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An electric road trip in Mindanao with the BYD Tang

Going from General Santos to Davao

Which BYD would you like to drive? PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

When I was a kid, the opening sequence of Need for Speed Underground 2 left a lasting impression on me—landing in a new place with the keys to a souped-up Nissan 350Z waiting right outside the airport. Fast-forward almost 20 years later, and I found myself in a similar scenario.

But instead of going to a fictitious American city, I was bound for General Santos City. And together with other motoring journalists, we drove BYD’s electric cars all the way to Davao City.

The Tang has a rather understated look. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

This isn’t my first time getting behind the wheel of a BYD, but driving one on a rainy circuit isn’t what I would call normal. Thankfully, we touched down on a fine morning, with clear blue skies and three BYD models waiting at the parking lot. The Atto 3 in Surf Blue immediately caught my eye, and the Dolphin was a familiar face. Then I heard, “Sa Tang ka.”

Whether you thought of an orange juice brand or a Filipino insult, the Tang is BYD’s midsize SUV, which had been around long before ACMobility took over the brand. Back then, it used to be a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), but now it’s a full-on battery-electric vehicle (BEV). It also happens to be the flagship SUV so I should be in for a nice ride.

The four occupants were comfortably seated inside the Tang. PHOTOS FROM BYD

With around 161km to cover between the General Santos City airport and BYD Davao, we wasted no time and hit the road. I rode shotgun first, so I was able to tinker around with the infotainment system, which also has a voice assistant that’s as useful as gasoline is to an electric car. Which is to say we’re not exactly fans of the tech. With the sheer amount of software, you’re not just snorkeling but rather scubadiving into menu after menu, as if you were using an iPad. The tech-savvy may enjoy this, but not ordinary folks who just want to drive.

One of the features I came across was the massage function for the front seats. It was cool at first, but the novelty quickly wore out. However, if there was one thing that shouldn’t be buried in the menus, it would be the climate control. The Philippines is a hot country, so having quick and easy access to the air-conditioning is a must. The last thing you’d want is to commit distracted driving while trying to turn up the fan speed.

You don't see views like this near Metro Manila. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

I wasn’t done exploring when I began feeling dizzy from staring at the screen for too long. Averting my eyes from the digital display, I got to appreciate the greenery that lined the clear, open road.

Seeing such scenery back home would have been impossible with all the developments within and around Metro Manila. We were supposed to have breakfast at Yokiss Dinner and Snack Bar in Sarangani, but the place was closed.

Instead, the stop was used for a driver change, and this allowed me to get behind the wheel of the Tang. Now, driving an electric car is no different from operating a normal one. You just don’t have to worry about engine speed, gear shifts, and the noise/vibration/harshness that comes from those. Engine-less cars are a lot quicker, too, thanks to the instant acceleration, which is helpful when overtaking slow-moving trucks.

The Tang, in particular, has dual motors with 240hp at the front and 267hp at the rear, and a total torque of 700Nm. Floor it and you’ll appreciate the lush headrest as it firmly grasps your noggin while the car accelerates like the Millennium Falcon entering into hyperspace.

But when you reach the speed limit, the car will remind you with a ringing noise. The speed at which it kicks in happens to be adjustable, and so is the lane-keep assist. That is, if you don’t like playing arm-wrestling with the steering wheel over inconsistent lane markings.

Even the second-row lights use capacitive switches. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The group had lunch at Mers Native Delicacies in Digos City, 60km away from Davao City. The driver change was timely as the heat and the exhaustion from the red-eye flight were starting to take a toll on me. At P3,321,000, the Tang is pretty expensive.

But I believe that getting good rest is an even greater luxury, especially in this day and age. And that the best way to test vehicle comfort is by trying to sleep as a passenger. After getting some shut-eye in the second row, I woke up in time for the highlight of the trip: the coastal road. Finally, we made our way into the city finishing the road trip at BYD Davao.

Viewing the scenery along the coastal road was a nice way to cap off the long journey. PHOTOS FROM BYD

In the end, my experience with the BYD Tang showed me that electric cars are a double-edged sword. While there are benefits such as a quiet and smoother ride, instant acceleration, and no exhaust emissions, the software dependence means that you have to operate it like a smart device. So, if you’re thinking of getting an electric car, you won’t have a choice but to get tech-savvy.

While technology is supposed to make life easier, more often than not, it tends to complicate things.

Leandro Mangubat

Leandro is our staff writer. Although having a background in mechanical engineering, he enjoys photography and writing more.