There’s a lot of hate surrounding the VinFast VF8…how much of it is justified?
Is the VinFast VF8 a contender in the United States? Not really. This is an electric car that competes against the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and Tesla Model Y, to name a few. The car is part of the VinGroup multinational conglomerate. Its development has been rapid, and its only one of several vehicles coming stateside. While it is a few steps behind the competition, there are a few positives I can lay on you.
Before I do, I want to clear up a few things:
The sharp article Jalopnik posted from their test drive in Vietnam was based on a preproduction, overseas-spec vehicle. Many of the issues expressed in that article (like the car detuning itself) have been addressed. Also, VinFast is dropping the whole “buying the car, but leasing the battery” thing – for now. You get an 87.7-kWh battery standard. Finally, VinFast is building a manufacturing facility in North Carolina. This, and other allowances should allow their products to be eligible for the federal tax credit, though we’ll have to wait and see on that one.
What is the VinFast VF8?
This is an all-electric vehicle that is currently only built in Vietnam. It’s a crossover hatchback with room for five, and it has decent cargo space for this class. There are two models, the VF8 Eco and the VF8 Plus. The design of all of the upcoming VinFast models comes from the Italian styling house Pininfarina. Much of the engineering has been farmed out to an international group of engineers.
Currently, the Eco is listed at 264 miles of range. The more powerful Plus is rated at 243 miles.
Both have two-motor all-wheel drive (AWD) and the $56,000 VF8 Plus produces 402 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque. The $49,000 Eco makes 349 hp and is not as comprehensively loaded. We only had access to the VinFast VF8 Plus for our test drive.
Driving the VinFast VF8
This is where the car fell on its face overseas, but the improvements here made for a quick machine. Yup, it’s real fast and there is no lag, even in the softer Eco mode. It hauls the mail. We drained the battery driving up and down Southern Californian roads, and there was no power loss whatsoever.
More good news, it has decent cornering grip and the traction control system feeds power to the wheel that needs it, accurately. The brakes were good, but there’s no “one-pedal-driving” setting, which some will miss. The VF8 keeps itself fairly flat, even in aggressive cornering.
There is no steering wheel feel. None. In addition, the overall ride is on the stiff side. While we were in an early production model, it did have its share of creeks and groans. The seating position is decent up front, and the “vegan leather” was soft and comfortable.
Controls, both physical and on-screen were poor. Even the turn signal seemed challenged. The biggest offender (for me) was the on-screen infotainment system. I had to actually pull over to get it to simply stop yelling at me.
Some big problems
Three things didn’t add up for me. While the 15.6-inch touchscreen is a good size, the interface is poor. All of the vehicle’s systems are imbedded, and not everything is defeatable. In other words, you can kill many of the onboard nannies, but not all of them. It’s trying to ape the Tesla setup, but it’s way behind.
They priced themselves out of the competition. The Ford Mustang Mach-E (which is a bit smaller) has a base price of about $43,000, and it has superior range. Look at the Volkswagen ID4, or Hyundai Ioniq5… they are much less expensive and a proven quantity in the United States. Why not follow Hyundai’s old model, be the value leader and offer lots of free stuff?
Finally, there’s the range issue, one that is hard to crack. I hung out with a VinFast engineer and we agreed on many things. This included the perception of what real range is, and how it’s presented to the public. Still, I can’t fully understand why its range is compromised given its battery capacity.
Honestly, as a first step into this market, I think there are some plusses for this car. It has a massive 10-year, 125,000-mile warranty. That also covers the battery. On top of that, they included roadside assistance during the warranty’s run. Both are impressive – but I still can’t reconcile that hefty price.
If the VF8 undercut the competition by, say, $5,000 – $10,000, it could be a player. As it is, it needs several improvements to warrant its hefty price tag.
I am looking forward to the three-row VF9, and the smaller (hopefully more affordable) VF6 and VF7.
They are off to a rough start, but this company moves at lightning speed, so I wonder what they will do to improve? Check out my video review, where I feel you’ll get a better idea about the car and the company.