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Car Reviews / 12-23-18

2019 GAC Trumpchi GM8

Fit for a Queen


By Kevin C. Limjoco Photos by by Andréas N. Delos Reyes & Nicolas Calanoc

 

Fresh from testing GAC’s very strong segment busting Trumpchi GS8 4×4 crossover featured in the January 2019 print issue of C!, we follow that up with their larger minivan/MPV model, the Trumpchi GM8. Off the bat, the front-wheel drive GAC GM8 is a good looking MPV with determined presence. Easily the most handsome in our domestic market. And much like its direct competition; the current segment standard-bearing Toyota Alphard (P3,595,000.00), the affordable European-solution Peugeot Traveller (P3,440,000.00) and the smallest luxury MPV in the class, Honda Odyssey (P2,498,000.00) the interior cabin is even better which in the end is the most important feature for their buyers. At P2,880,000.00, the GAC GM8 is more affordable than the Toyota and Peugeot, but P382,000.00 more than the Honda. For additional reference, the biggest and most luxurious MPV in this segment is the premium Mercedes-Benz V-class in two models the V220d L sells for P4,590,000.00 while the even longer V220d EL goes for P4,890,000.00.

Each of these MPV’s would be great to ride on and own with variable degrees of space and luxury to distinguish themselves. So, it will come down to essentially budget, space/feature requirements, and availability when deciding what is the best solution for the buyer. It is already a triumph for GAC that they are swiftly recognized as a genuine contender in this very competitive segment in our market.

At a length of 5,066 mm, width of 1,923 mm, and height of 1,822 mm on a 3,000 mm wheelbase, the GAC GM8 eclipses all the direct competition except for the Mercedes-Benz in size and capacity. If you focus the comparison against the Toyota Alphard, which is the current king of the segment, the GAC GM8 is more spacious with a larger trunk and more creature comforts. The second-row seats may not look as opulent as the units on the Alphard, but they are larger and offer both seat heat and cooling climate control, a powered ottoman, with a full massager! And because it has a longer body than the Alphard, the GM8’s third row seats offer considerably more legroom while still having a larger rear cargo area.

In only a decade, GAC has done the unprecedented by building a strong enough brand and product line to be able to enter the extremely competitive North American market; it would be the first new full-scale commercial brand to enter in 20 years not counting the limited production cars from Pagani and McLaren! Within the ten years since they broke ground GAC have already broken their first major production milestone when they released their 1,000,000 unit. Reportedly, that brand, GAC Motors, is said to be partnering with the FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) dealerships as the conduit to sell their models in the US before the end of 2019.

It is no surprise that most of you reading this have never even heard of GAC Motors. You would be forgiven. In fact, if it wasn’t for the huge domestic launch in the Philippines last November 2018 by its famous sole official country distributor, who is the Chairman and President of Legado Motors, Inc., former Governor of Ilocos Sur, Chavit Singson, which was attended by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and action star Steven Seagal, very few people in our country would have known what was going on and wouldn’t have heard of the brand. Then after landing in the Philippines a few days ago after being crowned in Thailand during the 67th Miss Universe pageant, Miss Universe 2018, Catriona Elisa Magnayon Gray, the fourth Filipino to win the pageant, rode in our GAC GM8 test unit driven by, who I personally believe is the very best host in the country, our very own James Deakin!

The GAC Group, which is the parent company of GAC Motors, was established in Guangzhou, China, hence the name. The company distinguished itself from other Chinese manufactures with strong multiple automotive partnerships and joint ventures with Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, FCA, and Hino. GAC Motors (Guangzhou Automobile Motor Corporation Limited) launched five models in our market with the first showroom in the Ortigas area. We have tested the GS8 7-seater crossover, and the larger 7-seater GM8 minivan here, and so far, I am sincerely astonished.

If you can get past the Trumpchi model name, the battle would already be half won. I have been informed that the Trumpchi model name is not a derivative of the current US President since it was established back in 2010 to mimic the Chinese name Chuanqi, combined with as they say in their own words; “the ‘trump’ portion was selected to signify the best or winning, while ‘chi’ is meant to signify the brand’s home of China. In fact, the “P” in the name is supposed to be read silently. I hope this narrative helps. Keep in mind too that humorously the idea of “winning” was a Charlie Sheen thing! Special models will be designed for the US market when GAC enters to meet local environmental standards and market demands. GAC has already set up a research and development center in Silicon Valley and will be opening two additional centers in Detroit and Los Angeles supposedly to specialize in cutting-edge technology.

Until GAC can fully build their own proprietary powerplants in production scale, they are supposed to be employing a modified Honda-sourced 2.0-liter gasoline engine as the base of their own turbocharging tuning. The GM8 MPV uses a similar brilliant matrix LED headlight system used in the GS8 which is the most prominently distinctive feature along with the well-designed front grille. The taillights also use LED signature lighting that complements the front headlights. The 18-inch alloys are wrapped with well-balanced 225/55R18 102V Michelin Primacy 3 ST tires. The rear twin exhaust pipes have a nice finish in the rear bumper too. I point this out because quite a few models from Chinese manufacturers employ fake exhaust trims on the rear bumpers which are atrocious and serve no purpose.

The interior cabin is commodious and comfortable; the variable seating adjustments are very helpful in maximizing space. I like the warm-wood trim, padded dashboard and the quilted side paneling accentuated by the ambient lighting strips, though I wish the padded trim extending to the third row. The third-row does not recline but does fold and slide to gain more capacity. The GAC Trumpchi GM8 interior highlights include their latest full-featured third-generation intelligent interactive systems managed by a 10.1-inch LCD central infotainment touchscreen, a very good sounding multi-speaker audio system, dual moonroofs (the rear being panoramic), guided 360° camera system that also uses the rear cameras to project the blindspots on the central screen, power sliding doors and trunk, electric rear climate controls, electric parking brake, smart key, push-start ignition with defeatable auto-stop to save fuel and emissions, adjustable ambient interior lighting, and so much more.

The chassis of the GAC Trumpchi GM8 is a modular CPMA (Cross Platform Modular Architecture) platform derived from an Alfa Romeo 166, which was purchased from Fiat. The extended chassis is longer than the platform used in the GS8 crossover, and it is also quite rigid with very balanced handling and ride comfort from its fully independent suspension. The Aisin-supplied 6-speed automatic transmission combined with an additional throttle toggle works reasonably well. The GM8 uses the same 198 bhp force-fed transverse engine as the smaller crossover but despite the weight gain still performed surprisingly very well. Steering response was much better than anticipated and appropriate for the fairly large MPV.

The Toyota Alphard with its more potent V6 combined with the 8-speed gearbox is still the best dynamic performer in the segment and ultimately is the more rewarding minivan to drive but the GAC actually follows not so far behind it with better fuel economy and more general passenger comfort. Besides, in this highly contested segment, only a fraction of the buyers will actually drive their vehicles as most of these MPV’s are chauffeur driven.

GAC has built a really good vehicle here that certainly deserves attention. With a stronger dealer network and support for its standard 5-year warranty, GAC can have a very bright future in our market.

Specifications

Engine

Engine Inline-4
Displacement 1991 cc
Cylinder Head dohc 16V
Fuel Injector Port Injection, Intercooled Turbo
Max Power (bhp @ rpm) 198 bhp @ 5200 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm) 236 lb-ft @ 1750-4000 rpm
Transmission 6-Speed AT

Performance

Top Speed 192 km/h (120 mph)
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph 9.5 sec.

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Milage (km/l) 9.4 L/100 kms. overall

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP) Php 2,880,000.00
What's Great The turning point for a China automobile manufacturer, handsome, well-built, balanced standard equipment, very comfortable and fuel efficient.
What's Not So Still has lingering lower grade plastics, the name association even if it is not deliberate, reliability still not established, limited dealership network for the time being.
C! Editors Rating 9.5/10