You see, several established brands (except for Toyota) have been quite cautious when launching electrified vehicles. More than the number of units they can sell, there are real hurdles that they must overcome to make the market more receptive to electric vehicles.
There have been a few bold entities that went all-in with battery-electric vehicles. But the lack of charging infrastructure just makes it harder for car buyers to warm up to BEVs. Because of these, many carmakers with promising EV models have had a hard time bringing their products here.
The Chinese have been quite aggressive with their electrification ambitions, and most of the Sino brands have some electrified models in their lineup. They are slowly bringing these vehicles to our country now. But more than the need to further prove themselves, what happened to Weltmeister is a cautionary tale. This doesn’t help these Chinese brands’ battle to prove their worth among Filipinos.
But this didn’t stop Dongfeng Motor from carrying on with its plan. Partnering with Legado Motors, it has brought only its electrified passenger vehicle lineup to the country. If the brand rings a bell, it’s because you’ve probably seen its light- and heavy-duty trucks roaming around our roads for years.
We went to the brand’s formal launch in Metrotent (Pasig), and we must say that the list of vehicles that it will be offering is intriguing, to say the least.
First is the Aeolus Huge Hybrid, which is a five-seat midsize crossover. The front end features a grille that extends on either side of the vehicle. Sitting atop it is a lightbar where the LED DRLs are integrated. Chrome bits and pieces can be found on the front fender, the lower part of the doors, and the window trim.
At the back, you’ll find a taillamp cluster that wraps around the rear end. Nicely designed bumpers come with integrated muffler finishers on either side. It is available in six colors, including the Maybach-esque two-tone finish. It rides on a set of beautifully machined 19-inch rims.
Inside are twin 12.3-inch screens for the instrument cluster and the infotainment system. A D-shaped steering wheel has an assortment of buttons to control various features. Nappa leather is used on the seats and the trims, and you can find ambient lamps, powered front seats, and a wireless charger as well.
Look up and you’ll see an expansive “Mirror of the Sky” intelligent panoramic skylight. This goes very well with a sweet-sounding Jamo Audio 10-speaker system and a PM2.5 air filtration system.
It also is loaded with tons of safety features like multiple airbags, traction control, antilock brakes, hill-start and hill-descent assist, a 540° panoramic camera, and an electronic parking brake with an auto hold feature.
Completing the suite of safety equipment are a host of advanced driver-assist systems like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go feature.
Lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, and lane-centering assist should keep you on the road and not in a ditch. Finally, there’s traffic jam and highway assist, as well as intelligent high-beam control.
This midsize crossover is powered by a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with an electric motor. The total system output is 245hp with 540Nm of torque. This is paired with a multi-mode automatic transmission transferring power to the front wheels.
Next is the battery-electric NANObox . This is a basic electric small crossover with dimensions similar to the Toyota Wigo. The front features a simple design, with DRLs occupying the space where the headlights are usually found. This is because the latter is placed lower in the bumper, like in most new vehicles today.
Because this is an entry-level model, there’s not much to expect about this vehicle. However, there are nice features like a seven-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10-inch floating high-definition infotainment screen, and a knob-type electronic gear selector.
It also comes with a bevy of safety features like driver and passenger airbags, antilock brakes, and Isofix child seat anchors. Another standout feature is the capability to control door locks and air-conditioning through a mobile app. The same app allows you to search for your vehicle and check the charging status of your car and vehicle diagnosis.
The NANObox has a permanent magnet synchronous motor driving the front wheels. This gets juice from a 28.9kWh Ternary lithium battery, good for up to 351km range. It takes around four hours to completely juice the batteries up using the onboard 6.6kW AC charger. Meanwhile, charging from 30% to 80% only takes 30 minutes when you use a fast DC charger.
Finally, there’s Dongfeng’s flagship model, the Forthing Friday electric compact crossover. This full-electric vehicle wears a very stylish body. Among the design elements that stand out is a DRL that extends from the bonnet to the lower end of the bumper. This flanks a unique front grille, with hexagon designs of different sizes.
On its sides are character lines that run from the front fender and wrap around the crossover’s rear end. Speaking of wrapping around, there are orange accents on the lower part of the front bumper, the running boards, and the rear bumper. The Frothing Friday rides on machined 19-inch wheels.
Open the doors and a futuristic cabin greets you. The overall look is similar to Mercedes-Benz designs, which include the twin displays that act as the instrument cluster and the infotainment screen, and the rounded HVAC vents. There’s a D-shaped tiller complete with various buttons for driver assist and audio controls.
Then we go through the impressive list of standard equipment. This includes comfort features like a panoramic sunroof, sunshades, and cortex fabric-wrapped powered seats. For safety, there are multiple airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, antilock brakes, traction control, hill-start and hill-descent assist, and a 360° monitor.
There are also several advanced driver-assist systems available like automatic parking, lane departure warning, adaptive headlights, traffic jam assist, and a driver fatigue monitor.
Powering the Frothing Friday is a permanent magnet electric motor paired with a 57.8kWh lithium-iron-phosphate battery that has an estimated 400km or 630km range, depending on the variant you’re getting. Juicing it up from zero to 100% takes 10 hours with the 6.6kW AC charger, while charging from 30% to 80% only takes 35 minutes using a DC fast charger.
The NANObox sells for P888,000. The Aeolus Huge Hybrid’s sticker price is P1,880,000. And the Forthing Friday can be had for P1,980,000 for the standard range variant and P2,580,000 for the long-range model.
We believe that Dongfeng’s decision to have an electrified-only lineup is a bold move. Especially at a time when some companies that did this have folded, like WM Motor.
But at least, Dongfeng’s 40 years of existence as a company should help ease some worries about the brand. Let’s just hope that these vehicles are good and dependable enough to gain our trust.