Car review: European feel without the price tag in GAC's GA8
A large executive saloon for less
OPINIONS ARE LIKE mobile phones: everybody has one. In the motoring world, no matter who you are, views on the Chinese car industry abound. Regardless of your standpoint - favourable or otherwise - there is no question China's export output is not only increasing, but the quality of vehicle is constantly improving. Being a land of predominantly home market vendors, they're not in any danger of troubling the top ten overseas sellers any time soon, but whereas you may have heard horror stories about models as recently as 15 years ago, in just over a decade makers have upped their game to account for $8.6 billion in foreign sales (2018, worldstopexports.com). So it was with increased expectations we recently made our inaugural visit to the GAC showroom near Dubai airport. The carmaker, which is known for its comprehensive list of brands back home, comes to the UAE with two saloons, four SUVs and a MPV in the offing. We went for the top end saloon, the GA8, which looks to rival its European counterparts including the Audi A8 or Mercedes S-Class for a slice of the executive pie. Here's how the journey panned out.
For a large saloon, it certainly is spacious
The immediate impression when approaching a GA8 GT is that it appears comparable if not bigger than many of its contemporaries. At over five-metres long they've really piled on the girth, especially at the back, so you can frolic to your heart's content all over the Naapa luxury leather. Seats in the rear extend out, much like an airline chair, and a central wooden almost wardrobe-like construction (given its storage space) also has built into it an actual fridge and control panel out of Star Trek where you can alter most onboard elements. This construction, which appears in the GT version, means you have to sacrifice the middle berth, but any excuse to transport fewer children in exchange for keeping your strawberry milk cool has to be seen as a bonus.
What about the performance?
True with such heft, you'd expect a lag in the acceleration, but we weren't exactly underwhelmed. Firstly, we're not going to be buying a GA8 to tear it up on the track and, more importantly, its two-litre turbo engine produces 200hp, which is sufficient if not terribly thrilling. Getting up to speed is a smooth as you'd expect from a saloon of this nature and the ride is equally tranquil as a result of the double wishbone suspension up front and five-link beam independent at the back. We have to say going round corners must be taken at a slower pace in order to keep the front passenger planted, though any other position is unaffected.
So why would I go for this?
The 500-litre boot capacity, of course! No, you'll go for the GA8 because of the financial savings. Where the Western models to which we alluded earlier go for around Dhs500,000 the GA8 base model starts at Dhs100,000. The top of the range GT is Dhs130,000. At a fifth of the price, is the car 20 per cent as good? Not in the slightest. We were more than satisfied.
Engine: Two-litre turbo
Fridge: Big yes
Price: From Dhs100,000