Venturing to the extreme
For the past couple of years, the country's pickup segment has become more diverse and competitive. With the growing number of Filipinos who opt to own a pickup, local car manufacturers have been launching its respective challengers for the said segment.
As a new player in the Philippine automotive industry, Tata Motors has to make a good first impresson in order to make an impact in the segment. With this, Tata came up with an off-road drive featuring the brand's challenger for the pickup segment: the Xenon.
Members of the Philippine motoring media were invited by Tata to participate in an activity dubbed the Xenon 'Xtreme' Drive. The participants were given the chance to find out how the Tata Xenon performs in the challenging off-road terrain of Tanay, Rizal.
4x4 and 4x2 variants were on hand for the event. The 4x4's tackled the off road course whereas the 4x2's had a sceinic drive.
4x4 off-road course
For the 4x4 off-road course, Tata tapped in Mr. Beeboy Bargas to facilitate the group. As we enter the rough terrain, the Xenon breezed through the uneven road surface with no fuss. In addition, the Xenon's limited slip differential helped the truck get over tougher terrain with ease. The limited slip differential also kept the Xenon maintain traction throughout the course. The Xenon also forded streams with ease thanks to its 210mm of ground clearance and 300mm water wading depth.
Throughout the day, we encountered challenging uphill and downhill trails. For those passes, we simply engaged 4 Low while stopped and continued off roading. While in Low, the torque is available at bear idle levels. Simply release the clutch and you're on the way. With less to think about behind the wheel, it's a lot easier to drive through the rough stuff. As I drove through the course in 4L mode, the Xenon gave me confidence in overcoming the tough up and downhill terrain.
I can't help but to be impressed with the Xenon's off-road capability, despite its 2.2-liter diesel engine.The Xenon is more than capable going through the trails of Tanay. The Xenon didn't struggle one bit off road. With a soft clutch and light steering, it makes trailing a lot easier.
4x2 scenic route
After lunch, it was on to the 4x2 Xenon for the scenic drive. The second part of the drive experience was on pavement where we took the Xenon through the scenic roads overlooking Laguna De Bay. Tata also brought us to Rizal's windmills near Pililia which are similar to the ones you see in Ilocos.
Like the 4x4 version, the 4x2 Xenon also has a light steering feel and a soft clutch. This makes the Xenon less of a chore to drive in the metro. With congestion woes that seem to keep getting worse, the light controls of the Xenon will prove a huge relief for those who use trucks a daily drives.
An odd quirk with the Xenon 4x2 was its tendency to rev up during gearchanges. Upon releasing the clutch as well as the accelerator, the engine revs spike up as you prepare to shift in higher gear. That odd quirk aside the motor packs a punchbut still quiet and refined.
The Xenon's toughness is offset by its rather rugged ride. Compared to other pickup trucks in the local market, the Xenon's ride is built for heavy duty use. Those who need a work truck wouldn't mind the ride even if it gets a little bumpy inside. The way I see it, the Xenon is not marketed as a lifestyle pickup but, a vehicle designed to go through rough roads and to carry serious loads. Simply put, the Xenon is a pickup meant to travel on rough terrain and haul goods.
Overall, the Tata Xenon is a pickup that can handle rough 4x4 roads as well as the up and downhill roads of Tanay. With the country's diverse pick up segment, the underrated Tata Xenon is worth giving a try. However, the starting price of PhP 830,000 could be more of a disadvantage for the tough Xenon due to the diverse pickup segment. If Tata can slash a little more on the price, the Xenon has a better chance to become a contender in the local pickup segment.