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The G-SUV, a Bigger Version of the Touareg?

Date:11-14 13:49 Authour:He Lun

This SUV from SAIC Volkswagen’s has the best third row of any domestically-produced SUV, which is its biggest highlight … it feels like a big SUV when you sit in there but a small one when you drive it.

The G-SUV will be positioned and priced and its prospects are very much deserving of our attention.

With the imminent arrival of the all-new large 7-seat G-SUV (code name) from SAIC Volkswagen, Volkswagen will finally move on from a situation where it has only one domestic SUV – the Tiguan - in the booming SUV market in China. How this SUV – specially made for China - will be positioned and priced and what are its prospects are very much deserving of our attention.

The G-SUV, a Bigger Version of the Touareg?

Q: SAIC Volkswagen calls this car a “large SUV”, but some media say it is a “luxury midsize SUV”. What do you think?

A: Judging by the body and the wheelbase, this G-SUV is larger than standard luxury midsize SUVs like the Touareg and the Cherokee. It conforms to the definition of a “full-size SUV”, so calling it a “large SUV” is justified.

In terms of the recent hot-selling seven-seaters, what I care about most is the third row. I am 1.82m tall, and to date I have tried the third rows of 8 seven-seaters and none of them were comfortable, whether the car was locally-produced or an import, and regardless of its class or wheelbase. Either the seats were too low, making me feel like I was sitting on the floor, and not giving me enough leg support, or my knees were too close to the front seat backrest, or both. Last week on the SAIC Volkswagen testing site, I made a point of trying the third row of the G-SUV, and I felt this was not just for appearance sake or for emergency – it is a real third row for adult passengers. As the interiors were not visible, no photos were allowed in this one-hour test ride. After several requests, SAIC Volkswagen finally gave me a picture of the third-row seats.

As it happens, I also tried SAIC GM’s new generation GL8 (5.2m long) later, which has been just launched, and I felt it had the best third row of any third-generation domestic GL8s. However, compared with this GL8 and Dongfeng Honda’s MPV, the Elysion (4.99m long), which I have tried before, I still think the G-SUV’s third row is great – the legroom is much the same as that in a 5m-long MPV. There was a little contact between the back of my head and the roof when I sat down, but there was still headroom of a finger and a half. Of course, it is lower than the two abovementioned MPVs, but overall, it is enough for any adults below 1.7m in height.

In my opinion, this SAIC Volkswagen SUV has the best third row of any domestically-produced SUV, which is its biggest highlight.

Q: Since it is bigger than the Touareg, can we say the G-SUV is a bigger version of the Touareg?

A: If that is the case, it will be more expensive than the Touareg. Regarding the complicated relationship between car class and body size and technical specifications, I have previously given a detailed explanation (see the article Will This 7-seat Trumpchi GS8 Become a Hot Seller?), so I’m not going to go back into that too much.

This question reminds me of a discussion I had 6 years ago. An executive from SAIC Volkswagen asked me privately which is better for domestic production - a B-class or a C-class SUV. I said we should look at the sales of their competitors’ domestically produced SUVs. At that time, the B-class Highlander was hitting monthly sales of 7,000-8,000 vehicles, while the C-class Prado was selling only a little over 2,000 per month. This was because the Prado was priced RMB 200,000 Yuan higher than the Highlander (which was selling at RMB 250,000 Yuan). So choosing a C-class SUV for domestic production means going for the niche market.

Initially, SAIC Volkswagen did struggle on deciding which SUV to localize. At that time, there were also some rumors that the Touareg would be localized. Now this G-SUV is actually a compromise between B-class and C-class, although it is much bigger than people expected. By making it as big as the Volkswagen Atlas for the North American market, Volkswagen apparently wanted to cater to the Chinese and North American preference for “big”. In contrast, Europeans are not interested in such “big” cars, so this model will not be sold in the European market. In China, since the one-child policy was lifted last year, the demand for 7 seaters, especially 7-seat SUVs, has seen a dramatic increase. As the only domestically produced 7-seat SUV with a standard third row, the G-SUV has come to the market just at the right time, which is something that SAIC Volkswagen could hardly have anticipated.

The G-SUV, a Bigger Version of the Touareg?

Q: Some consumers have wondered if this 5m-long and nearly 2m-wide car would be a little heavy and clumsy to drive?

A: Germans never take liberties with regard to a car’s maneuverability. Even so, I still had to try it myself. First I drove it for two laps in the high-speed lane on the testing ground at a speed of about 220km/hr. Other than the unavoidable wind noise, other parts felt great. Then I drove it on some other test roads for another two laps. I asked to drive this 220kw/500nm G-SUV on a narrow ramp and a curve section and I found that it ran quite smoothly. On a downhill turn, the tire screech sounded very natural, reminding me that I was pushing it towards the limit. Only when I was driving around the road blocks along the S-shaped route, did it feel like I was driving a large SUV.

To sum up, this feels like a big SUV when you sit in it but a small one when you drive it.

Of course, the G-SUV isn’t just about size. It also has a number of advanced configurations like 12.3’ all-digital LCD dashboard, wireless phone charger, 8 drive modes, traffic jam assistance system, LKA, advanced adaptive cruise control, collision warning system, 360°Area View, active tire pressure monitoring, blind spot monitoring, and fatigue monitoring.

SAIC Volkswagen Large SUV and Similar Models in Price and Other Specifications

The G-SUV, a Bigger Version of the Touareg?

Q: Some media predict that the G-SUV will be offered at a starting price of RMB 350,000 Yuan. What do you think?

A: More than RMB 300,000 Yuan is sure, but it’s hard to say how much exactly. This model is uniquely positioned – it has more room and more advanced technologies than B+class 7-seat SUVs like the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Edge; it even has more space than some C-class SUVs, almost reaching the level of a D-class SUV. The price should be higher than the domestically produced B+class SUVs on the market, and a little lower than the domestic C-class SUVs. Currently, the FAW Toyota Prado is the only domestically produced C-class SUV, which comes in at RMB 360,000 Yuan. The Prado and the G-SUV differ a lot in terms of functionality – the former is a body-on-frame SUV, focusing on off-road capabilities, while the latter is more comfortable and spacious. But other than the Prado, there is just no similar model we can refer to.

So it can be said that the G-SUV actually has no direct rival. It has opened a new market segment - JV-brand large 7-seat SUVs. It is still hard to tell how big this market will be, but my guess is that the G-SUV will surpass the sales of the Prado so far this year, which is around 3,000 vehicles per month.

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