As much as South Africans are known for being a hard bunch when it comes to certain facets of modern life, once an impression is made, it more often than not stands.
The past is the past
While forgiveness is one such aspect we often struggle with, judging by the increasing number of vehicles brandishing the Chery badge on our roads, it would seem that the greater public have embraced rather than berate the brand once known for selling truly dreadful knocks-offs of the Toyota RAV4 and Daewoo Matiz/Chevrolet Spark.
ALSO READ: Flagship Chery Tiggo 8 Pro officially priced
Simply put, the Chinese brand has been on a roll since its much publicised relaunch last year, spearheaded by the remarkable automotive first ten-year/1 000 000 km engine warranty across all of its products.
Adding to this is the brand’s ability to offer a package stocked to the max with tech at a price undercutting many established rivals, without the finished product feeling undone or terrible to drive.
The good set to continue?
It goes without saying then that this writer’s first experience of the “new Chery” with the Tiggo 4 Pro last year was something unexpected and a complete surprise, sentiments echoed by Motorsport Editor Andre de Kock, who spent the festive season behind the wheel of the top-spec Elite SE.
While its ambitions were best described as “bold”, the brand’s flagship model, the Tiggo 8 Pro, caused even more of a stir at its official launch last month when it came to pricing.
Although expected to be competitive, the final sticker left many speechless, never mind the equipment levels or that decade-long warranty.
It therefore resulted in the question, “what’s the catch?” being asked when the range-topping Chery Tiggo 8 Pro Executive arrived for the customary seven-day stay.
Looks to live by
At first glance, the “catch” certainly doesn’t involve Chery’s “Movement Design” styling language, which dispenses with the funky persona of the Tiggo 4 Pro for a more serious and angular look displayed by the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro.
Characterised by a studded chrome grille, thin, aggressive looking LED headlights, satin silver roof rails, chrome accents and very stylish 18-inch alloy wheels, the Tiggo 8 Pro is unlikely not to attract a second glance as it stands out in a way many of its rivals don’t.
Factor in the must-have deep purple paint option, and you have a thoroughly well-presented offering that builds on the aesthetic foundations laid by its junior sibling.
Altogether different is the interior. While the two-tone black/brown leather won’t be everyone’s taste, the rest warrants for little as the feel of the plastics and materials provides the biggest hint of which country, renowned for interiors, Chery is gunning for.
Clean and modern, the level of tech is just as impressive if not the standout of the interior. Perched on top of the dashboard, the 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, while not the easiest to fathom from the get-go, looks smart and comes with voice activation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while also providing the display for the 360-degree surround-view camera system.
Flanking it, the similarly sized digital instrument cluster adopts the same approach, while the Audi-inspired eight-inch touchscreen interface for the dual-zone climate control, exclusive to the Executive, looks neat but also takes a few moments getting used to.
Aside from the seats being comfortable, the high level of specification, which oddly omits heated seats, includes a panoramic sunroof which doesn’t impact on rear passenger headroom, a wireless smartphone charger, tyre pressure monitor and a simply cracking eight-speaker Sony sound system.
For South Africa, the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro comes as standard with seven seats, however, the third-row, depending on how the second is adjusted, can be a trifle tight for medium adults from a headroom perspective. Alleviating the claustrophobic feel somewhat is a separate panel and vents for the climate control.
More clear-cut is legroom in the second row and available boot space that increases from 193-litres with all seven seats up, to 892-litres with the third row down. With the middle row also dropped, space maxes out at 1 930-litres.
It is on the move where matters become less sweet and more bitter for the Tiggo 8 Pro.
Powered by an in-house developed 1.6 T-GDI engine that produces a more than acceptable 145kW/290Nm, hence the 290T badge on the tailgate, the unit suffers from a lot of low-down turbo-lag that makes the Tiggo 8 Pro feel lethargic until enough boost becomes available.
Even worse is the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which shifts erratically in a tardy fashion at anything above city speeds.
This can fortunately be alleviated by clicking the stubby gear lever into manual mode, though chances are many buyers will simply leave it in Drive and up to its own devises.
Drinking and not wanting to stop
The most worrying aspect of the Tiggo 8 Pro though are the brakes, which required more than usual input on the middle pedal to scrub speed off. At the same time, the steering felt devoid of any feel with a distinct artificial electric sensation.
Based on Chery’s T1X platform also used by the Tiggo 4 Pro and the recently confirmed Tiggo 7 Pro, the Tiggo 8 Pro’s ride is the complete opposite of the drivetrain.
Complaint and able to iron bumps and imperfections out with ease, it is likely to prove commendable on the open road, though only with a major decrease in the price of 95.
Kept in Standard mode for most of the seven days, the other settings being Eco and Sport – the latter aiding the foibles of the drivetrain by also heightening the strained engine note – the Tiggo 8 Pro returned an indicated best of a rather high 10.5 L/100 km in mixed conditions.
As much as its drivetrain disappointments, the rest of the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro is simply too hard to ignore.
From its styling and how its interior oozes premium quality, to the expansive specification list and those seven seats, the R564,900 sticker price for the Executive rates as the biggest automotive steal of recent years.
Coupled to that warranty and Chery’s premium aspirations, it is sure sign that the days of nasty Chinese vehicles have been consigned to the past.