Gaze Upon The Face Of The Trumpchi M8 And Tremble!
Issuing time:2022-12-09 20:00Author:Ethan Robertson
What is it?
Unbeknownst to many outside of China, a great battle has been taking place in the large MPV category; a battle to see which manufacturer can create the boldest, the strangest, and some would argue, the ugliest design possible. Today, we welcome yet another contender, the Trumpchi M8 Grand Master.
Take that, Lexus!
The front-end styling of the M8 is clearly intended to one up the current champion of the large MPV category here in China, the Lexus LM300, a luxurified version of the Toyota Alphard. I have publicly referred to the LM300 as the ugliest way to spend more than 250,000 USD. That’s because, one, it’s very ugly, and two, once you add the dealer mark-up to its base price of over 150,000 USD, the final sales price can easily reach that figure.
The M8’s styling even takes these a step further by adding vertical daytime running lights that further emphasize both its width and height of the grill. Styling aside, the M8 and the Lexus LM300 aren’t what you might call rivals here in China, mostly due to the fact that the Grandmaster versions of the M8 are priced from 38,000 to 48,000 USD.
All of this begs the question; what’s the point of all these bonkers designs? It all started with the runaway success of the Toyota Alphard, and things just spiraled out of control from there. Consumers have spoken with their wallets, and this category has responded accordingly. As a friend of mine so astutely put it, vehicles in this category have become the Gucci belt buckle of the automotive world; a status symbol that says, “I have money to buy a big MPV and get driven around in it! Aren’t I great?!”
As is the case with pretty much every other vehicle in this category, the rest of the M8’s styling has a hard time following up on that distinctive front-end. Afterall, it’s an MPV, so practicality dictates that it needs to be a box. It’s a big box indeed, measuring 5.21 meters (205.1 inches) in Grandmaster spec. That’s almost the exact same length as direct competitors like the Buick GL8, and means lots of useable space behind the third row.
Finally, a fidget spinner
The front-row styling of the M8 isn’t particularly revolutionary, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few little points of interest. Grandmaster spec models have a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, an HUD with AR navigation, and a 14.6-inch center screen, all powered by the increasingly ubiquitous Qualcomm Snapdragon 8155 processor.
The front-row is also heated and cooled, but what’s truly interesting is the traditional Chinese painting that they’ve chosen to embed into a piece of real wood on the passenger-side dashboard. But that’s not all! The crystal shift knob that operates the E-CVT spins, making it essentially a fidget spinner for you to play with in traffic. It’s a bit chintzy, but I found myself idly spinning it during my commute, and now I’m completely sold on the concept
As I say whenever we review a large MPV, though, the front row isn’t really what matters. The VIPs ride in the second row, and that’s where manufacturers focus most of their attention. After grabbing on the handle wrapped in real leather and sliding into the spacious second-row captain’s chair, you are greeted with a dizzying variety of functions. Adjustment of the seat, for example, is accomplished through a small LED screen placed in the armrest. That screen also allows you to adjust the massaging, heating, and cooling functions on our top-spec test car. Speaking of heating, there’s a single heated and cooled cupholder on the back of the center console. Below that you’ll find two USB ports and a storage cubby.
The rear air conditioning and doors are controlled via a panel mounted on the roof, and just forward of that is the piece de resistance, a 15.6-inch fold-down rear screen that’s only available on the top-spec model we tested. It’s not as fancy as the gesture and touch control operated screen in something like a Li Auto L9, but it does have decent clarity. Just don’t lose the remote, or you’re going to be staring at a blank screen.
The wheelbase of the Grandmaster M8 is 3.07 meters, very slightly shorter than a Buick GL8. It’s hard to tell the difference from the third row, however, because there is plenty of space. Third row seats also have adjustable rake, and can be adjusted forward and aft. The only compromise is that the floor is a bit too high, but no more than any other MPV we’ve ever tested.
The M8 is available in two trims: a standard ICE powertrain and a mild hybrid. The standard car uses an 8-speed automatic attached to a 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder making 185 kW and 390 Nm of torque (250 HP/290 pound-feet). The hybrid uses a Toyota hybrid system, and while it’s 2.0L turbo has less power, just 140 kW and 330 Nm (190 HP/244 pound-feet), it adds an electric motor making another 134 kW and 270 Nm (181 HP/200 pound-feet). Trumpchi does not provide a combined power figure.
I would summarize the driving experience of the M8 by saying that it is sufficiently powerful, sufficiently smooth, and sufficiently efficient, especially in its hybrid trim, to serve its purpose as a people mover. It doesn’t have the same level of powertrain refinement as more expensive options, but that doesn’t matter unless you’re the driver.
What matters more is how it feels while sitting in the second row, and the M8 treats its passengers very well, easily outshining more expensive MPVs that we reviewed in terms of features, including the Toyota Alphard and the Buick GL8. The ride is soft, without being floaty. Body roll is prodigious, but no driver worth their salt is going to pilot this thing with the kind of speed it would take to upset rear seat passengers.
Want to work? There’s a fold down table where you can put a laptop, and a 220v outlet where you can charge it. Just want to relax? Lean your chair back and watch a movie. The adjustable headrests in the second-row feature embedded speakers as part of the 16-speaker Yamaha sound system. You can even adjust the volume of the headrest speakers separately from the rest of the vehicle, allowing passengers to listen to their own media without bothering the driver.
In terms of material quality, the M8 is on par with the GL8. That means interesting design touches, like the Chinese painting motif front and rear, and some more premium elements, like the real metal hinges on its fold down table. It also means a great deal of hard plastic can be found on touch points below hip-level.
The M8 is easily one of the best value propositions in the large MPV category. The level of features, comfort, and space is as good or better than more expensive rivals, and the driving experience doesn’t suffer enough to make you wish you’d spent the extra 25,000 USD for a top-spec Buick GL8, let alone the extra 60,000 USD it takes to get your hands on an Alphard. Sure, it’s uglier than sin, but so is everything else in this category.
Trumpchi M8 Grand Master Hybrid
Engine: 2.0T 4-cylinder
Engine Power: 140 kW 330 Nm
Motor: Single Front-mounted
Motor Power: 134 Kw, 270 Nm
CDM Price: 48,000 USD
Article classification: Hybrids