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Taking a spin in GAC Motor’s present and future

The Empow R and the Aion Hyper GT should not be slept on

The silver leopard awaited us. PHOTO BY JUSTIN YOUNG

In my first year as writer for VISOR, I have managed to review two GAC models—the GS4 and the Emkoo—and was left impressed with both in terms of livability and practicality. However, I felt a little envious seeing my colleagues driving the more exciting offerings like the Empow and the GS3 Emzoom.

Then came the call from the brand’s main headquarters in Guangzhou, China, inviting Filipino and Malaysian journalists to explore the company’s history and recent innovations, but most importantly, to try out models that might reach each of our regions.

The Malaysian media group had their eyes on the Emkoo and the GS3 Emzoom, seen here in right-hand-drive form for their market. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The proving ground for its homegrown pride was at the Lotus Mountain International Yacht Club, where GAC laid out two testing portions. One was for the ADiGO safety system. The M8 van took over said system as its automatic parking system did its magic between a Trumpchi E9 PHEV and an Aion S Plus while we comfortably sat on its captain seats.

The latter was the most exciting part, giving us the opportunity to chuck various Trumpchi and Aion models around a closed course to showcase their driving dynamics. However, everyone wanted to try out the hotly anticipated models.

Lessons from autocross came in handy for the author's enjoyment. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

One model I was eager to witness throughout the trip was the Empow R. Despite never having driven any front-wheel-drive sports compact (outside of the Vios Cup cars), I couldn’t stop thinking about how this beast would perform under pressure ever since news broke out about this 265hp monster.

In Sport+ mode, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine sang to a raspy yet muffled tune, complemented by screeching noises of the grippy 245/35-series Michelin Pilot Sport 5 tires. Even with its sporting pedigree, its turning radius was surprisingly enough to maneuver the tight twisties.

Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

As 'Silicon Valley' taught us, these are the doors to show who's boss. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Next in line was GAC New Energy’s flagship model: the Aion Hyper GT, my first-ever taste of an electric vehicle. Taking various cues from the 2019 Eno.146 concept, this sleek sedan caught our attention, and it wasn’t just limited to its front butterfly doors.

This particular Hyper GT we had for the day was the top-of-the-line model, carrying an 80kWh lithium-ion battery and a range of 710km. With 250kW (335hp) and 434Nm at its disposal, I finally got to experience instant electric torque slingshotting me from zero to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds—not even far from the start/finish line.

Golden hour signaled the end of our GAC experience. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

As the sun set behind the yacht port, my mind was boggled by how thrilling and exciting GAC had developed in a decade of building its own marques from the ground up. The Empow R and the Aion Hyper GT feel like future classics in the making, and the local publications hope that both models (and more) could wiggle their way into the Philippine market soon.

It’s an amazing feat that the Chinese automotive industry as a whole has reached the point where performance-oriented runabouts and pioneers of electrification are becoming synonymous with the once-ridiculed country.

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.