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The GAC GS8 4WD could be your next camping partner

The roads of Tanay have found a new challenger

Becoming one with nature. PHOTO BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Astara Philippines is on a roll from appointing new heads of the business to hitting milestones since first taking control of GAC Motor in the country. What better way to celebrate such achievements than a glamping trip to Tanay, Rizal, in one of the brand’s most popular vehicles, the GS8, and its newly released 4WD model?

The roads of Tanay welcome anyone, but favor the few. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The journey to our destination in the mountain began at GAC’s flagship dealership in Pasig, having to traverse the bustling urban jungle before entering the actual wilderness with occasional driver switches. The GS8 units prepared were a mix between the 2WD and the 4WD.

The lead vehicle was driven by racing driver and instructor Georges Ramirez, guiding the rest of us regarding potential dangers and oncoming directions. Nevertheless, the almost 48km drive to our accommodations at Cielo Alto Place felt like nothing with the GS8.

The Escalade influences are there, but not blatant. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The second-generation GS8 made its local debut with its muscular presence that, in my opinion, no other Chinese brand could offer in the premium SUV segment. Its boxy design and menacing grille almost resemble the likes of GM’s full-size SUVs, specifically the Cadillac Escalade.

Where could Snow mode apply in this country? PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

While the regular GS8 has the usual Eco, Comfort, and Sport modes, the GS8 4WD added three new off-road-oriented modes: Sand, Mud, and Snow. Despite wearing the same 20-inch wheels, the Maxxis 255/50 series tires hugged the corners and held through the muddy sections enough to reach our destination.

Hill Descent Control works like a charm. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine from the 4×2 model made its way into the 4×4, where the 248hp and the 400Nm were tested in the twisties of Tanay. Carving the behemoth in the corners was very satisfying in Sport mode, and I’m not alone in this praise.

Ramirez described the handling as “almost European,” owing to the front MacPherson type and rear multilink beam independent suspension setup—even with the Thule accessories and Specialized bicycles installed. Even while sitting in an SUV, I can see why these roads are favorable among enthusiasts.

The face of cornering satisfaction. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Nevertheless, the luxurious creature comforts of the GS8 are still present, like the plush seats, the huge trunk space, and the wireless charging. Significant upgrades from the 4×2 are front-ventilated four-way power seats and the new 10-speaker Alpine system, which sounds impeccable even at default settings.

Is the convoluted setup process worth the enlarged album art? PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The 14-inch infotainment screen is practically identical between the 2WD and 4WD variants, including the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. I still had to download and connect to the CarbitLink app. The result was an enlarged mobile-phone display with lots of free real estate, all to finally see an album art of what’s playing.

It was surprising to see the lack of smartphone integration after seeing it available in the Emkoo, but GAC hopes that a software update will come to the local market sooner or later.

Trust in the GS8 to escape from the city. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Once those minor inconveniences are tackled, the GAC GS8 could be a viable glamping vehicle for its bulky, premium aesthetics and competent driving dynamics on and off the road. While the 2WD model was also able to hold up throughout the trip, the 4WD is available for those seeking peace of mind while going off the beaten path.

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.