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Getting down and dirty for JMC’s return to PH market

Know the prices of the Grand Avenue and the Vigus

Welcome back to the pickup playground, JMC. PHOTO BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Astara Philippines has been cooking up a storm for 2024 by bringing two new Chinese brands into its stable, one of which has had moderate success locally in the past: JMC (Jiangling Motors Corporation). We’ve mentioned that two pickup trucks will debut at this year’s Manila International Auto Show, but I was invited to take first dibs at The General’s Farm in Tanauan, Batangas.

The learned expertise with Ford (and Isuzu) is evident in these models. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

JMC first entered the Philippine market under Global Autodistribution Inc. (GAI), selling light single-cab trucks, mini buses, and pickup trucks. Over time, the Cebu-based distributor shifted its focus toward the commercial crowd, leaving a gaping hole in the passenger segment where Astara entered the picture.

One key aspect of JMC’s success is its joint venture with Ford since 1995, assembling international models like the Ranger, the Everest, the Transit, and more recently, the Bronco for the Chinese market. As with any collaboration in the mainland, these partnerships result in sharing platforms and engines, creating byproducts like the Territory and JMC’s current halo vehicle, the Grand Avenue.

Ford's Duratorq lives on in another home. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The Grand Avenue might wear a face resembling the F-150, but it rides on the same T6.2 platform as the current Ranger, especially given how both vehicles have the same wheelbase of 3,270mm. Both trucks share front double-wishbone and rear leaf-spring suspension systems, but the JMC sticks to hydraulic-powered steering instead of electronic.

Its powertrain is a 2.3-liter turbocharged diesel engine derived from the 2.2-liter Ford Duratorq (code-named Puma) last seen in the previous-gen Ranger. Granted, the slight adjustments JMC made increased its power figures to 175hp and 400Nm for the six-speed manual variants, and 450Nm for the eight-speed ZF automatic variants.

Would you cross-shop this over its Blue Oval cousin? PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Inside is a different story, depending on whether you love or hate the Ranger’s interior. The Grand Avenue has a simpler analog instrument cluster, a conservative 10-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and a stubby monostable gear selector that looks more futuristic than utilitarian.

We got to experience the Grand Avenue in an extreme off-road course with high banking turns and sizable descents. I was initially worried until I learned that it came standard with essential truck safety features like rollover mitigation and hill-descent control, which is a surprise considering the price range.

  • Grand Avenue 4×2 MT – P1,221,000
  • Grand Avenue 4×4 MT – P1,364,000
  • Grand Avenue 4×2 AT – P1,426,000
  • Grand Avenue 4×4 AT – P1,569,000
You will need to get used to the tall clutch pedal. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

On the commercial side, the Vigus is another offering that GAI initially sold in 2020. Being smaller in stature than the Grand Avenue, it is meant to be a workhorse driven around town or a farmland. Its 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine churns a respectable 128hp and 315Nm, only mated to a Getrag five-speed manual transmission.

You won’t get a fancy touchscreen display or a selection of colors in the Philippine spec, just a simple center console with physical buttons and an Elegant White paint job to match its competitive prices in the commercial pickup segment.

  • Vigus 4×2 MT – P959,000
  • Vigus 4×4 MT – P1,110,000
Will JMC be the new human-sized toy in town? PHOTO BY JUSTIN YOUNG

After amassing success with GAC and Peugeot, Astara hopes to grab the passenger truck market with JMC’s passenger-vehicle portfolio. It’ll be hard to convince those familiar with (or even fans of) the legacy marques to move ships.

However, with a five-year service and lifetime engine warranty for both trucks—and a reputable figure like Arlan Reyes onboard—the brand could see a resurgence in the local sphere from being a solely commercial partner to a rugged hobbyist’s choice.

Justin Young

Justin loves cars of all forms. Molded by motoring TV shows and Internet car culture, he sees the world from a different perspective that not many get to see every day.