My guide around the test track, Jaime Ramirez, was sitting calmly in the front passenger’s seat. He instructed me to accelerate into the corner and slam on the brakes in mid-turn. “What? That’s nuts!”, my brain was questioning the idea. “That would be counter-intuitive. It will upset the balance of the car and make it slide out of the track. It goes against all your driving knowledge and experience!” But Jaime, grandson of the legendary race car maestro, the late Pocholo Ramirez, was calm because he had a great deal of confidence in the car we were in.
The “car” that Jaime and I were in was actually a multipurpose vehicle (MPV) – more particularly, a Maxus G50 – and the driving test was part of the historic first-ever media drive conducted by Maxus Philippines, one of the automotive brands distributed in the country by AC Motors, a subsidiary of the mighty Ayala Corporation. The G50 that I was driving around the test track was a 1.5T Elite variant (Car #3) and the “mad driving” was one of the activities to experience the G50’s capabilities. But we’re getting ahead of our story…
Starting at Maxus Magallanes
I arrived at Maxus Magallanes, which was located along South Super Highway, a little after 6:00 AM. For every participant’s safety, everybody, including myself, underwent an RT-PCR or swab test before we were allowed to get into the dealership. After everyone in our batch tested negative for the virus, we got into the showroom for breakfast and a short pre-departure briefing from George Ramirez, the event organizer, Jaime’s uncle and Pocholo’s son. George promised a fun day for everyone.
George assigned us to our respective Maxus G50s and I got assigned to Car #2, a top-of-the-line 1.5T Premium variant. Powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder engine with direct gasoline injection and 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission (DCT), my Roland Purple G50 featured a panoramic sunroof, two-tone leather seats, and a 12-inch infotainment system. Since I’ll be driving solo, I bought my USB with 1,450 of my favorite songs and plugged it in. With great sounds emanating from the speakers, we were off to a great start!
Skyways and Highways
At around 7:45 AM, our convoy drove out of the dealership following George, who was driving the Maxus T60 pickup truck lead car, and we went to the southbound lane of the South Superhighway and up onto the entry ramp of the Skyway elevated highway after Buendia Avenue in Makati City. We exited the Skyway at Balintawak, Quezon City and drove into the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), where we encountered a bit of heavy traffic caused by queue going up the temporary Bailey Bridge at the viaduct connecting the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga.
At the Total service station in San Simon, Pampanga, we had our first stop and car reassignment. I transferred into Car #1, which was another purple 1.5T Premium, and then drove on NLEX and into the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). At a lay-by after the Floridablanca exit, we stopped again to swap vehicles and I moved to Car #5, which was a Water Blue G50 1.5T Pro. Like the Premium, the Pro is equipped with the same drivetrain but sans the sunroof and two-tone leather seats, which is replaced by a durable light-colored fabric.
Impressed with the G50 1.5T Variants
I found the 167-horsepower turbocharged-and-intercooled 1.5-liter engines of the Premium and Pro variants quite economical on the highways, displaying an average consumption of 7.8 liters per 100 kilometers (12.82 km/L), even though our convoy increased the pace from the 60 km/h speed limit on the Skyway to a little past 100 km/h on NLEX and SCTEX. It was likewise handy to have 250 Newton-meters of torque on tap, so I can easily overtake slower road hogs along the tollways to keep our convoy intact.
I was likewise impressed with the stability and comfort of the G50 1.5T Premium and Pro variants. Their fully independent suspension consisting of front McPherson struts and rear torsion beam provided a smooth and stable ride. The taller sidewalls of the Pro’s 205/60R16 tires marginally absorbed more road undulations than the Premium’s 215/55R17 tires but I found Premium’s handling felt better with its 17-inch alloy wheels and low profile tires. The front and rear disc brakes, which is standard on all G50 variants, provided surefooted and fade-free stopping power.
Surprises at Ocean Adventure
Our convoy arrived at Subic around 10:30 AM and we drove to Ocean Adventure. After a much need break, we were then taken to the parking area where the ladies of Maxus Philippines – Timmy Naval de Leon, Je Borromeo, and Stacey Vasquez – surprised us by turning the back of my blue G50 1.5T Pro to resemble a tailgate party, a nod to Maxus’ British origins, complete with cookies, cakes, pastries, and drinks. While we were munching on the snacks and refreshments, the Maxus gentlemen – Jun Cajayon and Roberto Dosalla, Jr., – gave us a rundown on the various features and trim differences of the G50 1.5T and 1.3T variants.
And this is where I get back to my “mad drive” with Jaime. Aside from the slalom course, Uncle George and his team created an impromptu test track with a linoleum skid pad in one portion and a parking challenge in another. With Jaime riding shotgun, I drove the Warm White G50 1.5T Elite (Car #3) through the skid pad where the left tires were on the slippery water-and-soap-soaked linoleum. Braking hard and accelerating on the skid pad showed how the G50’s anti-lock braking (ABS), electronic brake distribution (EBD) and traction control (TCS) systems works to keep it stable and straight. Braking hard while turning fast into a corner also showed how the ABS, EBD and TCS systems allowed the driver to steer the G50 during emergency braking maneuvers and keep it under complete control.
More Surprises with the G50
With its 360º camera, and front and rear sensors, I was able to easily maneuver the purple top-of-the-line 1.5T Premium in and out of very tight spots in the parking challenge course. Louie Ramirez, George’s brother and Jaime’s dad, explained how these electronic driving aids make the G50 a much safer family vehicle. He pointed out that the front sensors and cameras are very helpful when you’re nosing the G50 out a tight parking space with a blind spot. I can clearly see how impressed Louie was with the Maxus MPV.
After driving with Jaime and Louie, George drove me around the course in the Metal Black G50 1.3T Comfort (Car #4), which is equipped with a 1.3-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. Despite being the base model and the most affordable variant at P948,000, George emphasized that the 1.3T Comfort comes with the same safety features as its more expensive siblings. He pointed out that the projector headlamps were retained on the 1.3T Comfort, albeit fitted with halogen bulbs instead of the LEDs. “You won’t feel shortchanged when you buy the base model Maxus unlike other brands.”
Short Drive Back
Spurred by George’s favorable endorsement, I drove the black 1.3T Comfort all the way back from Subic to Magallanes to experience the 161-hp 1.3-liter turbo 3-cylinder and to row the 6-speed shifter myself. With 230 Nm of torque on tap, it not only kept up with its 1.5-liter siblings, but can even leave most behind. (Sorry, George.) The 1.3 T Comfort makes do without the start/stop push button, 12-inch infotainment system, LED headlamps, and chrome exterior trim but it doesn’t look bare at all, especially since it comes with 16-inch alloy wheels.
At the first stop over along SCTEX, I invited Robert Dosalla to ride the 1.3T Comfort with me. We talked animatedly about our passion for classic cars, which made the drive back feel shorter than it was. At around 4:00 PM, we arrived at Maxus Magallanes, where Jun Cajayon donned his cap as the General Manager of Maxus Philippines and accepted the fun trophy for the 2021 Maxus D60 1.5T Pro, which we chose as one of our Power Wheels Magazine Top 10 Drives for 2021.
I’m pretty sure that the Maxus G50 will be one of our favorite contenders for 2022 Power Wheels Magazine awards, especially since I was so impressed with the all the G50 variants and how Maxus Philippines planned their first-ever media test drive. Add to the fact that it also impressed the brothers George and Louie, who have driven everything from delivery vans to luxury SUVs to race cars. I quipped, “If it impresses a Ramirez, then it must be really good!”