Almost everything we own these days is made in China. That iPhone you can’t put down for a second – made in China. That Adidas pair you’re wearing – China. That chow mein you’re gobbling down. OK, some bloke delivered it to you from a little restaurant in Deira, but it came from China. Heck, the Chinese even invented the toothbrush and paper money.
If you took all our Chinese-made products away from us today, there’d be uproar. We wouldn’t be able to live without our PlayStation, air conditioners or, er, ships.
But what if Chinese cars went away? Would it be brilliant if Brilliance was gone? Would it be sad to say so long to Xiaolong? There wouldn’t be any commotion, because people don’t care about the cars they make – they don’t think they’re good.
But some are, like this Emgrand GT.
We have a perception problem. Can the Geely – a brand that used to epitomise all that was bad with Chinese cars — change that? It’s doing an admirable job trying, that’s for sure.
Known as the Geely GC9 at home, it’s solidly built, very comfortable and very smooth. It hasn’t been that long since it bought Volvo, but the changes being made at Geely from top to bottom are already being felt. The Emgrand GT beat the likes of the S-Class and XE to win the 2016 China Car of the Year accolade.
Coincidence? Designed by former Volvo design boss Peter Horbury, the Emgrand GT boasts a coupé-like look; the sloping roofline gives it reasonable presence on the road. The grille may look a little dated, but the rest of this smart saloon is fresh; it rides on a set of 18in alloys, it has daytime running LEDs and among many of its highlights is a large, panoramic sunroof.
The cabin is very neat, too, with some of the materials on par with its much pricier European and Japanese rivals. The ambient lighting isn’t gaudy and when it comes to equipment levels, our top-of-the-range flagship (it’s called Flagship…) seems to have it all, from a head-up display, rear-view camera, satnav and 8.0in infotainment system. It even has a parallel semi-automatic parking function, which works perfectly, and the rear right passenger can move not just his/her seat but the front passenger seat, too, to allow for more legroom. The last car we saw this feature with? The Maybach.
Power comes from a 3.5-litre V6 (it’s the first and only 3.5-litre V6 Chinese car in the GCC) mated to a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox that sends the 270bhp to the front wheels. Stick the car in Sport mode and the cogs swap with a little more urgency and throttle response sharpens up, making for lively performance (it’s rather dull in Normal mode and Eco just kills everything).
The 326Nm of torque can be felt when you punch the throttle and with traction control off, you can even get the wheels to spin. It feels robust, it doesn’t get blown around by faster-moving vehicles and it remains composed, too, when you push it in the corners.
The electric steering offers decent feedback and the ride is never choppy – not even on bumpy surfaces. The cabin also remains eerily quiet; wind and tyre noise is kept at a premium, and it is safe too (Volvo, take a bow) packing blind-spot indicators, a lane-departure warning system and six air bags in total.
There aren’t that many Chinese brands in the UAE (the ones we do get here, such as Chery, leave much to be desired) so to say this is the best of the small bunch hardly does it any justice at all when it’s far more deserving in praise. So instead, I’m going to make a rather bold prediction – five years from now, Geely will be selling as well as its Korean counterparts.
The Emgrand GT has made a solid impression, and the only way is up from here.