Text: Mike Antigua / Photos: Mike Antigua, Brent Co | posted January 17, 2008 00:00
Picking up where it matters
That being the case, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to assume that everyone loves a pickup all the more when it rides like a luxury car.
In the old days, a pickup's ride and handling is usually described as "hard", "bumpy" and "jarring" even. Which is really typical, given that a pickup is a vehicle designed to carry heavy loads and work like a horse. Oftentimes, only when the pickup is fully laden with cargo can one notice an even and stable ride, the suspension being weighted down by the payload.
These days, advancements in automotive design and engineering have helped manufacturers produce pickups that replicate, or at lease emulate, the ride and feel of a luxury car. Notice, too, how I've managed to not use the term "Pickup Truck" when mentioning this type of vehicle that doubles as a cargo hauler and everyday service. Even if pickups are still called trucks, the meaning of the word has started to become less and less applicable for every new generation pickup model that hits the showroom.
Which leads me back to my original pretext that anyone would definitely love to ride a pickup that doesn't feel like a pickup. And this becomes all the more evident when one gets behind the wheel of the new Mitsubishi Strada.
To describe the new generation Strada, one would have to view it from afar. Gone are the highly angular and boxy features that made the Strada a strong contender in the pickup category over ten years ago. With the evolution of design trends and tastes, Mitsubishi gave its new line up of vehicles, including the Strada, a fresh new treatment that's more fluid, organic even. Instead of a boxy stance, it now has a curvy appearance. In one sense, the Strada has matured, picking up where it left off and making its presence felt in the now highly competitive pickup category. On the other hand, Mitsubishi retained key features that ensured the continued popularity of the Strada among its loyal followers.
If there is one word frequently used to describe the new Strada, it would be revolutionary. This third generation iteration has a brand new engine, new suspension, steering and drive-train that's packed into a stunning, spacious, maneuverable, comfortable, car-like pickup. You can't help but stare at it when you see it on the road. Its eye-catching, attractive and visually interesting, in keeping with the space-age and high-tech times.
Honestly, I like the way the new Strada looks. The front grille and big tiger-eye headlamps with the large Mitsubishi tri-diamond logo at the center give it a tough image. The circular fog lamps at each corner of the front bumper molding add a nice touch and pretty much shows a well-thought out design and layout. Its something you can easily spot from quite a distance.
This design treatment flows naturally throughout the bodywork, from front to rear, along the side panels and through the wheel wells. It pretty much defines the direction of car and pickup design in years to come.
Getting behind the wheel of the Strada might take a bit of effort for the vertically challenged. But once you get up on the seat, you realize how closely it starts to emulate car-like features.
The seating position is just about adequate for the average Filipino driver, giving one an unobstructed view of the road ahead. The seat height gives the driver a great vantage point, aided by amply sized side-mirrors, and a wide rear window. Usually, maneuvering trucks of this size in tight or crowded spaces is somewhat of a chore. But with this wide perspective from the driver's seat, one manages to easily estimate the size of the Strada.
Though this height clearance and high vantage point augurs well for a big vehicle such as the Strada, the effect on driving position doesn't seem to be just as positive. There's a feeling of not being totally involved in the steering and handling of the Strada, more like driving via remote.
For some this is good, because it can also mean that there's less effort needed to drive it. For others, especially those who need to feel every bump and grind of the road, and every roar of the engine, this particular feature might not elicit some applause. Still and all, Mitsubishi may have derived the new Strada from the fact that not all of its owners live on a farm or need to travel through mountain roads and river beds to get to where they need to go. And for the new breed of pickup owners, adding a little refinement to a rugged beast of a pickup is not a bad intention at all.
More of the car-like feel can be glimpsed from the interior trappings. The fabric and leather used on the seats are leaps and bounds from the usual utilitarian upholstery found in most pickups. The molded plastic dashboard and instrument panel are also tastefully rendered a notch or two higher than other pickups. The fluid design cues used in the exterior also extend to the interior, adding to the further refinement of this new class of pickup.
From the driver's seat, what quickly grabs you is the neat instrument console: silver radial gauges for RPM, speedometer and fuel/temperature indicators, softly illuminated by a bluish tint, giving it a cool demeanor.
The trip meter is digital, like in most luxury vehicles, and situated dead center of the middle gauge. Other controls for the A/C, thermostat, blinkers, and stereo system are within also within easy reach. Superb ergonomics are part of Mitsubishi's strongest points and this is well-executed in the Strada. And there are lots of compartments and pockets for maps, sunglasses, wallet, and the odd loose change.
Another first for the Strada is the automatic climate control system. While not everyone may have the need for this in the Philippines on a regular basis, it is nonetheless an efficient feature to have onboard.
The Strada is perfect for those long, early morning runs to Subic or Laguna, eating up the kilometers in a quick, surefooted pace. Its keeps its composure even at high speeds. While it may take awhile to pick up speed, once it reaches the ideal velocity, it just keeps on going.
Easily reaching 120 kph on one stretch of the South Luzon Expressway, the Strada is surprisingly quiet, making one forget that it is indeed running on diesel. Running out of asphalt prevented it from going over 120 km/h, allowing us to test the braking power of its 16-inch ventilated discs in front and 11.6-inch Leading and Trailing Drums in the rear.
It handles quite well for its big, hefty size. The new suspension system (Independent Double Wishbone with Coil Springs & Stabilizer in front and Rigid Axle, Elliptic, Leaf Springs with Telescopic Shock Absorbers at the rear) really gives the Strada a huge lead over other pickups.
Its 4D56 2.5 liter Turbodiesel is top-notch when it comes to delivering more than adequate power at the least amount of effort and engine noise. The best part is that its engine is Euro 2 compliant, meaning it meets global standards for low emissions, a first in the country.
Our test vehicle was a 5-speed Manual Transmission but it wasn't that difficult to shift gears. Shifting was precise and evenly-spaced, adding to the total driving experience. One would only wish for an automatic transmission when caught in traffic, which happened to us on the way back from Laguna.
Mitsubishi has really made a huge leap with the Strada. It's a solid piece of machinery, able to give as much as it can take, in both looks and performance.
It's a pickup that has car-like qualities. It's big, spacious inside and hefty outside. The Mitsubishi L200 Strada is revolutionary pickup with a fresh, friendly design treatment yet manages to retain its rugged attraction.