“Why aren’t more of these on the road?”
Those exact words were going through my head after I was handed the keys to GAC Motor’s large people mover – the GM8. And it’s quite true. Look around town, more often than not, the most common luxury minivans you’ll see on the roads are either the Toyota Alphard or the Mercedes-Benz V-Class. Considering everything the GM8 had to offer, I wondered why there is only a handful of these in comparison. Was there something with the GM8 that put people off? Or, is it just a case of brand aversion.
But first, a quick history lesson about the vehicle. The GAC GM8 is one of the newest models in the automaker’s line up. The luxury van was introduced globally back in 2017 as the Trumpchi GM8 in China. When GAC was launched in the Philippines by Legado Motors, Inc. in 2018, they also brought the luxury van with them together with the rest of the lineup.
When it comes to design, the GM8 easily stands out among the rest of the GAC models. For one, it is easily the most stylish vehicle out of the bunch. Upfront, it has a large grille flanked by large LED headlight which gives the van a lot of presence on the road. At the back, it has this unique full-width LED taillight which makes it easily recognizable, even at night.
Interestingly, because of its design, some might easily mistake it for its Toyota counterpart. This is especially when true you ordered it in white. It was something I personally experienced when a security guard asked me what vehicle I was driving and whether it was an Alphard. Fortunately, GAC does offer it in other colors available if you do want to differentiate yourself from other luxury vans in the market.
While the GM8 certainly looks great on the outside, nearly all of the magic is found inside the cabin. Open the automatic sliding doors and you are immediately welcomed to the luxurious second row of seats. Instead of the typical “captain’s seats” you would find on most vans, the one fitted on the GM8 is similar to what you will find in the first-class cabin of airplanes.
Nearly all of the functions on the seats, apart from the recline and slider, are automatically controlled by buttons hidden on the armrest. The only minor issue I noticed is that it takes a while to get the massager into the proper position you want it to be. Interestingly, those in the back can roll down the windows of the sliding doors should you need to do so. I do wish that it came with a table as it did not have one either behind the front seats or a fold-out unit built into the seats.
Undoubtedly, the best feature of the first class chairs in the second would be the massage function. With this, you wouldn’t mind sitting in heavy traffic. Just recline the seat and relax. Better yet, the seats can even recline nearly fully flat, turning close to a bed. Open up the panoramic sunroof and you might even be treated to a great view of the sky… assuming it isn’t just cloudy or overcast. On the flip side, you can just vibe, listen to music, and change the interior lights to suit your mood. No need to worry about exterior noise too as the GM8’s cabin easily shuts them out.
Even though the main attraction in the cabin are the second-row seats, the GM8 is still a 7-seat model and comes with third-row bench seats. Admittedly, these bench seats feel a bit cramped and less comfortable when compared with the second-row, especially when the second-row seats are reclined. But, adjust all the seats properly and they are quite comfortable to fit three adults. Still, those sitting in the third-row will definitely be jealous of those sitting in the first-class seats in front of them.
While most of the luxurious amenities are found in the passenger section, GAC didn’t forget to give the driver some upscale features as well. Granted, those who will be buying one of these will likely have a driver to bring them around, it is a nice touch to have should the owners have to drive themselves. Some of these include automatic headlights, an easily accessible gear lever, and power driver seats. Nearly all of the functions of the GM8 can also be accessed in the center console and via the large touchscreen infotainment system.
On the road, the GM8 handles very well considering its huge size. Steering is very light, which some might like, making drives easier. Personally, I wished there was more weight to help feel the road better. The body is very planted when turning or switching lanes even at high speeds. It doesn’t feel like it will topple over too. At night, the large LED headlights are very bright and are easily capable of lighting up to three lanes of the road.
It might be big and heavy, but the GM8 is no slouch. The luxury van can easily hit the speed limit (and beyond) if you put your foot down. That’s because, under the hood, it uses the same 2.0-liter turbocharged unit found in the flagship GA8 and GS8 models which is good for 199 PS and 320 Nm torque. All that power is then sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. Put it in sport mode and you can even shift the gears yourself via buttons on the gear stick.
As much as the big van can go fast, it does not really help with its fuel efficiency. Once traffic starts building up, expect fuel consumption to go down quite fast. During my time with the GM8, I only managed to average 5.4 km/l driving which included being stuck in barely moving traffic. But, I do expect it to be a lot better when driving on the expressway or during non-traffic days. During a short stint with traffic-free roads, I saw readouts of around 12-13 km/l.
After seeing everything the GM8 has to offer, it really made me wonder why there aren’t more on the road. Even though it is a bit of a gas guzzler, fuel consumption is likely the least of your concerns if you’re in the market for a luxury van.
With a price tag of Php 2,880,000, the GM8 GT is a bargain when compared to its closest rivals. Don't get me wrong, it is still pricey. But considering it is loaded with gizmos and features, you definitely get your money’s worth.
Sure, you don’t get a three-pointed star or the symbol of a constellation on the grill, but you do have massage seats. And honestly, I would choose massage seats over a fancy emblem on any given day.