We first got a sneak peek at Foton Motor Philippines’ latest entry in the pickup truck segment, the all-new Thunder 2.0, during the Manila International Auto Show (MIAS) in April 2022. FMP executives led by United Asia Automotive Group, Inc. (UAAGI) Chairman Rommel Sytin, Director Kenneth Sytin, President Errol Duenas, FMP General Manager Levy Santos unveiled the Thunder 2.0 4×2 M/T with 6-speed manual transmission during the event and announced its P1,180,000 suggested retail price.
During the Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS) in September 2022, UAAGI and FMP officials teased the audience when they showcased the Thunder 2.0 4×2 A/T variant with 6-speed automatic transmission and boasted that the P1,350,000 pickup truck is “Proudly Made in the Philippines” at the FMP assembly plant in Clark, Pampanga. They fitted the show truck with off-road accessories that created a crowd around the display and appealed to the overlanding enthusiasts. They have succeeded in showing how Foton has definitely gone upmarket since their first Blizzard pickup trucks.
Stealing the Thunder
FMP made us salivate with anticipation for a few months (probably due to the restrictions on activities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic) before they finally gave us a chance to experience the all-new Thunder 2.0 4×2 A/T last January 30th. FMP prepared several units for select members of the local motoring media to drive from the Foton A. Bonifacio dealership in Balintawak, Quezon City to Pampanga and back, but not before we had an early hearty breakfast.
We gladly “stole” one of the gray Thunder pickups and drove off from the Balintawak dealership, on to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), and exited at San Fernando, Pampanga to drive to the new Foton Bacolor dealership located on Jose Abad Santos Avenue, Bacolor, Pampanga. At the dealership, we got to take another sneak peek at the Thunder 2.0 4×4 M/T variant that will be unveiled during the Foton Big Show on February 10-12, 2023 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. The SRP of the 4-wheel drive variant is pegged at P1,298,000.
Taking the Longer Route
After another hearty meal at Foton Bacolor, we got into our respective Thunder pickup trucks and drove through the Mega Dike Access Road where we experienced the Foton’s riding comfort over various types of terrain. We found the ride a bit choppy during slow drives over uneven concrete roads, which is normal for a pickup truck with a heavy duty suspension that has a payload rating of 1,000 kilograms. It seems that despite two hearty morning meals, three well-fed passengers with full bellies are still not much of a load for our Thunder.
We stayed on the access road until we got to the Bayung Porac Mini Park, where we maneuvered on the Manibaug-Mancaitan main road over the Pasig-Potrero River, and into the Porac Access Road. The Thunder 2.0 4×2 A/T was easy to drive and highly maneuverable through the tight sections of the access roads and through city traffic, while its 265/60R18 tires mounted on 12-spoke 6-lug 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels rolled effortlessly on anything that went underneath our pickup truck’s 220-millimeter-high ground clearance.
It’s an Aerodynamic Flying Brick
After skirting around the Alveo Land and Alviera Industrial Park development in Porac, we entered the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and upon clearing the turnpike, we immediately felt the satisfying acceleration provided by 390 Newton-meters of torque coming from its Aucan 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder engine. On the tollway, we were able to reach the 100km/h speed limit very quickly, especially when we shifted the driving mode of the automatic transmission from E (economy) to S (sport).
With 160 horsepower propelling 2,605 kilograms of a muscularly handsome brick of a pickup truck, we did not expect to break any land speed record, but sufficed to say, our Foton thundered way past the speed limit easily and effortlessly. Its double wishbone independent front suspension and leaf spring-mounted live rear axle worked with the plush cushioned ergonomic leather seats to provide enough comfort on the highways. The best seats in the house are the front seats, of course, but the rear bench seat, while spacious, can be quite choppy when the pickup bed is carrying nothing.
Proudly Made in the Philippines
We exited SCTEX at Clark South and drove on the nice concrete and asphalt roads around the former American military airbase to get a feel of how the Thunder behaves in city traffic. Because of the increasing number of vehicles on the road and the increasingly heavy traffic, we feel that a thrifty yet torquey turbodiesel mated to an automatic transmission, like the drivetrain of our Thunder, is a near-perfect combination for an everyday workhorse. In fact, the fuel gauge of our Foton barely moved even after driving from Metro Manila to Bacolor, through Porac and into Clark.
We reached the Foton Motor Philippines factory a little after 1:00 PM. We were given a little tour of the assembly line where Foton vehicles are made. Unfortunately, we went to the factory several days after a batch of Thunder pickup trucks were assembled, so we were not able to take photos of its assembly process. Because we were behind schedule, our factory tour was shortened so we can proceed to our last stop – lunch at the Americi, a popular Italian restaurant at the Royce Hotel. After a delicious and heavy lunch, we got back into our respective vehicles and drove into the NLEX for a quick drive back to Balintawak.
On the drive back, we felt patriotic and proud that the pickup truck that we’ve been driving all day was assembled by Filipino workers in a Filipino-owned company. We were also awed by how the FMP factory has grown and expanded, even throughout the pandemic economy. Not only were we impressed with the overall performance of our pickup truck, we suddenly felt compelled to patronize Philippine-made products to help strengthen our national economy and promote national pride.
Which begs a compelling question: “How can we quickly raise P1.35M so we can get our own 2023 Thunder 2.0 4×2 A/T pickup truck?” Hmm…