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A pickup's playground.

"Maximilian's taking his sweet time to get to Manila," said BeeboyBargas, course creator for the Isuzu D-Max 4x4 Drive Series that has been touring major cities around the country. "He's been test driven by over 3,000 people. He deserves a little R and R."

Maximilian, of course, is not a person but a new Isuzu D-Max 4x4 LT, that has become a bit of a celebrity over the course of the drive series. The souped up pickup is one of three Isuzu D-Max units shipped all around the country to demonstrate the off-road prowess of the new pickup in extreme off-road courses specially prepared by Bargas. Davao was the last stop of the "One Challenge, Five Destinations" tour where residents of each city could see, first-hand, just how capable and hardy the vehicles are.

'Max' of course, drew the most stares being equipped with some P250,000 worth of aftermarket kit from Concept One 17-inch Black Rhino alloys, PIAA fog lamps, SaffiroMaxTrac all-terrain tires, Ironman accessories , H&R springs, K&N filter and a Unichip ECU piggyback.

The two other D-Max's were showroom stock, one manual and one automatic, just to prove that they were more than capable of traversing the course without modification.

The course itself is composed of seven challenges designed to exhibit extreme off-road situations owners might encounter. It is painstakingly recreated from scratch in every destination.

Admission to the activity is free, with participants only required to register and sit through the briefing before they themselves can take the wheel through the course, guided by a professional off-roader sitting shotgun. The course can be navigated in 15 short minutes. Best of all, through rain or shine, over the course of the weekend, the test drives continue.

Members of the press were flown to each city. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the culminating Davao leg, hosted by Isuzu Southern Motors of Davao. Arriving just a day before the event, we witnessed how quickly the course can be constructed with just one excavator and Maximilian serving as the course 'tester'.

Frank 'Kim' Liu, III, of Southern Motors even brought along the previous generation D-Max LT 4x4 to serve as a point of comparison. He himself was a bit jealous as the older unit easily showed how much more convenient and spacious (particularly in the rear) the newer D-Max is.

As for the course, it started with a 45-degree hill descent and turn to show the pickup's traction and engine braking.

The deep mud ruts had the vehicle buried in gutters of earth, to show how it can easily gain traction and get out with the right power and steering application.

The camber challenge had the vehicle leaning at 40-degrees in both the left and right sides. They were designed to show how the pickup won't tip over even at such extreme angles. The obstacle also showed its maximum clearance and articulation during the transitions.

Next was the "runabout cone" composed of a mound of earth that serves as a rotunda, putting the vehicle on a negative camber lean.

The elephant holes were alternating pot holes that had the axles twisting in opposite directions.

A mud pit lay right after, to exhibit the D-Maxes water fording abilities.

A large mound lay ahead to show the pickup's high center ground clearance.

The course has certainly made a believer out of city drivers like me. It's no surprise that a record 40 reservations were made in just one city as a direct result of the event.

Customers may not likely encounter extreme challenges like these, but it's certainly nice to know that a stock pickup can handle them. And thanks to Maximilian, it's now also easy to imagine more extreme possibilities.

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Title Annotation:Motoring
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jun 26, 2014
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