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Chery is moving up. That’s the message from the all-SUV lineup of the Chinese brand, now that they’ve been re-introduced under a new Philippine distributor, Chery Philippines. Chery Philippines is under United Asia Automotive Group, which also manufactures and distributes the Foton brand.

The Tiggo 8 Lux EX is Chery’s flagship SUV, a challenger to the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest. Tiggo 8 measures 4700mm long x 1858mm wide x 1746mm tall. That’s a little shorter than say, the Everest at 4893mm and the Fortuner’s 4795mm. The wheelbase is 2710mm, also shorter than the 2850mm of the Everest and Fortuner’s 2745mm.

The Tiggo 8 brings some whiz-bang, next-generation features to the midsize SUV class. One feature involves electronic access. The Tiggo 8 comes with a free Chery Smartwatch that’s paired to the vehicle. The watch acts as vehicle key, allowing the owner to not only lock and unlock the doors, but also remotely switch on the engine and airconditioning, as well as open and close the windows and panoramic glass sunroof.  The rear hatch is likewise power-equipped, and automatically swings open and closed when you do a kicking motion under the rear bumper.

In addition, the smartwatch has the standard features expected, such as time and date, ability to answer phone calls and messages, sleep monitor, step counter, calorie counter and heart rate monitor. If you’re averse to wearing the smartwatch, there’s also a traditional transponder key, also with contactless access. 

Where the Tiggo 8 departs from the norm in this class is its engine. Rather than the usual turbocharged diesel unit, the Tiggo uses a petrol engine. Using turbocharging, Chery manages to squeeze out 146 ps and 210Nm from 1.5 liters. The engine designers relied on proven technology suppliers, with Honeywell providing the turbocharger and BorgWarner supplying the variable valve-timing mechanism. The Tiggo 8’s output is far below the norm in this class, with many of the diesel vehicles in this class already at more than 200ps and 500Nm.

The turbo engine is paired with a six-speed dual clutch transmission. It’s designed to be a compact unit with more direct driving feel than a traditional automatic. It’s equipped with Sport and Eco driving modes. Paddle shifters are absent, though.

On the road, it takes a couple of seconds for the Tiggo 8’s turbo to spool up before there’s any appreciable acceleration. It’s not so much of a bother when the car is already moving, but moving from a standstill takes some patience. You’ll need to rev the engine to about 3000 rpm to get decent propulsion. In highway driving, we got 11.5 km/liter. This dropped to 5.3km /liter in heavy city traffic.

The Tiggo 8 rides on McPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear suspension, on paper an advantage against the pickup-based SUVs. Pick-up based utility vehicles usually have a beam axle rear, with a tendency for a choppier ride. The Tiggo delivers a softer ride than expected.

Inside, the Tiggo 8 is a tasteful mixture of soft-touch plastics and faux leather trim, the latter covering the seats, steering wheel, door panels, and gauge hood. The layout wouldn’t be out of place in the latest Euro and Japanese vehicles, with a 10.25-inch touchscreen popping up from the center of the instrument panel. The steering wheel adjusts for height, and the driver’s seat is power-adjustable. The gauge cluster is 7-inch LCD display that displays speed, tachometer, driver warnings. It also displays fuel efficiency, trip computer, and real-time data from the tire-pressure monitoring system.

The Tiggo 8 seats seven in three rows of seats. The second row features a flat floor to maximize foot space, and can slide fore and aft to give more space to the third-row folks. The third row is best reserved for kids and short rides. With all seats up, there’s just enough space for small bags or carry-on size luggage. It can split-fold to give more cargo room.

In its design and configuration, comfort and convenience features, the Tiggo 8 is aiming at a wide market, not only competing against the Fortuner-Montero Sport-Everest trio, but also at more premium-oriented vehicles like the Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-8.

Safety is enhanced with ABS and EBD brakes, emergency brake assist, electronic stability program, traction control and hill-hold assist. There’s also hill-descent control to allow for a safer descent on steep inclines. Tiggo 8 is equipped with 6 airbags, front and rear sensors, and rear camera. The monitor can also display a 360-degree view of the exterior, allowing for easier parking and manuevering.

Chery is making sure that the ownership package is as attractive as the vehicle. With all the convenience features on board, the Tiggo 8 comes in at P1.340 million.

Tiggo 8 is covered by a 5-year, 150,000 km warranty. In addition, the engine is covered by a whopping 10-year, 1-million km warranty. Three years of preventive maintenance is also free of charge. In a nod to these challenging times, Chery is also throwing in a free portable ultraviolet sterilization light with purchase, until 31 October 2020.

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