Disclosure: Omoda & Jaecoo Philippines took us on an all-expense paid trip to China. Hotel, accommodations, and transportation were taken care of by the company. This is not a paid advertisement. All our comments and observations were not previewed nor pre-approved by Omoda & Jaecoo Philippines.
Okay, let’s get the white elephant out of the way. We know a lot of you harbor anti-Chinese car brand sentiments. Whether it’s from your own experience or you’re just waving the flag of nationalism, it’s none of our business. We’re just here to talk about cars. And in this case, they happen to be made in China.
With all the Chinese brands sprouting lately, it can get confusing for you to make an informed choice. The sometimes irrational and xenophobic rants do not help either. But if you look at these cars at their mechanical face value, you’d realize that they offer more than a cheaper alternative to established mainstream Japanese and European brands.
On a recent trip to Anhui province in China, we were again shown the Chery manufacturing, crash testing, and NVH facilities. I say again because these were the same sites we visited in April for the Jetour brand.
Whether Chery, Jetour, Omoda, or Jaecoo, Chery Holdings owns them all. The rationale behind the brand distinctions can be mind-boggling, so hear us out.
Omoda & Jaecoo are the Chinese company’s two latest brands. Omoda was the offshoot of a Chery crossover model that has been transformed into its own brand. It will feature products catering to the younger generation. That's why you see the non-traditional styling of the Omoda C5, for example.
Jaecoo, on the other hand, will have an SUV lineup positioned for a higher tier in the market. Just a notch below the top-level Exceed brand (yes, that’s another story), Jaecoo will have premium design inklings, showcasing more elegant lines and higher-quality materials for its interiors.
The relationship between the two can be likened to that of Jaguar and Land Rover, say Omoda & Jaecoo Philippines officials. Even their vehicles will share the same showroom space, similar to what you would find in JLR dealerships globally, although each brand will have a distinct character and treatment.
We were able to see, and test drive the Jaecoo 8 at the Longshan Multi-functional Test Field inside Chery’s expansive manufacturing lot. This is a three-row midsize crossover. Among the three models on display during our visit, the Jaecoo 8 stood out for me regarding design and performance.
What’s going for the Jaecoo 8?
Now I can describe the Jaecoo 8, and the smaller 7 for that matter, as the Land Rover equivalent in this Chery dichotomy. While Omoda may not necessarily be the Jaguar in this relationship, Jaecoo has taken the iconic off-road brand's popular chunky, muscular crossover looks and inputted its own styling signature.
The Jaecoo 8’s presence is commanding. The larger-than-large grille is undoubtedly a fashion statement. The muscular arches reminded me of a tamer Land Rover Defender. While the Jaecoo 8 isn’t unique in this design direction, it did project a powerful premium vibe when seen in person.
But what’s even more surprising is the interior. The choice of materials is certainly up there with some premium European brands. The combination of leather, tactile brushed metal-like accents, and the overall fit and finish looked the premium part.
It doesn't only Japorms, it also Performs!
All these niceties don’t mean squat if they’re not backed up by premium-level performance, right?
Fortunately, the Jaecoo 8 has a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline mill. With its all-wheel drive configuration, the Jaecoo 8 handled itself well on the test track while demonstrating its refined NVH and sublime suspension tuning.
Acceleration from zero was immediate, and while engine noise was seeping into the cabin, it was tame, well-controlled, and entirely refined inside. It didn’t sound cheap and raspy, in case you're wondering.
The brakes were equally impressive. After hard acceleration, I pounced on the brake pedal as I would when racing on a track and braking for a corner. The Jaecoo 8’s anchors bit hard, but its driving nannies were able to keep the large SUV stable and straight.
Yes, like most cars made in China nowadays, the steering was feather-light. But it didn’t make the Jaecoo 8 any harder to control. I thought I was driving something smaller that's easy to maneuver.
With its radius-20 Michelin Primacy tires protesting against the G-forces they were subjected to, the Jaecoo 8 had sustained grip as I drove it in circles around the skid pad section of the test track. Yes, you could feel the lateral roll; it is a tall crossover, after all. But its composure around the skid pad was reassuring. I could hold on to the steering wheel with one hand and keep its angle fixed with hardly any effort. All while the tires were squealing away.
For such a massive crossover, the Jaecoo 8 handled exceptionally well. No surprises, no bulaga.
Taking the Jaecoo 8 over a variety of simulated road surfaces likewise revealed the level of refinement Chery and Jaecoo put into this flagship model. There were no interior rattles, no untoward vibrations or resonance inside the cabin. The tires and suspension absorbed all the ruts, and the interiors remained calm and quiet throughout the test drive.
I was so intrigued by this level of refinement that I had to do the track again to verify if my observations were accurate. And, indeed, they were.
Are we ready for Chinese premium?
Omoda & Jaecoo Philippines has already made it clear that the Omoda 5 and the Jaecoo 7 are the first models they will bring into the country and sell by early next year. But I think bringing in the Jaecoo 8 and the Jaecoo 8 PHEV can provide the brand with a much-needed image boost that only a flagship model can provide.
With all these refinements and features, and the higher displacement 1.6-liter mill for the Jaecoo 7 and 2.0-liter one for the Jaecoo 8 breaking the tax ceiling, Omoda & Jaecoo Philippines Country Director Marco Chen has already said that Jaecoo models will be priced higher than the average China crossover. Higher than Omoda even. They are, however, trying to source stock from their global production lines to mitigate the cost issue and make the models more accessible.
If the company's strategy is to embrace higher pricing, bringing in a halo model like the Jaecoo 8 can help elevate the brand’s stature and image. It will surely give a near-luxury impression, which the new brand, especially one to be positioned in the premium space, needs.
The Jaecoo 8 and its smaller sibling, the Jaecoo 7, look promising. They exude a plush, stylish vibe that commands attention and a second look. Let’s hope they price them right.
With an automotive career spanning 27 years as a former touring car racer turned automotive journalist and photographer, Mikko also handled marketing and PR for two major Japanese car brands before finding peace and purpose in sharing his views about cars, driving, and mobility.