Underrated, but not undervalued
Carmakers are fond of adding “mighty” second names in their special edition trucks. Think of the Hilux with the Conquest. The Ranger's Wildtrak. The Strada Athlete. Before, there was even a D-Max Boondock. All of them want to elicit a commanding presence based on name alone, which is why I find Mazda's special-edition truck.. well... interesting.
There's nothing really “commanding” about the word Pangolin. But when you understand why Mazda chose a mammal to represent its special-edition truck, then it starts to make sense.
The BT-50 Pangolin is part of Mazda's efforts to help raise awareness on critically endangered species like the Philippine Pangolin. It's a kind of anteater that's endemic in the Palawan region, and Mazda is working with Katala Foundation, a non-government organization that's active in protecting and conserving wildlife. Recently, they renewed their partnership with the NGO, and this was their way to commemorate the extended tie-up.
The first time they did it was with the previous-generation BT-50 that was based on the Ford Ranger, and that one looked like an adventure-ready truck. This time, they did it on the new model made with Isuzu, and it looks more at home in the city than on the trail. So what gives?
Well, I believe this is Mazda's way of making the Pangolin Edition II appeal to a wider range of buyers. After all, not everyone wants to put in wide fenders, roof racks, and all sorts of heavy 4x4 stuff on their pickup trucks.
Like the first version, the Pangolin Edition II is a cosmetic package that is offered on the top-of-the-line BT-50 4x4. So it's more of a standard BT-50 4x4 with some minor differences like the paint-matched stepboard and rear bumpers. In addition, Mazda threw in a two-tone sports bar and a standard roller lid to sweeten the deal even more.
But perhaps, the most noticeable change is the special 18-inch wheels with the Pangolin center cap that was made by Rota. Though it had the same Dunlop tires as the standard BT-50 4x4, the aftermarket wheels have a lower offset, meaning it's now sitting flush with the fender flares. It gives the Pangolin Edition II a wider stance, but more importantly, made a positive effect on the driving dynamics of the truck which I shall explain a few paragraphs from here.
Step inside the Pangolin Edition II and you'd get exactly the same interior as that of the standard BT-50 4x4 – now that's me saying that as a good thing. After all, Mazda made a really nice effort in making the BT-50's cabin look more upscale than the rest of its competitors by using soft-touch materials and leather on the seats, door cards, and dashboard.
Interior appointments are more or less what you would expect from top-of-the-line models – Apple CarPlay / Android Auto connectivity, 8 speakers (2 on the ceiling), dual-zone climate control, 2nd-row A/C vents... those sorts of things. However, what won me over was the fact that the cabin feels uncluttered. There are no wasted movements since the switches are where you expect them to be, kinda like how Honda does its “Simplicity and Something” concept to the Civic – it's on that level, but applied on a pickup truck.
In terms of its safety package, the BT-50 Pangolin Edition II doesn't disappoint either. It has seven airbags, standard ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors plus a reverse camera. Also, the Mazda Active Safety Technology also brings things like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and autonomous emergency braking for extra peace of mind.
Since the BT-50 shares its bits with the D-Max, it also has the 3.0-liter VGS turbodiesel with 190 PS and 450 Nm of torque paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This being a 4x4, it gets a shift-on-the-fly system. Unfortunately, time constraints meant I couldn't test the Pangolin Edition II off-road, but I reckon it should hold its own on the beaten path especially since it has a rear diff lock.
For a 4x4 pickup, the Pangolin Edition II rather surprised me with how it feels light on its feet. The truck gets up to speed well, and I don't need much throttle effort to make it accelerate. Though I do wish it had an eco mode just to lower the revs when going from 1st to 2nd gear. But nevertheless, the BT-50 Pangolin Edition II is still a 3.0-liter engined truck that can do up to 9.8 km/l in the city and 16 km/l on the highway.
The lighter wheels which I mentioned earlier also made a few notable changes when it comes to changing the BT-50's dynamics. Since it shed some unsprung mass, the BT-50 Pangolin Edition II seems to soak up road imperfections better than its twin, the D-Max. It also seemed to make the steering slightly lighter and give a more positive brake feel. With the suspension doing less work in keeping the wheels to the ground, and with the wider track brought by the lower offset wheels, it feels more stable over bumps and on the turns.
Those small but significant changes in my opinion more than justify the PHP 68,000 difference between the standard BT-50 4x4 to the Pangolin Edition II. It's the reason why enthusiasts opt to change lighter wheels in racing, but most don't notice the difference can also be felt in everyday driving.
Even at PHP 1.858 million, the BT-50 Pangolin Edition II manages to undercut many of its rivals like the Ranger Wildtrak, Hilux Conquest, and even the standard version of its very own twin, the D-Max LS-E 4x4. Apart from the diff lock and the standard roller lid, what sweetens the deal with the BT-50 Pangolin Edition II is that you get 5 years of free maintenance.
Like the humble anteater it was named after, it's not as popular as its main rivals. However, the BT-50 Pangolin Edition II for me is a pickup truck that looks good without being too flashy and has the tools to perform well on and off the beaten path. Honestly, I believe it's an underrated contender that deserves to be on your shortlist. In fact, it has already made mine.