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A jab at freedom

A jab at freedom

Ardie Lopez

The Nissan Navara takes on Ilocos Norte

If anything, these times reveal what truly are essential in our lives. These times also made us realize what we can’t live without for so long. While it’s true that nothing trumps your safety and that of your family’s when it comes to what’s important during a pandemic, taking care of one’s mental health shouldn’t be far behind. Getting to take a breather from all the enforced and self-imposed quarantines is crucial in that regard, no matter how tedious or complicated it can get, to get to do it safely.

Nissan Philippines, in partnership with the Department of Tourism launched a Safe Trips campaign late last year as an admirable effort to give the local tourism industry a much-needed shot in the arm, as it remains as one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn due to the pandemic. But it was also a light at the end of a tunnel for those already weary and anxious from enduring a stressful 8-month long period of lockdowns and quarantines by then, showing that with the proper safety protocols followed down to the number, local tourism by land is feasible.

That was November, but by March 2021, no one really had predicted that the quarantines would take longer, and that our country’s COVID report card would look worse than a delinquent student’s. And by then, more stringent safety protocols were put in place for road travel, and that pushed the fact that the local tourism industry was already on its knees… at the time when practically everything was done virtually, especially new car launches, Nissan bucked the so called new norm by boldly but mindfully doing it the “traditional” way with the grand launch of the new Nissan Navara with a sizeable group of motoring journalists at the Okada Manila Hotel.

It was a massive undertaking, making sure there were no holes in the coordination and implementation of safety procedures to make the event possible, from having everyone involved take PCR diagnostic tests (and pass them of course), to having safety protocol officers tailing everyone in the event to make sure no one missed a step and took everything—masking shielding and distancing, seriously the whole time. A string of logistical procedures was also accomplished online, securing travel passes and permits way in advance… and everyone deemed it was all absolutely worth it, to get to do about a 1,000km journey to Ilocos Norte and back, in the new Nissan Navara.

Nissan Philipines, Inc. president Atsushi Najima
Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Manotoc

Totally hands on
Nissan Philippines’ President and Managing Director Atsushi Najima was totally hands-on throughout the epic drive, to make sure he didn’t miss taking on and sharing the action with getting behind the wheel of Nissan’s new flagship brand-bearer, and finally getting a taste of a real long-distance ride and drive once again, to one of the Philippines’ most historic and beautiful destinations. The Nissan Navaras we all drove were mostly in its top tier variant, the PRO4X 4×4, and they did not disappoint—so much that the 9.5-hour drive felt like a cinch, despite going through a total of six checkpoints along the way.

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We made it there quite energized and raring to get to bash the La Paz Sand Dunes, the unofficial proving ground of the Nissan Navara since its previous iteration a few years back. A 2.5-liter Inline-4 cylinder DOHC 16-valve Diesel engine with a Variable Turbocharger and Intercooler powers the new Navara across all is variants, and supplies it with a more than ample 188hp and 450 Nm of Torque. True enough, where lesser trucks would get bogged down in the loose fine sand of the dunes, the new Navara barreled through at a consistently assertive rate—an exhilarating experience that felt like an adrenaline-laced shot in the arm for all of us, taking full advantage of the host of active safety and performance enhancing features of the Navara—from Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, to Locking Differentials on its 4WD configuration. We, on our first two days of our Northern excursion had our fill of on-road and off-road adventuring, and it was enough for us to exclaim that the new Navara is every respect, a highly capable beast wrapped in much better aesthetics and technological sophistication compared to its previous iteration, and would be a very potent contender in the pickup category.

Like virtual inmates given a few days’ freedom pass, we relished the long drive back to Manila, and back to our virtual cells recharged, invigorated, and most of all hopeful that better days are bound to return. Eventually. Nissan and the Department of Tourism with their Safe Trips Program gifted us with that essential jab of momentary freedom via an amazing, exceptional ride- the new Nissan Navara.