Step in the right direction
Everyone is rocking on through electric avenue, so it felt like it was just a matter of time before Chery brought in one of its models. When they did, it made sense that it was their crown jewel: the 2022 Chery Tiggo 8 Pro PHEV.
You can’t tell it is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) when you see it unless you are coming from the back and see the HYBRID badge on the tailgate. I wish manufacturers would do something like what Toyota does and add a different hue to the logo, or grille perhaps, just to set their hybrids apart from conventional models.
Years after introducing the Sunshine Galaxy grille, it is still the front fascia’s best feature. I imagine it looking better if it were larger, but this size is not bad. It starts at the top with small, round chrome bits in the black mesh that get bigger toward the bottom. Its mesmerizing look does not get old and makes the vehicle look more luxurious. On either side are LED headlamps with daytime running lamps, and at the bottom are large air vents with chrome accents.
If this model hit the road in the early 2000s, it would not look out of place. That is not supposed to be a compliment. The body’s whole shape is ordinary, especially when viewed from the side. At least it gets roof rails for added functionality, plus a few exterior highlights like the sharp character line from the front to rear fender and a thick chrome garnish by the rocker panel. It uses 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
What gets me about the rear are the lines and the small rear glass that makes the vehicle appear slimmer (and taller, but not in a good way) than it is. I wish they would redesign this in the next update.
The exterior design will not win any awards for sure, but it is far from being the worst out there. Certain aesthetic features like the grille and headlamp design give its presence weight, and this violet color helps it stand out. In my opinion, it is a simple nip-and-tuck away from being a head-turner.
I did not need to touch or bring out the smart key. If the vehicle is in a pitch-dark parking lot, finding it will not be a problem, and that is one of the high-tech things I like about it. This feature came in handy at a party last week. The place only had street parking but no street lights. I came out at 10 pm to absolute darkness. I walked by the line of cars, and honestly, only the light-colored ones had visible shapes. The rest were practically invisible. As soon as I was about three feet from the Tiggo 8 PHEV, the vehicle cabin and park bulbs lit up. I pity the other cars that night without that feature.
Three things pop out in the cabin, the quilted leather seats, two side-by-side 12.3-inch LCD instrument panels and infotainment system, and a glossy center stack, but more on those later.
Both front seats are power-adjustable, are heavily bolstered, and have an elaborate butterfly headrest to provide maximum comfort. It is easily one of the best seats in the segment, though I wish it had a cooling (instead of heating) feature like the 1.6-liter Tiggo 8 Pro.
Except for the thick silver accent at the bottom, the entire surface of the dashboard is padded. The tablet-like display on top is actually two monitors of the same size installed in one large frame, so it looks like you have just one extra-large monitor in the cockpit. Compared to other Tiggos, the display is much better. The characters are large, which makes it easy to see and touch (for the infotainment system). The operating system's menu is spread over three home pages, which is a lot for such a widescreen (and for a vehicle).
There is an Apple CarPlay app, but it does not work via USB or Bluetooth. Pairing is easy. You can even do it on the go, but it is not advisable. Always find a safe place to park when you are fiddling with vehicle apps. The USB ports are inside the center console, so you do not have cables lying around. The audio was surprisingly good. It was crisp and had highs and mids. I wanted a bit more bass but maybe that was asking too much of its Sony eight-speaker system.
The glossy center stack houses the automatic climate control system display that, thankfully, has manual controls, so it was easy to turn up the fan speed and lower the temp when parked under the sun. It has large fonts and buttons labeled legibly and is easy to manipulate. The Start/Stop button is here, along with the drive mode selector (Normal, Sport), the EV and HEV buttons, and the luminous gear selector.
The fit and finish of the cabin feel premium with visible stitching, plenty of soft-touch surfaces, quilted vehicle seats, and an expansive sunroof that opens all the way to the second row. I do have an issue with some peeling going on with the accent that frames the gear selector. This vehicle only has a little more than 12,000 kilometers on it so cabin appointments should hold for more than triple that distance.
This PHEV has a parallel hybrid system composed of two propulsion options. The first is a 1.5-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that makes 155 PS and 230 Nm of torque, and the second are two permanent magnet synchronous motors (front and rear axles) that get power from a 19.27 kWh battery to generate 87 PS and 150 Nm of torque.
It was in EV (electric vehicle) mode when I first jumped in. It was quiet at startup, and if not for the instrument panel and accessories lighting up, I could not tell the vehicle was on. Acceleration is instantaneous because power goes directly to the wheels and does not go through the transmission. Without an engine to rev, all the batteries needed to do was zap the motors when I stepped on the throttle, which meant I had on-tap horsepower and torque at my disposal. At half charge, I got to Alabang from Santa Rosa and back with about 10 kilometers to spare. It takes about three hours to fully charge the battery from zero.
The ride was ultra-quiet and not just because there was no noise from the engine; that says a lot about the NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) suppression. As you probably can surmise, going fast is no problem. I like that when you let go of the brakes the torque immediately kicks in to propel the vehicle forward. The pull was more palpable and deliberate, which is good as it got it moving quickly from a stop, but the brakes need to be a little less eager to smoothen out the ride in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
It was easy to tell when the vehicle was in HEV mode as the four-cylinder’s rumble was audible in the cabin. When the engine and electric motors work together, it gets a total of 320 PS and 545 Nm of torque. The hybrid integration is seamless, resulting in smooth power delivery on the highway, and makes the vehicle feel light and agile. Overtaking is so easy. What was hard was trying to stay right at the speed limit.
The transmission in this mode is Chery’s newest gearbox called DHT. It was launched just a couple of years ago, and while they did not detail what it stands for, they call it a special hybrid transmission as it is the first and only dual-motor-driven DHT from a Chinese brand. This vehicle is the first to get it and will benefit from its 11 combined gears.
Fuel consumption over seven days in mixed driving conditions and HEV mode is 16.1 km/l. I thought it could be better, maybe mid-20s at least, but I'm guessing the curb weight is hard to lug around for the small displacement engine.
Handling was very light, almost compact crossover-like, which belies the 1.7-tonne curb weight of this seven-seater. It felt too easy to maneuver around small parking spaces while doing three-point turns. It got a touch heavier on the highway but not enough for someone who wants a higher level of driver engagement. However, I reckon many will like this feedback because it is easier on the arms.
Ride comfort is great. The suspension gently handles bumps and humps, and even feels stable around corners, but it is also partly due to the batteries that weigh the vehicle down. Chery should add more sound insulation under the hood because the cabin does a good job of keeping all other external noises out.
The second-row seats are less bolstered than the front but are still comfortable. There is a drop-down center armrest with two cupholders here, two aircon vents, and a USB port, and VIP passengers can increase legroom by sliding the seats backward or by moving the front passenger seat forward using electronic controls on the backrest. The third row has bench-type seats already and will really be only comfortable for kids and maybe small adults. It has a couple of headrests, two shallow cupholders, and no air vents, so it could get warm here on a hot day. Thankfully, these seats fold flat to the floor, which increases cargo space.
The Chery Tiggo 8 Pro PHEV is a decent seven-seater SUV. And though I wish it had an edgier design and maybe a power tailgate for a PHP 2.5 million SUV, I believe that is not really what you are paying for here. What costs a lot is the plug-in hybrid EV technology that lets you go almost 100 kilometers on purely electric power and the combined output that gives you 545 Nm of pulling torque.
If moving people efficiently and cleanly, yourself included, is your goal for 2023 – with all factors like fuel processing, battery production, and vehicle manufacturing considered – it would be really tough to find a plug-in hybrid better (and more affordable) than the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro PHEV.