Luxury within reach
So this is what a Chery looks like now.
My earliest memories of a Chery vehicle came in the form of the QQ hatchback. While I was still a teenager when it was brought into the country, I remember it had funky styling and it was very cheap during its time. However, the little Chinese subcompact faced a lot of flak with its numerous issues which also affected the reputation of the Chery brand as a whole.
But that's so 2008. Chery returned to the country in 2019 in rebuild mode. They had a new distributor and they arrived with a host of vehicles that made a much better impression on my more seasoned colleagues in the office.
Of course, it's one thing to hear about it, and another to actually experience it firsthand. I get the keys (or remote) and spent a week with their crème de la crème: the Tiggo 8 Pro which costs PHP 1.67-million.
In terms of design and overall appeal, Chery is indeed very different from what I've initially become accustomed to. This is no longer a basic econobox, but a crossover with a lot of bells and whistles. The Tiggo 8 Pro is a follow-up to the Tiggo 8 from two years ago, but the significant changes outside made it look like it's a completely new model.
At first glance, the Tiggo 8 Pro definitely has a more upscale look than the standard Tiggo 8. There's a lot less going on now with its front fascia, while it's earned its own bling-bling with the “Sunshine Galaxy” grille that has those shiny rectangular elements and the diamond mesh first seen in the Tiggo 7 Pro.
At the back, the revised taillights give somewhat a European vibe to it with its faux diffuser and its two neatly-shaped functional exhaust tips. Compared to Chery's other models, the Tiggo 8 Pro is the only crossover that has the word C H E R Y spelled on it instead of the usual badge. Perhaps this is the manufacturer's way of saying that this is indeed their flagship model.
When you look at it from the side, the Tiggo 8 Pro has a body shape that accentuates the added passenger and cargo room from the B-pillar onwards, which somewhat reminds me of how Hyundai did it with the third-generation Grand Santa Fe. Being the higher-spec model, the Tiggo 8 Pro also sports a panoramic glass roof like the standard Tiggo 8.
While I'm not a fan of chrome, I really like how the katana-shaped trim adds to the car's luxury appeal and how it blends into those stylish 18-inch wheels. It's not out of place compared to those you see on car accessory shops in Banawe or on your favorite online shopping app, so kudos to Chery for coming up with a well-thought-out design for its exterior.
Once you press the unlock button and finish the ensuing LED light dance, the Tiggo 8 Pro welcomes you to an interior you'll normally see in vehicles with significantly higher price tags. The standard Tiggo 8 had black leather, but the Pro's got more flair with the brown upholstery. It's a major interior flex, to say the least, and you might not want to put on dark-colored window films for this one.
Getting in and out of the Tiggo 8 Pro is a relatively easy task thanks to the low ride height and large doors for the first two rows. There are plenty of premium amenities in front like power seats with heating/cooling and memory function on the driver side, plus butterfly headrests like those seen in Range Rovers.
The dashboard follows a three-screen layout – one for the instrument cluster, the other for the infotainment system, and the third one for climate control settings. The 12.3-inch instrument cluster has digits instead of dials for the speedometer and tachometer, and can be configured through the steering wheel controls to get vehicle information like maintenance alerts and fuel economy figures.
Meanwhile, the touchscreen infotainment system has Apple CarPlay, but it doesn't have Android Auto. Android users can opt for the QD Link, or just connect via Bluetooth. Other than that, the infotainment screen displays the 360-degree camera that comes in really handy when parking the large crossover, plus the settings for the driver assistance systems.
All three screens have crisp displays, albeit with some very minor nuances in the language of the interface. While it's good that it still has toggle switches to control the A/C settings, I wasn't particularly impressed with the choice of material on the piano black center console. The unit I drove only had about 5,000 kms on it, but it does get scratched easily. Maybe Chery can come up with a screen protector for it, or you know, do it the typical Filipino car owner way – not removing the peel-off plastic.
The same goes with the placing of the wireless charging pad underneath the center console, which is not so convenient for the front passenger. Placing it just between the auto brake hold button and the armrests, at the expense of the cupholder, could have made more sense, ergonomically.
The second-row seats get their own A/C vents plus a single USB charger, and the center armrests are equipped with cupholders. The panoramic glass roof extends all the way there and helps heighten the ambiance. There's no driveshaft bulge in the middle as the Tiggo 8 Pro is front-wheel-drive, and there's plenty of headroom and legroom for my 5'9” frame.
While the first two rows feel like first and business class, the third-row seats, like any other crossover in this segment, feel like economy class due to its limited head and legroom. Provided it has nice headrests and A/C vents on the side, the third-row seats are best left for children or smaller adults.
With the third-row seats folded flat, the Tiggo 8 Pro easily swallowed our luggage and camera gear when we used it for a weekend trip outside Metro Manila. Loading stuff at the back was made convenient by the power tailgate and the low floor.
The 2022 Chery Tiggo 8 Pro uses a 1.6-liter T-GDI (Turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection) engine that puts out 195 PS and 290 Nm of torque paired to a 7-speed wet-type dual-clutch transmission. Our last review of the standard Tiggo 8 with the 1.5-liter turbo had adequate power for its size – now this one's more powerful. But it's not just about power we're after, but how it drives. So how did it feel like behind the wheel of the Tiggo 8 Pro?
For starters, the Tiggo 8 Pro is a relatively big crossover, so don't expect a hatchback or a subcompact crossover-like agility with this one. Power is available on tap, but it's more of a smooth cruiser that's great for a relaxing and comfortable highway drive. Chery tuned the suspension more on the comfort side while remaining stable and composed towards bumps and road imperfections even at highway speeds. There's very minimal effort with the steering wheel with how light it is, and the cabin is very quiet.
I must admit I wasn't initially confident with the braking power of the Tiggo 8 Pro since it had a longer pedal travel compared to the cars I've driven before, but spending a few more days driving the crossover eventually got me used to it.
The dual-clutch transmission feels smooth, though it could get jerky at times when you're trying to get going on an incline. A good hill hold function would fix that. I was also a bit surprised that there were only two driving modes – Eco and Sport, which leaves me wanting for a middle ground between the two. Eco mode is great for saving fuel as it always wants to go to the highest gear possible and minimize revs, but at the expense of responsiveness when you need to kick down a gear when overtaking. On the other hand, the Sport mode really holds the gears to maximize power, but of course, that means you're sipping more fuel than normal.
Speaking of fuel economy, the Tiggo 8 Pro's figures are what you would expect from a typical large crossover. I did 8.3 km/l in the city and 13 km/l on the highway. But with its fuel tank capacity only limited to 51 liters, you'll see the gas gauge going down faster than what the numbers suggest. Perhaps Chery could have fitted a larger fuel tank for the Tiggo 8 Pro, as the crossover really felt great to drive on long-distance trips.
When it comes to its advanced driver assist features like the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and motorcycle alert, it's been configured to keep you very safe, but perhaps perform too sensitively. The car would turn its hazard lights on for every passing motorcycle which is good, but it can get bothersome at times. Not to mention, the lane keep assist could use a bit more refinement. A software tweak or update could probably address these.
Chery's return to the Philippine market has been nothing short of a success as the entire initial inventory of the Tiggo 8 Pro has already sold out. It's a product of all the years Chery worked on their cars to step out of the shadows of their not-so-stellar past.
With better consumer brand awareness, UAAGI's 7-year, 200,000-km warranty only sweetens the deal on the already attractive PHP 1.670-million price tag considering the luxury amenities the crossover is packing. The Chery Tiggo 8 Pro is at the price point of base variant Japanese PPV-SUVs, and within range of B and C-segment 5-seater Japanese crossovers. And given its relatively minor nuances, the 2022 Chery Tiggo 8 Pro has all the makings of being a top contender in the compact or even midsize SUV segment.