As someone whose wheel time has consisted mostly of sedans and SUVs, I’ve never really worried about vertical clearances, save for a few poorly designed mall parking lots. I’ve never once considered that a tree branch could be a hindrance on the road. But in Antipolo, even the most neatly trimmed flora has a low-hanging twig or two. Some are negligible, while others are big enough that I’m forced to swerve to safety at the last second. It’s a dicey proposition, given the minibus’ P2.3-million sticker price. I’m like Neo, Matrix-ing my way through a never-ending onslaught of Agent Smiths.
This minibus isn’t without its upsides to make your life easier. The 133hp, 385Nm engine isn’t short on required oomph, and the reversing camera gives you a much-needed extra set of eyes. Hill-start assist, meanwhile, is a godsend for such a heavy piece of kit. And the vehicle’s width is fairly normal, save for the side mirrors that add nearly a foot on either side.
But at its core, the Transit is a mammoth thing designed solely to move people. It doesn’t care if you have a hard time entering a driveway, or cower at the sight of a garage ceiling. It never adjusts for you, and you need to be on your guard at all times to make it work on the road. Take it for granted, and you’re bound for disaster. At times, I feel my decade-plus of driving experience slipping away as I’m reduced back to a 17-year-old kid with a learner’s permit and a quivering left foot. And the ordeal never gets easier, no matter how much your confidence starts to creep back up. The minibus is the trained knockout artist, ready to lay you out cold when you least expect it. Like the referee says before every fight, you have to protect yourself at all times.
Indeed, driving this thing on a short road trip feels like I’ve gone 12 rounds at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. My costume changes in these photos aren’t a continuity error, but merely an effect of the warm weather and stressful driving conditions. And as we descend back down to the city, the crew and I discover one more neat thing: The Transit’s windows are big. Like, fire-exit big. My sunglasses and the Manila folder-sized visors are no match. Cue the music: Here comes the sun, doo-dun doo-doo...