July 08, 2019 By Kevin C. Limjoco Photos by Andréas N. Delos Reyes

2019 GAC Trumpchi GS8 320T AWD

The Turning Point

Even as I write this, I am in disbelief. In only a decade, one Chinese automotive company 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! In that period, they 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. 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 actor Steven Seagal, very few people in our country would have known what was going on.

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 tested the flagship GS8 7-seater crossover seen here, and the larger 7-seater GM8 minivan so far, and 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 Alfa Romeo-sourced 2.0-liter gasoline engine as the base of their own turbocharging tuning. The GS8 crossover looks much as if it is a result of a passionate evening between a current Toyota Land Cruiser and Range Rover, which would be the easiest way to describe its handsome looks. And it is good looking. The brilliant matrix LED headlights are the most prominently distinctive feature that is both very functional and tasteful. The taillights use a cool double-U design that complements the front headlights. The 19-inch alloys are also very tasteful and wrapped with well-balanced 245/55R19 103H Continental ContiSportContact5 tires.

The interior cabin is very inviting and comfortable; the variable seating adjustments are very helpful in maximizing space. I like the warm-wood wrap-around trim that extends from the second-row seats to the front doors and connects cleanly with the dashboard. A nice additional interior touch are the Alcantara-esque door trims which further helps improve textures combined with the abundant leather. The GAC Trumpchi GS8 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, panoramic moonroof, guided 360° camera system that also uses the rear cameras to project the blindspots on the central screen, Qi-wireless charging for smart devices, dual-climate front seats, 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 GS8 is a modular CPMA (Cross Platform Modular Architecture) platform derived from an Alfa Romeo 166, which was purchased from Fiat. The chassis is quite rigid with very balanced handling and ride comfort from its fully independent suspension. The Trumpchi GS8 is a mid-size crossover with variable three-row seating. It uses an intelligent active All-Wheel-Drive system with a 4-mode Terrain Response adjustment found on the central tunnel behind the Aisin-supplied 6-speed automatic transmission combined with an additional throttle toggle. So, in effect you have an additional two more drive modes, which are sandy, muddy, snowy, intelligent, sport and economy. With a wheelbase that is longer than in a Toyota Fortuner and matches the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, the GAC GS8 genuinely feels more commodious and more upscale compared to both. The GS8 crossover does not have the full off-road ability of its direct competition however, but it more than makes up for that with considerably better on-road ride, handling, and braking.

The GS8 is normally driven by the front wheels by the force-fed transverse engine until you select either a preferred drive mode or when slippage is detected similar to many crossovers in the market. Steering response was much better than anticipated, it may still be a touch overboosted but better balanced and offers more precision than more expensive vehicles in the market. Engine power was also surprisingly virile, feeling more potent than what the specbox states, the GS8 drives like a much smaller vehicle. I enjoyed driving the GAC GS8, even wanted more seat time in it because it drove so well. I didn’t get any complaints from the passengers either. My children were hoping that the GS8 would in fact remain in our garage. GAC has built a really good vehicle that certainly deserves attention. With a stronger dealer network and support for its standard 5-year warranty, GAC can easily become the dark horse in markets even beyond our shores.

Specifications

Engine

Engine Inline-4
Displacement 1991 cc
Cylinder Head dohc 16V
Fuel Injector Port Injection, Atkinson-cycle 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 203 km/h (127 mph)
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph 8.9 sec.

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Milage (km/l) 9.1 L/100 kms. overall

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP) Php 2,388,000
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
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