Luxury for (a million) less

Published July 8, 2021, 10:37 AM

by Inigo Roces

GAC GN8 GT Luxury

Text and photos by Eric Tipan

Commuting will never be the same once you’ve experienced the pleasure of riding in the captain’s seat of a plush van with an ottoman and even a massage function. A few of you out there may even opt to never get behind the wheel again, or even in the passenger seat for that matter.

Say hello to the GAC GN8 GT Luxury. It’s modestly classified as an MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) but for all intents and purposes, locally, it’s in the same segment as the Alphard, which costs about a million more.

The body, in general, is plain and inconspicuous but it does flaunt sharp character lines, a gently sloped roof, and a few well-placed chrome trim bits that totally complement the four-slat grille occupying a large portion of the façade.

Unconventionally, it still has large headlamps but at least, they’re LEDs already. The taillights sport the same technology and are connected by a full-length lightbar. Their design leaves some to be desired — slimmer and fancier perhaps in the next generation.

It may not look all that sporty up front but swing around to the back and you’ll notice the addition of a spoiler and dual exhaust pipes. They’ll somehow give you an idea of what’s it packing.

Open the hood and there’s a modest 2.0L gasoline turbo engine with a very healthy output of 199-PS and 320-Nm of torque. Small by displacement compared to segment competitors but not short at all in terms of performance. Acceleration is silky, which is to say it’s very smooth. I loved how the torque kicks in below 2,000 rpm, even in Normal mode, making it react quickly to driver input but without unnecessary jerkiness seen in high-torque engines.

Other drive modes include Sport (delivers much faster response), Eco (reduced engine and throttle feedback), and even Winter (prevents tire slip on snow and ice). I rarely felt the need to use the first two as the drive in Normal was more than satisfactory — it felt highly responsive while returning 10.3-km/l in mixed driving conditions (during 2021 quarantine period).

While the engine is great, the best parts of this vehicle are in the cabin, and the experience starts with the two automatic sliding side doors. They open up to a very plush second row and two captain’s seats.

Both are power adjustable, have an ottoman, and offer a highly comfortable massage function. Passengers in this section can also roll down these large windows so they can pick up their own drive thru, among other things. What’s missing is a built-in table or one that folds down from the backrest of the front passenger so you can get in on that drive-thru burger right away. I wanted to see how low it could go and surprisingly, these seats can go to almost full flat. In this position, the view of the sky through the panoramic roof was amazing.

The cockpit is pretty well endowed as well. There’s a good-looking 10.1-inch screen in the middle of the dashboard that’s framed very nicely by chrome accents, a multi-function steering wheel, neatly arranged and properly labelled infotainment and air-conditioning controls, and a very liberal use of leather. Other highlights include dark wood accents along the center tunnel and door panel, quilted pieces, and alluring ambient colored light strips. At the back is the third row with plain bench seats that can fit three, which makes this a luxurious seven-seater model. If you need to load cargo, these flip up to create more space.

The only thing about the cabin is that the overall color is too creamy and a magnet for stains and dirt marks. A darker shade could be better especially if there are kids in the family.

Even as a driver mostly during this test drive, the comfort level in the vehicle is exceptional and can definitely rival its Japanese counterpart.

It does so well in keeping out external sounds, plus noise, vibration, and harshness that you barely hear even its own horn. That rough stretch of EDSA’s third lane (from the right) between Estrella and Guadalupe gave its suspension a real challenge but I’m happy to say that it passed with flying colors. Its center of gravity is pretty low for a van, that it did so well around corners and bends despite its tall stature. All in all, it handles marvelously and is light on the arms as well.

This is a solid luxury minivan. It has all the trappings of high-end models but comes at a much friendlier price point. Should it match the durability and reliability of its competitors, this is a steal for P2.958 million.