Text and photos by Neil Pagulayan
Last week, we were invited to try out Foton’s latest mid-sized SUV offering, the 2018 Toplander, now with a new automatic transmission. Originally only available in manual transmission when it was launched two years ago, the A/T variant with a six-speed automatic transmissionmakes itself more appealing to a wider market who are looking for an SUV.
We met up bright and early at Home Depot along North EDSA and formed up into our vehicle teams and got into our assigned Toplanders.
Our first stretch was to Floridablanca, Pampanga. Our destination was the Nabuclod in the West District of Floridablanca, a good 100-km away. The drive through EDSA traffic, transitioning to highway speeds, was easy for the Toplander. Once we were in Floridablanca, there was a stretch of back roads of hard-packed dirt, which let us experience how the Toplander handles rough roads. It made quick work of the bumps, soaking up as much as it could. We found the ride softer and somewhat better than the mainstream brands currently available on the market.
We finally arrived at Nabucolod Elementary School for Foton’s outreach and had fun distributing bags of groceries to the Aeta children in the school. Then we proceeded to Foton’s dealership in San Fernando, Pampanga for lunch.
After that, it was another 188-km drive up to Baguio from San Fernando. It was time to stretch the Toplander’s legs on the SCTEX and TPLEX.Here, we opened up the 2.8L Cummins Turbo Diesel engine that puts out 161-Ps at 3,600rpm and 360-Nm of torque between 1,800-3,000rpm. The figures might look a little low on paper compared to the competition, but it had no trouble keeping up with everyone on the long stretches of road.
Once on Kenon, we put its torque to the test and it didn’t disappoint, especially behind slower vehicles we caught upto on the way up. It excelled on the twisting uphill sections, with the power coming in lower than 1,800 rpms, there was no engine shuddering and overtaking was easy. The six-speed auto gearbox shifted up eagerly and downshifted quickly whenever power was needed. There’s also a manual mode if you want to be in control of things.
The are three additional drive modes: Sport and Eco, and interestingly enough, a snow mode. Standard to both EX and EL variants are a Traction Control System (TCS), Hill Descent Control, Hill Hold Control, Limited Slip Rear Differential (LSD) and Cruise Control on the EX.
It’s a seven seater SUV , but with all our things, the third row was folded down and it was still a pretty comfortable five seater for relatively big guys. Some convenience features also fitted on the car are the reverse parking sensors with camera, steering-mounted controls, leather seats for the top of the line model, touchscreen infotainment system with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, USB, Aux, iPod and SD and daytime running lights.
Overall, the FotonToplander did as expected for a vehicle in its category.It’s a vehicle that will gladly take on your friends and family and hit the road with little fuss. Its standout looks well draw some attention, and finally, with the convenience of an automatic, makes it an easy choice for a daily driver.
The FotonToplander retails at P1,280,000 for the EL and P1,400,000 for the top of the line EX variant.
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