From a truth-in-advertising perspective, you have to give VinFast credit. It really moves at near light speed. The automaker is barely six years old and is already setting out to conquer the world. Vietnam’s first car company launched production in 2019, barely two years after it was founded, building a modified version of the BMW X5.
Two years later, it decided to abandon internal combustion engine technology, launching its first all-electric in its home market last year. VinFast’s plans now call for a broad line-up of EVs, starting with the little VF 5, all the way up to the luxurious VF 9. Four of those products are expected to go on sale in the U.S. by the end of 2023, but the roll out begins with the launch of the near-luxury VF 8, a midsize, two-row battery-powered SUV.
The high-line VF 9 should roll into showrooms by mid-year, with the smaller VF 6 and VF 7 models to follow by late 2023. That would position VinFast as having more all-electric SUVs on sale than any other brand. That said, the automaker is only offering its products through 28 factory-owned California dealerships, at least for this year. But North American CEO Van Anh Nguyen told TheDetroitBureau.com the goal is to expand to other states in the coming years.
The emergence of the battery-electric vehicle market has encouraged a flood of new manufacturers, such as Tesla, Fisker and Rivian. Yet another brand arrived on the scene early this year, VinFast delivering its first EVs to buyers in California. VinFast has generated plenty of headlines in recent years, and for a variety of reasons. It’s Vietnam’s first automaker, for one thing. And it’s getting set to break ground on a manufacturing complex in North Carolina that could eventually cost more than $8 billion.
For now, the automaker’s first model to go on sale in the U.S., the midsize VF 8, is being imported from a factory in Haiphong, a few hours drive from the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.
Unlike earlier Asian brands aiming to carve out a niche in the U.S., VinFast isn’t debuting with a basic econobox. While the VF 8 starts out at a relatively affordable price, it’s not being sold as a bargain basement option. Instead, VinFast has positioned it as a roomy, well-equipped package backed by the industry’s longest warranty and a promise of great customer service. That includes 10 years of free roadside service.
Initially, the automaker is starting out with the relatively short-range VF 8 City Edition which, at up to 207 miles per charge with the Eco package, should be more than enough for the typical commuter. It plans to launch a longer-range Standard Edition later this year.
I had the chance to drive a crude VF 8 prototype at VinFast’s Haiphong headquarters a year ago. I jumped at the chance to compare it to the production version during a trip out to San Diego this past week.
When it came time to develop its first two all-electric vehicles, the VF 8 and VF 9, VinFast turned to one of the industry’s best-known independent design houses, Pininfarina. The final styling for the VF 8 was tweaked by an in-house team led by former General Motors superstar Dave Lyon.
The automaker explains its goal was to come up with a “harmonious combination of the dynamic curves of sports cars, with the oblong features often found in luxury sedans, along with the height and powerful sharp cut of SUVs.”
The look is attractive, albeit a bit derivative. The taillights, for example, are reminiscent of the Ford Mustang Mach-E. But the nose is much more distinctive, starting with the brand’s trademark lightbar flowing into a central “V.”
As has become the norm with modern battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, there is no traditional grille since there’s no need to push air into what would have been the crossover’s engine compartment. There is a small grille under the bumper, however, designed to feed cooling air to the motors and battery pack. Air breathers off to the side help reduce turbulence around the front wheels.
Overall, the crossover is about the same size as a BMW X3 or, if you prefer, the new Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5.
Unlike some new BEVs, the VF 8 originally was designed for a gas engine so the dimensions haven’t been fully optimized for going electric. The automaker still managed to squeeze a 2.7 cubic foot frunk under the hood, however, as it’s positioned the SUV’s battery pack under the load floor. On the whole, there’s a reasonable amount of room inside, both front and back — indeed, more along the lines of the new BMW iX.
Expect a bit of controversy over some interior design details, notably the lack of a standard gauge cluster. Instead, essentials like speed, state-of-charge and turn signals are displayed on both the center-mounted infotainment screen — much as Tesla has done — and on a full-color head-up display.
That 15.6-inch touchscreen becomes the heart of the VF 8. There are a handful of conventional controls but, like another EV startup, Rivian, even the outside mirrors and steering wheel must be activated onscreen, and then adjusted using toggles on the steering wheel.
The cabin itself is nicely laid out and well executed, with a level of refinement one might not expect from a nascent EV maker from Vietnam. The five-passenger VF 8 is positioned as near-luxury, a step below the brand’s high-end VF 9. It still is finished in handsome materials, primarily a vegan leather alternative.
VinFast has some aggressive plans for the U.S. market, with four all-electric models set to reach showrooms by late in 2023. The rollout recently began with the delivery of the VF 8 City Edition.
In turn, there are two trim levels, the Eco and the Plus. The base model makes 349 horsepower — or about 70% more than the Toyota bZ4X — and 369 pound-feet of torque. Pushing that through to all four wheels, that’s enough to launch from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds. The Plus ups that to 402 hp and 457 lb-ft and can hit 60 in a factory-estimated 5.5 seconds, or about 0.2 seconds faster than the Volkswagen ID.4. Both versions come standard with all-wheel drive.
The VF 8 City Edition Eco’s 82 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery musters an EPA-estimated 207 miles per charge, the Pro dropping to 191 miles. Those aren’t especially impressive numbers these days where 250 and even 300 miles range are rapidly becoming the norm. But VinFast plans to add the VF 8 Standard model, with an 88 kWh battery, in the coming months. It’s expected to get 264 miles per charge in Eco trim, 243 in the Plus package.
The City Edition models will go from a 10% to 70% state-of-charge in under 24 minutes, officials claim, using a public quick charger of at least 160 kilowatts. That’s an odd choice of numbers, most manufacturers using a 10% to 80% figure, but it’s reasonably fast, nonetheless.
As for home charging, the EV has a built-in 7-kilowatt onboard charger. The automaker also offers customers a choice of three years free public charging using the Electrify America network or a free 11-kilowatt home charger. (You will have to pay for installation, however.)
Safety and Technology
Both versions of the VinFast VF 8 City Edition offer an array of safety and technology features. On the relatively conventional side, that includes 11 airbags. The EV also is loaded up with an assortment of advanced driver assistance systems, ADAS for short, including Lane Keeping Assist. As I’ll get to shortly, this is a mixed bag that still needs a bit of work.
All VinFast vehicles will be equipped to take smartphone-style over-the-air updates. That not only should let it address issues with its ADAS technology but add more advanced features later on. It has promised to introduce semi-autonomous hands-free functionality which sound much like the Ford BlueCruise and General Motors Super Cruise systems.
As already noted, one of the more unusual elements of the VF 8’s design is the lack of a conventional gauge cluster. Instead, the automaker has gone with a large and easy to read head-up display for basic instrumentation, including vehicle speed and the current state-of-charge. Other information pops up on the huge, 15.6-inch infotainment screen. Depending upon your personal preferences, you might come to love or hate that screen since it’s the only way to operate some familiar and necessary functions. That includes not only climate control but even the positioning of the VF 8’s sideview mirrors and steering wheel.
The electric SUV offers wireless cellphone charging, plenty of USB plugs throughout and the infotainment system handles wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also integrates Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant and can use a smartphone app to monitor the vehicle and control a variety of different functions.
The VF 8’s infotainment system also comes with a number of built-in apps, including TuneIn and iHeartRadio.
With apologies to Charles Dickens, this is a tale of two City (editions).
I spent my time behind the wheel of the 2023 VinFast VF 8 City Edition Plus as I maneuvered through a long and circuitous pass through the northern reaches of San Diego. It gave me a good chance to experience the all-electric EV under a variety of conditions, from winding country roads to busy city streets, as well as heavily trafficked highways.
At one level, the VF 8 performed admirably, especially for a startup automaker’s first offering. With 402 hp and 457 lb-ft of instant torque, the EV was responsive and quick, as one Tesla Model Y owner learned when he challenged me off a red light.
Out in San Diego’s back country, the SUV proved nimbler than I expected. Though the VF 8’s steering was a bit numb, it carved through tight corners predictably and with minimal body roll, clearly benefiting from the improved center of gravity having its big battery pack mounted so low to the ground.
My biggest complaint? VinFast’s advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS technology. With features like lane centering and emergency steering assist, the cabin all but constantly echoed with one warning bell or buzzer after another. To start with, the requisite sensors are a bit too sensitive and trigger when you even come near the lane markings.
More concerning, some of the active controls then try to “stabilize” the VF 8. As several colleagues also experienced, the sudden intervention occasionally seemed to cause the EV to stutter as it tried to figure out exactly where to redirect the front wheels. It wasn’t a real safety risk but could cause concern among a less experienced driver.
The good news is that the VF 8 has the ability to download smartphone-style over-the-air updates. Eventually, that will allow VinFast to activate a semi-autonomous driving feature. For now, however, the automaker needs to upgrade its less advanced ADAS technology.
One other update I’d like is a more aggressive regenerative braking system. All EVs use brake regen to recapture energy normally lost during braking and coasting. And most allow a driver to adjust the aggressiveness. At the high end, for example, my personal EV, the Ford F-150 Lightning, can go into “1-Pedal Mode.” It slows down rapidly when I lift off the throttle and, under most conditions, I can avoid flip-flopping from accelerator to brake other when I need to make a very rapid stop. While the VF 8 lets you switch to “High” regen you’d barely notice. It needs to be much higher.
There’s plenty to like about the 2023 VinFast VF 8 City Edition, despite my concerns about its ADAS technology — most of which can be switched off if the beeps and bells get too annoying.
The design, while a bit derivative, is handsome and much more distinctive than some key competitors. That’s equally true for the interior. While not quite as luxurious as VinFast might claim, it’s well laid out, with a nice look and with good material choices.
Performance is solid, if not benchmark. And the VF 8 City Edition has more than adequate range for those who, as the model name suggests, will use it primarily in urban environments where they likely would be able to go several days without plugging in, even with a readily accessible home charger. And VinFast officials said this week that current customers would be able to swap their vehicles for the longer-range VF 8 standard after 12 months — at no charge.
As for pricing, here’s where it gets a bit complicated. The official MSRP is $49,000 for the City Edition Eco, $56,000 for the Plus. But, at least for now, the EV is only be available for lease. Actually, that’s not a bad thing because, under the new Inflation Reduction Act, even foreign-made EVs can qualify for up to $7,500 in federal incentives when leased. The bottom line is that you’ll be able to get the VF 8 City Edition Eco package for $414 a month, the Plus going for $528 a month. Those prices, incidentally, include your choice o three years free charging on the Electrify America network or an 11-kW home charger.
I hope to see VinFast address its ADAS issues in short order, updating the software remotely. With that fixed it could be positioned as a competitive player in the emerging EV market.
2023 VinFast VF 8 City Edition Plus — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the range of the VinFast VF 8?
Initially, the VinFast VF 8 will be offered in two versions, with the City Edition Eco model getting 207 miles per charge, according to the EPA. The more powerful Plus package gets 191 miles. Later this year, the Vietnamese automaker will add the VF 8 Standard model, its Eco package rated at 264 miles, and its Plus package at 243 miles.
How much will the VinFast VF 8 cost?
Surprisingly, that’s a bit of a complex question. While it’s officially priced at $49,000 for the Eco, $56,000 for the Plus, the initial VinFast VF 8 City Edition models will only be available for lease. The advantage is the automaker can factor in federal incentives not available when the vehicle is purchased. The Eco package is $414 a month, the Plus going for $528 a month.
What is the warranty on the VinFast VF 8?
VinFast offers a 10-year, 125,000-mile warranty on the all-electric 2023 VF 8 SUV. That includes 10 years of free roadside assistance, and access to a mobile service network.