The classic trip to Baguio with the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus

The classic trip to Baguio with the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus

Filipino motorists used to measure a vehicle’s worth by its capability of traveling to Baguio. But that was many decades ago, when there weren't many paved and direct routes up north, and quite frankly, when the reliability of the vehicles of this time were average at best.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • What are the variants and prices of the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus?

    The 2023 Changan CS55 Plus is available in three variants – Lite, Hype, and Luxe. They retail for the following prices, respectively: P1.179-million, P1.283-million, and P1.373-million.
  • Which notable places in Baguio did ZigWheels Philippines visit with the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus?

    As part of the media test drive for the crossover, the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus was taken to the BenCab Museum and Mirador Eco Park.
  • Today, though, you can easily hop in most modern or newer vehicles (provided they are well-maintained ones, mind), twist their keys, and drive the nearly 300-kilometers from Manila to the famous “Summer Capital of the Philippines.”

    But some new vehicles can do the trip to Baguio better than most, can they? In a test drive Changan Motor Philippines Inc. (CMPI) recently staged to mark the launch of the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus, we saw some of the crossover SUV’s highlights in action — and how they matched with our exploration of Baguio.

    Driver assistance features

    We found ourselves on the NLEX, SCTEX, and TPLEX during siesta time (and with our stomachs filled with lunch), so it was nice that the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus drove itself on the stretches of mostly straight tarmac. Of course that's an exaggeration — the CS55 Plus is not an autonomous vehicle, but thanks to its advanced driver assistance features, it basically ran on autopilot.

    The Integrated Adaptive Cruise Control (IACC) enabled the car to maintain a set speed on the highway and distance from the car in front. When the car in front slowed down or accelerated away, the IACC controlled the CS55 Plus’ gas and brakes to adjust the car’s speed accordingly. So, we only needed to keep our hands on the steering wheel — something you’re required to do even when the car is virtually driving itself — to keep the car centered in its lane.

    2023 Changan CS55 Plus Baguio drive

    By sending vibrations through the tiller or flashing warnings on the digital driver display, the Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Keep Assist (LKA) alerted us when the car was about to veer away from its lane. All of these made the highway cruise an easy drive with the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus.

    Dynamic driving

    But taking it easy isn’t something we’d willingly choose to do with the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus — especially not after the Chinese carmaker made it drive the way it does. Then again, we didn't have a choice. From the TPLEX Rotunda, we were left to gun it up in two zigzagging routes — the slower but safer Marcos Highway, or the faster but landslide-risk Kennon Road — to reach our accommodations at Hotel Grande in Baguio before sundown.

    We chose to take the first option, and here the CS55 Plus shined. It made mincemeat of the series of steep slopes and serpentine curves, thanks to its powerful turbo four-pot engine, and smooth seven-speed dual clutch transmission. The ride also hardly lolled about during cornering with moderate pace. And when we activated the CS55 Plus’ sport driving mode, the steering felt sharper and more accurate, which made us tackle the corners with more gusto.

    2023 Changan CS55 Plus Baguio drive

    Wait, now aside from the throttle response, the car’s sport mode also reconfigures the steering to give a more involving feel? CMPI’s Sales Training Head, Timothy Magisa, confirmed our thoughts. Aside from its sleek and elegant styling, the CS55 has another quality it shares with more premium vehicles.

    360-degree camera

    After reluctantly leaving our well-appointed rooms, we headed to the first stop of the day: the BenCab Museum. Driving from the hotel to the museum should’ve taken just around 30 minutes, but the short journey wasn’t as straightforward as we expected it to be.

    No thanks to misleading Waze directions (and this directionally-challenged writer), we found ourselves lost around the side streets connected to Baguio City’s main avenue. On the upside, the 2023 Changan’s CS55 Plus offered solutions to our predicament. The 360-degree camera gave us a crisp view of the car’s surroundings as we navigated around other vehicles and pedestrians, and the quick-flick handling enabled us to swiftly steer back to the correct route.

    2023 Changan CS55 Plus Baguio drive 2023 Changan CS55 Plus Baguio drive

    Despite this, we still had time to explore the BenCab Museum at leisure. The museum houses the collection of National Artist Benedicto Cabrera, those of Filipino artists, established and rising, and the indigenous arts and crafts of the Cordilleras. With a glass of coffee from the in-house café, we also basked in the natural beauty that surrounds the place — a panorama of mountains filled with lush trees, and clean, cool air that refreshed both the lungs and mood.

    Comfortable cabin

    We probably needed that breather because, well, the hike up the kilometer-long trail in Mirador Eco Park leading to the top of Mirador Hill left us motoring journalists rather short of breath.

    Parts of the rocky and upward trail are cocooned by bamboo and other kinds of trees, before the greenery gives way to views of the sky above and the mountainside. Our group stopped every time and again to make jokes about each other’s lack of physical fitness. At the hill’s peak, we then mellowed at the sight of the rows of buildings dotted down the hillside, and the thick fog, while blanketing the lower peaks, became seemingly eye-level from our vantage point.

    2023 Changan CS55 Plus Baguio drive 2023 Changan CS55 Plus Baguio drive 2023 Changan CS55 Plus Baguio drive 2023 Changan CS55 Plus Baguio drive

    We were further relaxed by the cabin of the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus. Inside, we sank in the car’s supple leather seats, enjoyed music piped by the crisp Pioneer sound system, and stayed connected thanks to the mobile charging ports placed at the cockpit and at the rear passenger space. If we wanted to shut and open the panoramic sunroof or adjust the climate control to our liking, we just instructed the car through voice command to do as we requested.

    Our short but sweet excursion with the 2023 Changan CS55 Plus in Baguio was indeed an amazing mix of exciting and laid-back. It was a match to this crossover SUV that capably balances being a highway cruiser, back-road blaster, and city slicker in equal measures.

    2023 Changan CS55 Plus Baguio drive

    If this is how reliably and safely this vehicle takes on Baguio, imagine how it’d fare to places beyond.

    Photos from Dylan Afuang

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