I have to be honest, modern cars nowadays are mostly built and made for convenience and comfort. While these are good things, I personally long for the days when manufacturers create and sell affordable blue-collar performance vehicles. Thankfully, GAC has something that wants to quench that particular thirst of mine; the EMPOW GE sedan.
GAC EMPOW GE Exterior
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I knew that GAC meant business with the EMPOW just by looking at it, firstly the color for this top-end GE is called Matte Fighter Green which in all honesty makes it a looker. The exterior is also complimented by an aggressive design philosophy, blacked-out panels, and a smattering of yellow panels.
Looking at the GAC EMPOW gives you the idea that this is no run-of-the-mill vanilla sedan, it oozes charisma and a manacing “I dare you to drive me look”. It’s one of the only test units I’ve had where people were constantly staring and some were even asking what car it is.
The interior is equally as eye-catching as the exterior, it has a very modern and sleek design inside matched with sporty touches. My favorite has to be the contrasting yellow panels and seatbelts that add such a nice touch to the otherwise boring interiors other cars come with nowadays. I also like the floating center console that has a massive empty space below for human knickknacks, the car also comes with a lap timer button and a button to activate the active exhaust (more on that later).
Of course, being a modern car it has two big screens, one for the gauges and one for the infotainment screen. Unfortunately, while it does have Apple CarPlay it still lacks Android Auto, which is a shame given most competitors offer both options. Otherwise, the interior is a nice place to be in, it feels very well put together, and the quality of the panels rival (some) Japanese and Korean vehicles that are priced higher.
Engine and Safety
Powering the GAC EMPOW is a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged unit producing 174 hp with 270 Nm of torque that sends power to the front wheels via a wet type 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
In terms of safety, the GAC EMPOW has most of the Autonomous Driving Aides (ADAS) such as lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control which is a plus for any car in this segment and price range.
While the GAC EMPOW GE looks like it’s ready to tear your eyes out and spit on your grave if you look at it wrong, in the city it can behave itself. The steering is light and easy to maneuver and the car itself rides decently over the moon-surfaced roads of the metro. Despite its size, it is also surprisingly easy to fit into most tiny roads and alleys because of the driving dynamics.
It’s when you put it in sport plus mode though that the EMPOW turns into the Hulk, the throttle response makes the car feel like it’s making more than the advertised power, and it lunges and leaps forward violently as if the car wants to break free of its tires and enter warp speed. To add more theater and drama the active exhaust is properly loud and intoxicating at the same time, I found myself childishly finding an excuse either revving the nuts off it or driving up the rev range. I even kept it on in city driving despite the slow speeds because of the sound (blindly neglecting that I was deafening myself).
Handling wise the GAC EMPOW excels, and the steering beefs up during sports driving but manages to be agile and direct giving any driver confidence. The car also handles itself well during hard cornering, the ride is very well-tuned providing both comfort and body control during spirited driving situations.
Points for improvement
My main issue is the dual-clutch transmission, while it’s responsive during sporty driving conditions, in the city, it can get quite annoyingly jerky and unpredictable. It was hard to judge how it would react and my passengers agreed on the jerky-ness.
Next up the fuel consumption could be better, I tried really hard to drive it normally and in the city, the best I could do was 9 km/l and on the highway, it was around 13 km/l. Mind you, I was trying to be very efficient when I got those numbers.
The GAC EMPOW GE retails for PHP 1,348,000 which is great value for what you’re getting. It is considerably more affordable than the Honda Civic and is just as fun, and almost as good in terms of quality and fit, and finish.
Mainly though, in a world of EVs, Hybrids, and vanilla vehicle options the EMPOW reminded me why I fell in love with cars in the first place. There is no other car that provides this many smiles, laughs, and fun at this price.