The GL8 Is A Buick Luxury MPV That's Only Sold In China
Issuing time:2022-03-22 16:03
What is it?
The Chinese market is full of cars you’ve never heard of from brands you very much have. Case in point, the Buick GL8, a luxury MPV that competes with the likes of the Toyota Alphard and Roewe IMAX8 here in China. It is Buick’s flagship product here in China, so we had to give it a look.
It might be hard to believe, but by the standards of the luxury MPV segment, the styling of the GL8 is positively conservative. Most of its competitors have monstrous grills that stretch from the edge of the hood down to the bottom of the bumper.
The GL8, in comparison, is relatively simple, with a more traditionally designed grill divided into upper and lower portions. The former of which is bisected by an attractive, wing-like chrome element with what might be the largest Buick logo on earth.
Chrome is used tastefully throughout the exterior design, particularly the strip that makes a gentle loop from the bottom of one A-pillar to the other along the roofline. Our test vehicle was the Avenir trim level, which is the best the company has to offer. That includes the Avenir-only deep red paint on our car.
Eye-catching look, lower material quality
What really separates the GL8 from its main rival, the Toyota Alphard, is the styling ethos that you see on the interior. For all of its wild exterior appearance, the inside of the Alphard is conservative, with even higher-spec models having a simple black and cream-colored interior.
The Buick GL8 takes a different, more eye-catching tact, with a uniquely-patterned faux wood and imprinted dashboard design, and two-tone color palette that matches the dark red paint job. It’s far more visually interesting than any Alphard interior, and thanks to the twin, 12.3-inch screens, it also feels more modern. Where it lags behind the Toyota is in terms of material quality. The soft-touch plastics aren’t quite as soft, and the hard plastics are just a bit harder.
Our only other complaint when it comes to the interior of the GL8 was the piano black plastic panel next to the gear shifter that houses the AC controls. Those controls have a haptic feedback system, meaning they buzz every time you hit one of the icons. There is no doubt that this panel is sleeker and more modern looking than a bunch of physical buttons, but that vibration just makes it feel as though the whole panel hasn’t been properly screwed down. It feels low quality, rather than luxurious.
Of course, what really matters in this category is the rear seat experience. The GL8 does without the fascinating floating center console of the iMax8, but it does have plenty of other features. That includes incredibly comfortable, business class-style seats with adjustable footrests and lumbar support, as well as AC controls and a surprisingly sturdy folding table.
Third row space was an issue in both the Alphard and the iMax8, but it’s a very different story in the GL8. Even taking into consideration the fact that the Alphard and iMax8 that we tested were 7-seater models, the GL8’s third row far outclasses its rivals.
Not only is there copious legroom, but third row passengers also get heated and cooled seats. that space is due in no small part to the 5219mm (205.4 in) length of the GL8, compared to these slightly less than 5m of the Alphard, and the slightly more than 5m of the iMAX8. (NOTE: the interior pictures shown in this article are from a 4-seater version of the GL8)
Underneath the hood of the Buick GL8 is a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder, making 174kW and 350Nm meters of torque (237 horsepower and 275 lb-ft) and backed up by a 9-speed automatic transmission. The combination of the turbocharged engine and relatively slow downshifts from the slushbox means that there's a more than decent amount of lag when it comes time for acceleration, but power never feels lacking, at least when the GL8 isn’t loaded with people.
If you've ever driven a Buick, especially a Buick SUV, the driving dynamics and personality of the GL8 will feel quite familiar. That means it’s soft, with tons of body roll, but that’s a reasonable tradeoff in this category for a pillowy ride. The latest GL8 took the leap to independent rear suspension, and it is a serious upgrade over the torsion beam of previous generations.
Rear passengers need not worry about laggy throttle response, they can simply recline their seat and enjoy the ride. The passenger experience comfortable, isolated, and quiet. Not only do you get two USB ports, but also a number of cupholders that only make sense in a big American car.
Despite our comparisons of the GL8 to the Toyota Alphard, it must be pointed out that, while they compete in the same segment, they are absolutely miles apart when it comes to price. The starting price of a Buick GL8 is around 37,000 USD, with a top-spec Avenir running you around 72,000 USD. That seems like a lot, until you learn that the starting price of a Toyota Alphard here in China is around 130,000 USD. That’s before you consider the fact that Alphards are so highly desired, that you often have to pay over sticker price just to get one. Ouch.
It's commonly known that Buick's sales in the China far outstrip those in any other market, including the United States. It's no wonder that Chinese people are fond of saying, “Chevrolet belongs to the world, Buick belongs to China.”
That doesn’t mean the GL8 could only meet with success in the Chinese market. The luxury MPV might not be a hot commodity in western markets quite yet, but it certainly is in markets like Southeast Asia. Given the GL8’s level of comfort and value, we suspect it would be a welcome addition.
Article classification: China-only Models