Driving the VinFast VF8, Vietnam’s first Tesla-inspired electric SUV.

A new electric car, from a new brand of electric cars. Vietnamese manufacturer VinFast organized the first tests of the future VF8 SUV. This first all-electric vehicle will be one of two vehicles available for VinFast to roll out in Europe.

If you go to Vietnam, you will see a lot of scooters and thermocars. The country of Southeast Asia, located more than 10,000 km from us, is not ready for the energy transition that has begun in Europe. However, the Vietnamese manufacturer VinFast decided to make its own revolution. It is phasing out thermal cars, and from the end of 2022, two all-electric SUVs will be available in three European countries, including France: the VF8 and VF9.

A gigafactory that lives up to its name

Founded in 2017 by parent company Vingroup, Vinfast initially produced a sedan and SUV very similar to the BMW 5 Series and X5. This is quite logical, since VinFast has benefited from an agreement with the BMW brand and the know-how of many European companies. We were able to cross them on Vietnamese roads with other SUVs and pickups, mostly Japanese and German. In less than five years, VinFast has managed to build an automotive brand backed by significant capital.

To manufacture these vehicles, VinFast built a Gigafactory in Hai Phong. Its production capacity averages 38 vehicles per hour, or 250,000 electric vehicles per year. Since the Vietnamese company sees far, it has the opportunity to expand its plant to 950,000 vehicles produced per year.

VinFast plant in Vietnam // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Numerama

The plant is state of the art, as most of the 3,000 components are assembled by robots supplied by Dalmec (Italy). The VinFast car will go through a full four-kilometer assembly line. It is difficult to describe exactly what this ballet of articulated booms is, protected by nets to ensure the safety of employees. In these very long corridors you feel small, the scene is surreal. This will probably give you the idea of ​​one of the latest Terminator opuses.

Who says Gigafactory is talking about battery assembly. VinFast has its own dedicated barn. The Vietnamese brand receives small batteries (or cells) developed by Samsung, for example, which are tested and grouped into battery packs. These rechargeable batteries then make up a car battery, which is similar in design to Tesla batteries.

Batteries VinFast
Cells set in blocks // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Numerama

This choice is due to the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of assembling these small battery cells. By connecting more battery cells in parallel, VinFast increases battery capacity, offering several vehicle versions with increased autonomy.

The Vietnamese group then planned to operate an LFP (lithium iron phosphate) battery plant, which was still located in Vietnam.

Two other plants will be built in the US and Germany. VinFast has the backing of an empire and seems to have the means to succeed.

Attached to the German trim

Now that the introduction is over, let’s move on to VF8 processing. This SUV from The length of 4.75 meters corresponds to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Kia EV6 and BMW iX3. In terms of design, the job is done: the lines of this car were drawn by the Italian company Pininfarina, which has worked with luxury brands such as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati.

WinFast VF8 - Numerama
VinFast

However, it can be seen that this VF8 looks like a skeleton key. He has a good design, but he does not throw perfume. If you want a luxury SUV, you’ll have to opt for the VF9 instead, a 7-seat SUV designed by yet another Italian agency, Torino.

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VinFast VF8 in Plus version in gray // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Numerama

On the other hand, the signature of the front and rear lights should make it fairly easy to recognize the VF8 on the road. Inside and on the dashboard, there are long LED strips that form the V of the VinFast logo.

The model we got our hands on is a pre-production model, but we were delighted with the build. The materials used aren’t as premium as German cars, but the build is flawless.

It must be said that VinFast does not aim for the same finish as Chinese brands, it aims for a high level. Thus, the equipment lives up to expectations: heated and ventilated seats, an opening panoramic roof, driving aids, a head-up display and so on.

WinFast VF8 – Numerama 11
Unlike Tesla, the physical controls are plentiful. There is also a head-up display with augmented reality.

VinFast wraps the interior in synthetic leather for the Eco version and animal skin for the Plus version. It oozes quality, but we would have appreciated the vegetal leather on all versions.

Inspired by Tesla’s mindset

What will probably notice you the most is the single 15.6-inch screen in a horizontal position in the middle of the dashboard. This is very Tesla, we immediately feel that we have an iPad in front of us.

WinFast VF8 – Numerama – 2
Large screen with smooth interface // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Numerama.

The home interface is neat and responsive, it will make you think of Tesla once again. Everything is almost in one place, including dog mode and camping for example. This is the first time we’ve seen a dashboard so close to the spirit of Tesla, including new American and Chinese brands.

VF8 Interface - Number
The interface is clean, there are many software functions.

As for the exterior, the power tailgate opens into a not-so-large but not-so-small cargo area. You should get about 400 liters – VinFast has not yet announced the final values. There is also bizarrefront trunk, not as big but practical for storing charging cables.

We took the wheel

This model only comes with a large battery and two electric motors mounted on both axles. In any case, the car is a pleasure to drive: it accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in less than six seconds. Both engines produce 353 hp/260 kW for the less expensive Eco version and up to 408 hp/300 kW for the Plus version.

This is the fault of SUVs because of the too high center of gravity, you will not be as good as in a sedan, to overcome winding roads. But we appreciated the silence even at high speed. The steering could have been more responsive, but the comfortable chassis proved to be a success.

As for autonomy, it cannot be evaluated on a test circuit. From a technical point of view, VinFast offers two batteries (82 and 87.7 kWh usable capacity) for WLTP autonomy from 400 to 471 depending on trim (Eco or Plus). In theory, it should consume a lot, with a very correct charging speed (11kW in alternating current and up to 200kW in direct current).

A certain humility

We were pleasantly surprised by this VF8. Its design isn’t unique or flashy, but this Tesla-inspired interior concept is refreshing. In short, there is a certain modesty about this newcomer. So we can’t wait to see the VF8 and VF9, as well as the full range of planned cars in production versions.

If you are interested in the VinFast VF8 SUV, then you can pre-order on the manufacturer’s website, deliveries are expected before the end of the year. Count at least €43,050 for the VF8, plus €120 for the battery rental. The advantage of this formula is that it allows you to benefit from 6000 euros environmental bonus.

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