Cars

Not Your Momma’s Minivan: Driving the GAC GM8

It's a Chinese brand, yes, but our writer thinks the 2019 GAC GM8 2.0L can go toe-to-toe with the competition.
IMAGE ERIC TIPAN
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Yes, it’s a Chinese brand (let’s get that out of the way) but you’re going to want give this seven-seater some serious consideration. Either that or you double-take after you learn what it brings to the luxury MPV segment.

First off, it has presence. The white-on-black, body-window combo is aesthetically pleasing and with the D-pillar blacked-out, it gives off that “floating roof” appearance.

Photo by ERIC TIPAN.
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It seems taller than an MPV, wide and sexy thanks to the nice contours along the body, and the chrome trims spanning the top of the side glass and the ones just above the rocker panel touch it up nicely. The grille is impressively huge, albeit very simple, with four slats and the G logo, which is an abbreviation of GAC (Guangzhou Automobile Group), found just a little off center.

On each side are large LED headlamps with daytime running lights and right below it are nicely tucked fog lamps highlighted by chrome brows. Except for the dual exhausts, the rear doesn’t have much eye candy. Taillights are plain although the deep dark red color and the red panel connecting it along the hatch gives it extra appeal.

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A peek inside

Inside is where you really get your money’s worth, all P2.880 million of it.

The overall color scheme is off-white (on the leather seats and majority of the door panels) with a dash of dark wood accents on the center tunnel and door inserts, and it highlighted by alluring ambient light strips.

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There’s some minor quilting on the door panels, larger pieces on the front doors and smaller on the sliding doors, that adds texture and ups the cabin’s level of sophistication. The black of the dashboard, center console, infotainment system and the top of the door panels is okay but I would have preferred it grey or some neutral color to mesh with the rest of the cabin.

It has a large 10.1-inch touchscreen right below the soft-touch dashboard and it looks amazing from any angle. The resolution and graphics is tablet-like, which makes what the rearview camera picks up look like HD quality.

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Below it are various buttons for the infotainment system, climate control, and if you add the overhead controls for the sunroof and moonroof, it can get a little intimidating. There’s a lot of Trumpchi branding inside the vehicle as that is the badge it carries in China where the vehicle is imported. Most visible is the one on the padded leather panel just above the glove compartment and on the door sills.

The second row of this seven-seater comes with two heavily bolstered, highly adjustable Ottoman seats that feel just as comfortable as it looks. Plus, it comes with ventilation and massage function—something you don’t get from some of the top, more expensive, brands.

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Both armrests are touched up with some brushed aluminum trim and has cleverly concealed controls for seat ventilation and power adjustment.

Aircon vents go all the to the third row, and I must say that it was easy to cool the large cabin even with just the vents in the front and second row working. The seat in the rear is bench type and is non-adjustable but foldable and clips to the rear of the captain seats to increase cargo space.

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Performance

I expected the 2.0L turbocharged gasoline engine to struggle against the weight of this vehicle but I was more than pleasantly surprised. Even with only 199 PS and 320 Nm of torque, it felt very light and acceleration was amazingly quick, yet very smooth, befitting a luxury vehicle.

A huge chunk of its pull kicks in at just above 2,000 RPM in Normal driving mode but it is already spritely even in the lower range.

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There’s also the option of switching to Sport, Eco and Winter driving modes.

Heavy traffic brings consumption down to 5.5 kilometers per liter, but when EDSA is loose, I picked up close to 12 km/l.

Ride comfort was excellent thanks to well-cushioned seats and terrific suspension. It was almost like riding on a cloud but with our roads being the way it is, some of the roughest sections of EDSA were audible and palpable. Not too much of a biggie and I do see this improving in a future update. Levels of noise, vibration and harshness were also very low. In fact, it was so good that even its own horn sounded muffled from where I was sitting.

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There isn’t much of a turbo lag which is good, except for a teeny-weeny hair of a delay after throttle input that’s barely noticeable unless you’re splitting hairs. Other than that, it’s silky all through the six-speed automatic transmission. Center cupholders can’t accommodate mid-sized Klean Kanteen bottles so you’ll have to stow them by the doors and there’s a tiny delay as well after either of the sliding doors have shut or the auto tailgate before the touch-activated handles lock the doors.

It may not yet be a household name, but it can go head-to-head with the competition and win. It’s more affordable than most in its segment and comes with a full complement of tools and toys that the big boys have.

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A true and legit luxury unit, the 2019 GAC GM8 2.0L is most assuredly not your typical Momma’s minivan.

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Eric Tipan
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