“Bakit ang mahal? Hindi ba China lang ’yan?”
I heard these exact words far too many times from family, friends, and even strangers in the week I had the GAC GS8. This would typically be in response to me answering their previous question: “Magkano ’yan?”
On the face of it, the GS8’s price does seem to be a bit on the dear side. I mean, P2.298 million doesn’t exactly qualify as affordable. But that’s not really what grates on people. The biggest issue most have is that two million and change is exactly what a top-spec 4×2 ladder-on-frame SUV would go for.
And so the aforementioned response would then be followed by one of two statements: “E ’di kukuha na lang ako ng Fortuner o Everest” or “Geely Okavango na lang, mas mura pa.”
I get where these comparisons come from. I really do.
But look carefully. See the GS8’s broad and imposing posture. Follow the long hood toward the tall greenhouse, indicating the absence of a ladder frame underneath. Notice the elegant ornamentation, the lines, and the details on this body.
Step back to see the GS8 in full view. Take in the GS8’s size; observe its proportions. Eyeball the ground clearance and note the beautiful 20-inch wheels wrapped in highway-terrain tires. Follow the trail of clues, and it will lead you to the undeniable conclusion that this is a premium seven-seater crossover.
And boy, is it a good one.
If it’s still not obvious to you, have a seat inside. Never mind the obvious cues GAC took from BMW and Mercedes-Benz’s interior design. There are many, but ignore them for now. The cabin of the GS8 is luxuriously spacious.
The girth of the center tunnel immediately catches your attention as you sit in the quilted seats up front. They’re broad and bolstered in just the right places, ready to cradle even the fluffiest of passengers. Heck, even a La-Z-Boy would think twice before picking a fight with the GS8’s ventilated front seats.
Being a premium Chinese model, the GS8 delivers second-row legroom and headroom for days. In addition, it offers a riding position that ladder-on-frame SUVs simply can’t provide.
PPVs typically have higher floors to make way for the ladder chassis, and therefore, have less vertical room inside. In turn, passengers sit closer to the floor with their legs bent at an upward angle.
But in the GS8, one sits high above the ground in a comfortable lounging position. The third row is reasonably comfortable for a person my size, but is still not a place most adults would be keen on spending extended periods of time in.
Furthermore, the remarkable NVH levels enhance the luxuriousness of the cabin. The outside world is indiscernible from inside this serene bubble. The car is well put together as well. Nothing creaks or rattles as you drive along.
There are no ill-fitting pieces or unreasonably large panel gaps inside or out. The choice of leather could be better, but it’s far from what anyone would call cheap. The large panoramic sunroof adds to the airiness of this cabin.
The ride and the handling of the GS8 are also in line with the luxurious persona it portrays. The chassis is taut, yet able to maintain its composure over the uneven terrain that qualifies as roads these days. It’s no Mazda in this regard, but it is sporty enough to qualify as an SUV.
Dominating the dashboard’s landscape is a massive 14-inch infotainment screen. To put that into perspective, the biggest iPad on sale today is only 12.9 inches. This controls everything on the vehicle, and I mean everything.
The HVAC controls are onscreen. You can pop the tailgate, open the windows, adjust the ambient lighting, fold the mirrors, and customize the drive modes within the system. Sadly, though, the infotainment system does not support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
To the left of the main display is a more modestly sized TFT gauge display. The interface is endlessly configurable, with mounds of data to geek out on for nerds like me. It’s not the most elegant interface, and could surely use a glow-up.
When it comes to driver aids, the GS8 has gone the whole shebang. Adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, lane-keep assist, 360° cameras, brake hold, and all that jazz. And they do work well.
They’re not chintzy attempts at having electronic assist systems. These are properly thought-out and programmed devices. One odd omission, though, is a blind-spot monitoring system, which I hope will come in later iterations.
Much like Formula 1 ace Carlos Sainz, the 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that powers this massive SUV is a smooth operator. With 248hp and 400Nm on tap, there is no shortage of power here. Some turbo lag is present, but give the go pedal a big kick and the car will quickly summon all the boost it can.
My only gripe is that there are some dips in power under hard acceleration. It’s an odd sensation I can only describe by likening it to the choppy power delivery you get when an ignition coil starts to give out. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s disconcerting, but it is quite bizarre.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is confident and decisive—a far cry from the Chinese slushboxes of yesteryear. There’s no hunting, no lugging, no awkward shifts. It may be a bit hesitant to downshift every now and then, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for a vehicle like the GS8.
As good as the Chinese have gotten, however, the GS8 still has its quirks. The electronics lack the snappy response that everyone is so used to in this day and age, and the infotainment system takes a couple of minutes to boot up, which means you have to sit in a sizzling hot car while waiting to turn the AC on.
And according to the same device, this car has seat ‘vatilation’ instead of ventilation. The gauge cluster is also unshrouded and surrounded by this tawdry slab of black plastic. It looks great at night, but absolutely horrific during the day.
The GAC GS8 is no mere rival to an MPV such as the Okavango. Neither is it comparable to a pickup-based SUV. If you still think P2.298 million is steep for a car like this, remember that seven-seater crossovers such as the Mazda CX-9 or the Hyundai Palisade retail for close to P3 million.
And while its rivals in the segment may arguably be cooler than this Oriental offering, the GS8 succeeds in bringing the refinement and opulence of a crossover down to a more attainable price point.
True, there are still some improvements that can be made before it can firmly establish itself as an upscale contender (an AWD variant should be on top of that list). Nonetheless, the GS8 has proven to be a sturdy, well-made automobile that deserves more respect and attention than it gets.
GAC GS8 4x2 GT
|Engine||2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline|
|Power||248hp @ 5,200rpm|
|Torque||400Nm @ 1,750-4,000rpm|
|Dimensions||4,980mm x 1,950mm x 1,780mm|
|Upside||Premium crossover refinement for PPV price.|
|Downside||Long-term longevity is a question mark for now. The lack of an AWD option is a chink in the vehicle’s premium armor.|