The GAC GM8 van has all the attributes of a proper luxury vehicle, well-sorted, and offers great value for money
What is luxury to you? Some say it’s power, while others say it’s space. Others still will say it’s enjoying exclusivity in sumptuous environs, while others ascribe to peerless quality.
These attributes all feature prominently in GAC’s GM8 executive minivan. Cynics will say it’s a Toyota’s Alphard in Chinese garb, while others see it for what it is: an amazing value for money proposition.
GAC is China’s second biggest car manufacturer / assembler, being partnered with various global automotive brands for assembling their vehicles in China. They know a thing or two about building cars. So despite the GAC brand being relatively new, they’ve been around longer assembling cars for other manufacturers for the Chinese market.
So, is the GM8 truly a luxurious vehicle? If the stately and stylish design, plush ride and rich features don’t convince you, then let’s trace back our steps to my opening statement.
Power. The GM8 is powered by a 2.0 liter turbocharged gasoline engine producing 200hp and 320 Newton-Meters of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual override control by way of a small toggle switch on the shifter knob. There’s a Drive Mode Selector where one can choose Eco, Normal, Sport and a Winter setting for the transmission algorithm and engine mapping and responsiveness. Power comes on early, and you’ll wonder why Toyota needs 3.5 liters, six cylinders and more forward gears to produce adequate propulsion in their similarly spec’d Alphard.
Let’s also talk about space. The GM8 seats seven people comfortably, with captain’s seats in both first and second rows, and a bench seat on the third row. The second row seats slide fore and aft, and recline independently as well. And, the second-row captain’s seat is considerably wider versus, say, the Alphard. Think JDM-size (Japan Domestic Market) for the Alphard, and a more global sizing for the GM8. And of course, both left and right sliding doors are power operated, as well as the rear tail gate.
Exclusivity in the GM8’s case might not immediately seem like a good thing because truthfully, this seems rarer than an exotic sports car. I’ve only ever seen one on the road, and it’s this one prior to when I borrowed it. Chalk that one up to the general mistrust of buying a China-made car. For P2.8 Million, you can buy a Toyota Super Grandia Elite van, a Mazda CX-9 cross-over or the equally excellent but slightly underpowered Honda Odyssey minivan. But the GM8, badge and country of origin aside, offers amazing value to challenge the established Japanese supremacy.
The ride is another strong suit: blessed with a compact multi-link rear and independent front suspension, the GM8 rides plush and smooth. Going to the provinces south of Metro Manila, the GM8 swallows up bumps, ruts, potholes and road imperfections with ease and confidence. It’s a serene cruiser on the highway, and even on winding roads, you have the confidence to hustle this big van with confidence and security, keeping body roll, pitch and sway well in check. Must be comical to be overtaken by a big white slab of pearlescent metal on winding roads. Of course, the brakes are more than capable to stopping this executive express on a dime, with well-modulated and fade-free braking performance. Up to 8/10 driving, the GM8 keeps its clam and remains composed.
Inside, plush leather seats provide true luxury-car comfort, you find yourself falling asleep fast if you’re a passenger. Thanks also to the impressive cabin NVH, you won’t hear the outside world, and the engine hums indistinctly in the background. There are six airbags to keep you safe, with ISOFIX child seat anchors and traction / stabilty controls together with ABS-EBD brakes. Features we all expect in a high-end vehicle, but quite surprising to find in what is for many, an upstart Chinese brand. There’s also Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth Telephony with the excellent multimedia system, plus a reverse camera with parking sensors making the large GM8 manageable even in my tight townhouse compound’s parking.
Truthfully, biases and stereotypes aside, the GM8 is a really good van. It has all the attributes of a proper luxury vehicle, is well-sorted, and offers great value for money. It’s also amazingly fuel efficient: my overall average is 10km/liter, consisting of around 70% highway driving and 30% city driving. On strictly highway driving, the best I’d get is 15km/liter, while going uphill to Tagaytay netted a more than impressive 7.8km/liter with lots of overtaking and hard acceleration. The Chinese are onto something with their latest powertrain technologies which allows a small displacement engine to outperform many engines with far larger displacements. Ingenuity is key if you want to stand at the top.
Truthfully also, is that it will be difficult to overcome our biases and stereotypes. Which is where GAC needs to prove itself. The pudding will only reveal the truth after another five to seven years of the brand’s existence in our local shores. How will their cars hold up over time? Will aftersales be excellent? Will parts supply be readily available?
Only time will tell. But I’m confident of GAC’s products like the GM8, and the brand’s potential as they offer innovative products with excellent value for money. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.
A car enthusiast through and through, Botchi Santos believes that different people have different needs. He tries to find the best car for a specific audience, and spruces things up by delving into car culture, helping make the local car community vibrant and enjoyable for all. His passion for motoring is built around a belief that cars are among the top three life purchases.