to the EcoSport’s cargo space. The rear seats can be folded for additional space, so we had no trouble fitting a crate-ful of coconuts and other things we bought at the market.
The EcoSport is good for: First-time SUV buyers, city dwellers ready to move up from their sedans, moms with small kids.
I started the second day of the Ford SUV Drive behind the wheel of the Escape. We traversed the back roads of Pampanga on the way to Lakeshore in the town of Mexico. Organizers prepared outdoor games and activities for participants including Frisbee, kite-flying, boating, biking and fishing.
It was, of course, a way to get the message across that the Escape is the SUV designed for the modern, active urbanite. Ford imagines the Escape owner as someone who lives in the city but “escapes” to the country during the weekends to pursue his passions. The car is certainly versatile enough to handle roads in and out of the city.
As a single guy living in Metro Manila, I appreciated the Escape the most out of all the SUVs. It was just the right size and possessed both power and finesse. Connectivity (via Bluetooth) was a breeze, so I could play songs on my Spotify playlist easily. But without music, the interior was quiet, which is a good thing. Outside, the vehicle is a looker, with horizontal lines in the front that gives the illusion of width.
The Escape is good for: single men and women, with office jobs during the week, and waves to surf or trails to climb during the weekend; adventure-seekers and wanderers.
Our last drive for the event was with the Explorer. The itinerary included a short stop at the monument dedicated to the victims of the Bataan Death March in Capas, Tarlac, before winding down at the Green Canyon Eco Art Resort back in Pampanga.
Compared with the rest of the vehicles in the Ford SUV lineup, the Explorer appeals a bit higher-up in the bracket of consumer income level and spending power. It’s certainly the most expensive out of all the SUVs in this drive (save for the Expedition which we didn’t get to play with). This hasn’t stopped the Explorer though from being an unqualified bestseller; in fact, it’s supposedly the world’s top selling mid-size SUV.
I test drove the 2016 Explorer a couple of weeks before the drive and my initial impression didn’t change. It’s a vehicle for the strong, confident type; someone used to wielding power. Whether driving in an open highway or stuck in mind-numbing city traffic, I felt at ease behind the wheel of the Explorer and even felt my confidence level rising. It might be a cliché, but it was a good way to end the SUV drive experience.
The Explorer is good for: HNWI (high net-worth individuals) or upwardly mobile businessmen or executives; families who are also adventurers.