Cars > Encounter

Reuniting with the GAC Emkoo in a drive to and from Pampanga

Taking a trip up north and down memory lane

Bright and early for a 100km journey. PHOTO BY JUSTIN YOUNG

It has almost been five months since I first test-drove the GAC Emkoo, and the one week I spent with this futuristic-looking crossover felt like a blast to live with. Flash-forward to November 21: GAC Philippines invited the media to a simple yet tasty drive from its dealership in Manila Bay to Angeles, Pampanga.

After two weeks in isolation due to COVID-19, a trip down memory lane was something I needed to reenergize.

The author had already reviewed the car several months before, when marketing director Timmy de Leon was still with another automotive company. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG AND GAC

The day began with a parking challenge that utilized and showcased the Emkoo GL’s 360° cameras and sensors. The first two tests were parallel and reverse perpendicular parking, where I had to estimate the steering angle and the distance to the space without touching the cones.

Louis Ramirez was seated on the passenger side to assist with any possible issues. He was impressed with how I quickly got through the two obstacles, thanks to getting used to the camera and its dynamic guiding lines. What didn’t help was that the system turned off at 10km/h as I approached the next test.

As a result, I overshot the approach to the front-facing parking section and made the necessary corrections. I was told that I hit a cone, grazing the circumference. However, the instructors  claimed that it popped back into its original position, which we laughed at as that’s how you get away with a penalty hit in autocross.

The cars looked like a fleet of spacecraft. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG AND GAC

After that challenge, we rested and freshened up. We did the usual pictorial, and started the journey to Angeles City. From my last drive with the Emkoo GL, I was blown away by witnessing its proprietary ADAS—ADiGO 5.0—on the expressway. My assigned car for the Manila-Pampanga trip was the lower-end GE model, which sounds like a downgrade but not to that extent.

If you are not familiar with the specs, the car is equipped with a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a seven-speed wet dual-clutch transmission, and tech goodies from its slightly upscale cousin, only sacrificing the surround cameras for a simple rear view.

The adaptive cruise control, the traffic-sign recognition system, and the lane-keep assist paired well along NLEX, maintaining the line and the speed through its algorithm (with some input from the driver as this is not a fully autonomous vehicle).

The flat-faced GE wheels are probably not as aerodynamic as proper aero discs, but they still look cool. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The three-hour drive brought us to our lunch destination at 25 Seeds, which served Filipino dishes. Parked against the backdrop of a restored vintage home, the Emkoo struck an angular and diagonal contrast to what used to be the Dycaico Ancestral House.

The sharp sci-fi edges still get me to look, even seeing them randomly in everyday commutes, making me believe that this design could be that diamond-in-the-rough in the coming years. Plus, I much prefer the simple 18-inch aero disc-inspired wheels over the trippy 19-inch set on the GL.

The contrast between past and future is damning to think about. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Our refilled guts heralded the afternoon drive back to the metro. The Emkoo comfortably traversed the roads and the expressways of Metro Manila and Pampanga without any hitches or bumps. Driving this edgy crossover feels like returning to an old friend, getting to grips with the ups and downs all over again.

Lately, I’ve spotted a decent amount of units popping up around the city, showing how frequently people use this car as their daily driver. Despite being the third-best-selling vehicle in the brand’s current lineup, the Emkoo still brings out its compact-size cool factor to the streets and beyond.

Justin Young

Justin loves cars of all forms. Molded by motoring TV shows and Internet car culture, he sees the world from a different perspective that not many get to see every day.