The adventure began in Italy and ended in Vietnam. Because it was at the headquarters of the French Pininfarina that the brand new Vietnamese manufacturer Vinfast last year presented its first electric SUV, the VF 8. But if the line of the car was designed in Piedmont, the one that will land in Europe and in La Francia, in a few months, is produced in Southeast Asia and more precisely in the brand new plant in Haiphong, in the north of Vietnam.
The capacity of the second battery is 87.7 kW and not 93 kW as shown in the video
Usually, when a manufacturer organizes tests for the press, they take place on open roads, or at the most, on a circuit rented for the occasion. Not to Vinfast, which allows itself the luxury of joining the two, in its own stronghold, or rather on the island that belongs to it, dotted with totally private streets. This island is located in southern Vietnam, in the China Sea, not far from the seaside resort of Nha Trang.
But what can a car manufacturer do with an island? Vinfast is backed by the all-powerful Vingroup, the country’s largest private employer with annual sales of $ 14 billion. A group with multiple businesses ranging from telephony to commerce, including medicine, education and real estate, including the island.
A somewhat harmless line
Perched on its island, the VF8 therefore looks at us with its V-shaped grille, not to forget its name. Even in the passenger compartment, the V is encrusted in the upper part of the dashboard. These two elements are also fundamental, because perhaps they are the only ones to distinguish the Vietnamese SUV from its colleagues in circulation. Rather large, along its 4.75 m, what is found in the range of Audi Q4 E Tron and BMW ix 3 is quite harmless in its lines, at least it does not upset the established rules.
You don’t unscrew your neck when you see it on the street, but Pininfarina has at least managed to smooth the lines of a car that, due to its size, could have become clumsy immediately if it had passed under the pencil of a bad designer. Is this line a little too harmless for a new producer to be noted the cause of the split between the Italian and the Vietnamese? Yet, the huge VF9 SUV, which we will talk about shortly, and the smaller VF7 coming soon, have a much more divisive and spectacular design and are signed by another Italian style office: Torino Design.
But let’s go back to our island and our VF8 where a very Asian zenitude reigns in the cabin. Apart from the traditional levers and controls integrated on the steering wheel, no buttons obstruct the view of the driver and his passengers. Everything is grouped together on a huge 15.6-inch horizontal and centrally placed screen. We immediately draw a parallel with Tesla, who has done so from the start.
You think about it too by operating the screen in question, which allows all the necessary settings, including the one that allows you to open the roof. Because like the American system, that of the Vietnamese is perfectly fluid, which is not always the case for European producers, even those considered premium.
Premium, the word is over and Vinfast has always shown its ambitions in this sector. So can this VF8 aim to hunt on the ground of a Mercedes EQC for example? Yes and no. Not because of the materials used, and in particular some plastic cheap on the center console, but in terms of assembly, rather well done. The seats, covered in genuine leather in the upper part of the set-up, are soft enough to guarantee good comfort, good support and good firmness to withstand time.
A generous step, but a rather small trunk
In the rear seat, passengers will also be perfectly at ease, not only because of the very long 2.90m wheelbase, but also thanks to a floor excavated under their feet to allow them to slip under the front seat. Instead, they will have to travel light, because the trunk does not exceed 376 liters. That’s not much for a car of this size, and it costs 140 liters less than a smaller Audi Q4 and Tron. They will console themselves with a small trunk under the front hood, a frugal whose dimensions are not yet known.
Premium, this VF8 is therefore, in part, in its finishes. On the other hand it is totally so in its mechanical part and in its equipment. The level of driving assistance, with active adjustment, lane keeping assistance (and centering assistance) is worthy of the best. The motor sides are of two distinct powers. The first, on the Eco version, offers 358 hp, and the second (VF8 Plus) reaches 408 hp.
These two motors drive the four wheels simultaneously and are optionally available with two batteries produced by Vinfast itself in the gigafactory located within the same enclosure of the Haiphong assembly plant. The smallest shows a power of 82.2 kWh while the second offers 87.7 kWh. They recharge via 11kW 3-phase AC charging or DC fast charging in 31 minutes to reach 70% for the most powerful battery.
Obviously, some unknowns are still missing, such as the weight of the machine, which we suspect is not excessively light. Equally unknown is the real autonomy of this VF 8. On paper it would be 447 km with the engine and the most powerful battery, and 420 km with the 358 HP monoblock and the “small” battery.
It was obviously impossible to run out of fuel in the short imposed test run. But the 2 km of the improvised circuit made it possible to check the health of the trolley of this VF8, with a good compromise between comfort and handling, even if the rather flexible suspension adjustment is a dedication to America, the country where Vinfast will be present at the same time as in Europe. The accelerations are honest without being overwhelming, even with the 408hp version, which suggests the very high weight that we suspect exceeds 2 tons. However, the car remains dynamic enough to hope to reach the announced times: a 0-100 km / h in 5.5 s and a top speed of 200 km / h.
A 10 year guarantee
Premium engines and equipment that are no exception also foreshadow the prices. They just don’t go overboard for this type of model. The VF8 Eco starts at € 43,050 and the Plus version from € 58,700. Other formulas are available, which include battery rental between 120 and 150 euros per month, including LOA. There remains the unknown of reliability that sticks to a beginner brand. To counter any criticism in this field, Vinfast guarantees its cars for 10 years and a maximum of 200,000 km. What should reassure Western customers in the face of this unknown coming next semester? Reply at the end of the year.
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