The looks are polished; the feel and sound, not as much.
GAC may well be the first indigenous Chinese brand to launch cars in the U.S., though today’s announcement at the Detroit auto show was not a definite pronouncement of export plans (the target remains 2018-2019), but rather that an R&D operation would be sited somewhere in the U.S. during the first half of 2017. Its location was not divulged, if indeed it has been decided.
Establishing such a center is likely critical for any Chinese automaker who hopes to comply with safety regulations and to understand and satisfy consumer needs. Indeed, when pressed about the progress toward complying with Federal safety regulations by 2018, one official stated that the R&D center would be tasked with that. Chinese finite-element analysis, computer simulation, and so forth must be faster than everyone else’s if GAC expects to “engineer” compliance into a vehicle by then. Oh, and as for the nomenclature: GAC is the parent company (like GM), Trumpchi (the P is silent) is the brand name—and it was launched well before our most recent election cycle began, so don’t go wondering if there’s political pandering in it.
The GS7 five-passenger SUV goes on sale in China next month. It is roughly the size of a Ford Edge (1.9 inches shorter in length, 1.1 inch taller in height, and 0.7 inch narrower), but rides on a 5.1-inch shorter wheelbase. This compromises rear seat space a bit but leaves room for a big full-size spare on a matching alloy wheel under the rather high cargo-area floor. Although the parent company GAC has been involved in joint ventures with FCA, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine and six-speed automatic transmission were entirely designed in-house. The multi-port injected engine includes auto start/stop and produces 198 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, which sound a trifle modest for motivating 3,950 pounds worth of SUV plus whatever you might put in it. The AWD system includes the requisite terrain response knob, featuring sand, trail, snow, and normal settings.
As Chinese cars go, the Trumpchi brand’s design inside and out is more mature and mainstream than most. The GS7 breaks little new ground (the D-pillar/daylight-opening apes that of a Lexus GX, while its little brother GS4 gets the Murano floating roof blackout striped pillar). We like other details such as the infinitely deep reflector light-piped tail lamps. Inside, the look is upscale, with convincing piano black and textured plastic faux carbon fiber that’s much less so. At least the materials are all soft touch on the top of the doors and dash, while the hard stuff goes below. The Injoy HMI touchscreen is back-stopped with myriad buttons on the center stack and console. Seating felt quite comfortable, with stadium-style high chairs in back. The cargo area seems small, as the Euro-measured 29 cubic-feet (behind the rear seats) would suggest. If and when GAC comes to market, it will likely do so with a lineup of SUVs, which are now sized ranging from GS4 and GS5 to GS7 and GS8. Today they seem to be achieving the quality level Korea managed a couple of vehicle generations ago. Expect their learning curve to be steeper still.
The GE3 goes on sale in China this June. It is a pure EV powered by a 47-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that is said to provide almost 200 miles of range on the easy-does-it Euro NEDC cycle. Its permanent magnet synchronous electric motor is rated at 67 hp and 81 lb-ft continuous, with peak output of 161 hp and 214 lb-ft. The vehicle is roughly B-segment SUV size, measuring within an inch or so of a Chevy Trax. The design is pretty generic outside, but a bit more engaging inside. At least to look at. Most of what you can touch is hard grained plastic, and the door slam sound on the production car present on the stand rivaled that of an original Kia Sephia (anybody remember those?). Not too nice. If the NEDC range translates down to the low 100-mile range, we’d counsel GAC’s Trumpchi planners to keep this one at home.
The EnSpirit Concept looks like it was designed in former joint venture partner Honda’s studios, with a grille and lamps that totally ape the CR-V’s and a lower body character line lifted directly from the new Odyssey. Matte copper paint channels the perhaps waning trend in paint finishes, while the roofline goes for a four-door coupe body style that the Germans can’t seem to build enough of. This one does that genre one better by adding a cloth roof that opens for a cabriolet feeling. It allows enough of the outside elements in to suggest horticulture could be fostered inside, as indicated by the bonsai tree growing out of the rear center console. Very interesting indeed. There are no production plans announced as yet for the EnSpirit.
Keep an eye on this manufacturer, hope and pray it launches here with a different brand name, and don’t necessarily expect the products to be laughable when they arrive—at least not for long.
|2018 GAC TRUMPCHI GS7|
|BASE PRICE||$25,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD/AWD, 5-8-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINES||2.0L/198-hp/236-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,950 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||186.2 x 75.2 x 69.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.0 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not yet rated|
|On Sale in U.S||2018-2019|
|2018 GAC TRUMPCHI GE3|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-motor, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|MOTOR||161-hp/214-lb-ft DC electric|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,650 lb (mfr)|