Mitsubishi has raised the bar in off-road driving for Philippine media—if not in terms of difficulty in negotiating tricky terrain, at least in terms of sheer picturesque beauty of the location.

I’m talking about Long Beach in San Vicente City in Palawan, an approximately three-hour drive from Puerto Princesa. This spectacularly pristine beach is so named because of its sheer length—roughly four times the whole three-station stretch of Boracay. That’s 16 kilometers of virtually untouched beachfront with hard-packed sand that will incredibly support more than 3,000 pounds of truck without the tires sinking in the sand—while crystal clear waters lap at the shore just a few feet from the tires.        

Mitsubishi is not playing fair. It’s hard to be starkly objective evaluating a car or truck when you are blown away by your surroundings. But let’s give it a shot anyway. 

Now on its fourth generation, the Strada, whose prices range from P1,165,000 to P1,670,000, has established itself as one of the best and most refined among the half-dozen pickup trucks on the market. Considered as one of the most important models of Mitsubishi, the Strada, which is produced in Mitsubishi’s Laem Chabang plant in Thailand, is sold around the globe in no less than 150 countries. Yet it sings to a different tune relative to most of pickup truckdom. 

While most trucks exude muscle and brawn, the Strada expresses an altogether different character—one that’s not all about machismo, but of an almost futuristic sleekness. Under the brand’s design concept “Rock Solid,” which embodies a strengthened structure inside and out, the latest Strada flaunts Mitsubishi’s new-generation “Dynamic Shield” design language. The high hood, slim LED headlamps, and aggressive grille and bumper design present a compelling and upscale fascia—making it instantly identifiable with its Montero Sport and Xpander siblings. The sculpted body curves with contrasting sharp lines express a car-like sleekness. The sharp and distinctive character lines that start at the front fenders and terminate at the front doors then emerge again from the rear doors and end at the rear fenders express a sense of upscale futurism. The trademark rising rear windowline and the J-shaped rear door opening serve to tie up the latest Strada’s cutting-edge styling with that of its forebears.

Inside the new Strada is a functional and contemporary dash and console trimmed with silver and piano black accents. All variants feature a 2-DIN touchscreen monitor with tuner/MP3/USB/iPod/Aux/Bluetooth connectivity and Mirror Link. All variants are also equipped with a GPS navigation system. There is even a front smartphone tray which includes the now-indispensible USB ports. A rear smartphone tray is also available and is located at the in-rear of the center console including two more USB slots. 

The new Strada boasts a spacious interior which can comfortably seat five adults, thanks to the cab’s unique J- Line design that offers class-leading legroom for greater comfort, especially on long drives. The door panels may be a tad too plasticky—fabric covering for some of the panels would’ve helped—but are nonetheless good-looking and functional, thanks to generous-sized bottle holders. 

The cabin is truly big on comfort and space. The tilt-and-telescope steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons is covered in smooth leather. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive and are covered in a plush yet seemingly durable fabric. The rear seats, often the bane of most pickups, are reasonably comfortable, thanks to a more inclined rear backrest and supportively sculpted cushioning. It’s certainly a long way from the hard, flat, and upright bench seats of pickups of yesteryear. 

The Strada is powered by Mitsubishi’s super-smooth and impressively quiet state-of-the-art 4N15 2.4-liter Clean Diesel engine with Variable Geometry Turbo and MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control System). This powerplant delivers 181ps and 430Nm of torque. It’s one of the smoothest and quietest diesel powerplants in existence. 

This cutting-edge motor is mated to an equally advanced six-speed automatic with Sports Mode and paddle shifters. It was an absolute joy wringing the truck from corner to corner during our rushed drive back to Puerto Princesa airport to catch our return flight to Manila. The engine delivered on the power side while the paddle shifters made gearshifts a pleasure, especially on winding roads and during overtaking maneuvers.  

The Strada’s already (relatively) comfortable ride is improved with the use of larger rear dampers, which contain more damping oil. There is still some jarring on choppy surfaces, but the overall riding comfort is still at or near the top of its class. Braking power was also improved with the use of larger front discs and caliper pistons for the GLS and GT variants.

A pickup truck will never handle as confidently as a car, but the Strada hung on tenaciously well, even during hard cornering maneuvers. The generously sized 265/60R-18 all-terrain rubber proved just as adept at high cornering on pavement as they were driving on sand on the beach—despite our truck being a 4×2 and not a 4×4 model. The suspension is just very well sorted out.   

The new Strada hosts an array of advanced passive and active safety features, including Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body, which absorbs the impact of collision. It retains the current model’s high-durability and high-reliability ladder-type chassis and high-impact safety cabin structure. Active Stability Traction Control (ASTC), Hill Start Assist (HSA), and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) are now standard on all variants. A nice touch is the push-button engine start/stop and keyless Smart Entry system.  

All things considered, while most other pickups are playing the tough truck card, the Strada is confident in its sheet metal skin just being an exceedingly capable truck—one that pushes the envelope in pickup refinement, comfort, and safety.