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 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.
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.
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.
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.