Vinfast's first EV is almost ready for the world

Driving the VF 8 in San Diego, California was a stark reminder of the difficulty of building a vehicle. While we were impressed with what the company has done, we also have to report that the VF 8 electric SUV could do with a bit more tweaking if it wants to compete with the rest of the US EV market.

Video Transcript

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- The US automotive market is a very hard one to crack. Sure, Korea's Hyundai made it. But remember Daewoo? They weren't so lucky. Oh, and remember Yugo? The former country of Yugoslavia built a very bad car and imported it to America. And it did not end well. Having said that, this is the VinFast VF 8. It is their first vehicle in the United States. A lot is riding on this vehicle. Now, the vehicle I'm driving right now, this is the California Edition. It's only available in California. You can't get it in Ohio, or Texas, or Kansas. And it's only available under lease.

There are standard editions of this vehicle shipping right now. In fact, they just landed up in Northern California. I'm in Southern California right now. But today, we're going to drive this one and see if VinFast with their VF 8 can, well, keep up with the competition that's already on the road.

One way the company hopes to break into the market is with a leasing deal for California. The ECO version will go for $414 a month, while the PLUS version is available for $528 a month. Now, Californians buy the most EVs, so this is a good way to get the cars on the road. As I said before, this is the California Edition. It is made for driving around town. And the reason for that is it just doesn't have the range as other EVs in this market.

For the California Edition, which I'm driving right now in California, the ECO version has 206 miles of range, while the PLUS version has 191 miles of range, which both of those range numbers are not great, to be honest, considering that, well, most vehicles-- the minimum's about 250 at this point. 200 miles is literally more than most people will use in a day. But you got to keep up with the Joneses. So to counter those lower range numbers, well, VinFast just brought over the Standard Edition of the vehicle, not the California Edition the Standard Edition that you can actually buy.

The ECO trim level of that car-- 264 miles of range. Or the PLUS version-- 243 miles of range-- right up there with, well, pretty much everyone else in this segment. So you're getting the same amount of range you would get from the other people. And all of these vehicles have the same 82-kilowatt hour capacity usable battery pack. So they're all using the same battery pack. So essentially, VinFast brought over some batteries that weren't as optimized in order to just sort of break into the market to have a lease vehicle available for users.

The VF 8 supports DC fast charging up to 160 kilowatts, which is pretty much standard for the rest of the world. It is a 400-volt architecture, so it's not quick as, say, the Hyundais or the Porsches or the Audis. But 160 should be fine for most people. It does support plug-in charge, but not right now. Eventually, it'll support it with up to six different charging companies in Northern California.

So what's it like driving the VF 8? Well, everything is there. The chassis works well. The steering works well. Acceleration. The braking-- I could do with stronger brakes, to be honest. Even with regenerative braking, I feel like these brakes could just be a little bit better. That's where we're at right now with the VF 8. Everything could be just a little bit better in order for it to be on par or have parity with most modern EVs on the road.

The steering, you know-- nice, tight steering. I've been driving through the mountains. Yeah, no issues. Chassis control-- no issues for a vehicle in this market segment. Acceleration curve-- it's relatively smooth. But everything is just-- it just needs a little push. Needs a little bit more. Needs, like, 10% to 15% more to bring it all together.

And I'm assuming that that's what they're going to be doing with the VF 8 standard. Automakers give us cars all the time-- even production vehicles-- and then later on, after we've given them feedback, they tweak those cars. Ford has done it. GM's done it. Everyone does it. So I'm expecting to see some tweaks to this vehicle in the near future based on, you know, our reviews and our input that we give them today.

The one thing that is not working right now is I can't turn off Creep Mode. Creep Mode is it recreates the feeling of driving a gasoline car, whereas a gasoline car, you let off the brake and the car kind of moves forward or back, depending on where it's sitting. I turned it off because I'm in an EV and I want it to drive like an EV. The problem is that turning it off doesn't seem to stop Creep Mode from working.

So whenever I'm at a stop, if I remove my foot from the brake, I just sort of creep forward, which is, like, all right, fine. But if I'm on an incline, and I remove my foot from the brake, I start to roll backwards, which is not great. That's not a good thing. That's not something you want from your EV.

We're stuck in traffic, which is a perfect time to try out the driver's assistance system. We have adaptive cruise control. We have a lane keep assist. We have a lane-centering system. And so far, I haven't had any issues. It's not overly aggressive with braking or with acceleration as, you know, vehicles cut in front of me or as vehicles get out of my way, and the VF 8 decides to accelerate. For the most part, it seems to be doing pretty well.

I do notice that when you're following someone, the lowest setting is a little bit closer than what we've seen on other vehicles. It's sort of what the setting was originally on a lot of automobiles a couple of years ago. But over time, I feel like automakers have actually increased the distance on the lowest setting-- the follow distance-- with adaptive cruise control. I was doing about 30 miles an hour. I was following in about a car length behind a vehicle in front of me. No issues.

Lane keeping assist-- there wasn't a lot of turns, unfortunately, on the road I was trying. So I didn't really get to see how well that and the lane-centering work together. But overall, first glance, it seems to be doing OK. Like Tesla, VinFast has decided, you know what? Drivers don't need a cluster. But unlike Tesla, they decided that drivers do need a standard head-up display.

So instead of having a cluster right here in front of me, on the windshield I can see how fast I'm going. I can see my state of charge. I can see what gear I'm in. It's the information that I need in front of me that would typically be in a dash cluster. I'm fine with this, actually. The idea that everything should be in this infotainment screen I'm not fine with. I don't like it. I don't like the idea that to look over to the right to see how fast I'm going, to see my state of charge. This system is-- it's a good compromise between the traditional setups and what Tesla is giving its customers right now in the Model 3 on the Model Y.

As for the infotainment system, it is housed in a 15.6-inch touch screen. It is landscape. And surprisingly, for a new vehicle from a new automaker-- and, you know, again, there's all these weird little things that are going on with this vehicle right now. This, on the other hand, this works relatively well. I don't see a lot of latency. You know, I'm clicking around. Things are happening. They're not breaking any new ground. You have the usual tablet layout here. All your climate controls are here on the bottom.

Over here on the left, you have your vehicle. From here, this is where you adjust, say, your steering wheel or your side mirrors. Or you can see the 360-degree view from the car. And also, while you're driving, how you set your drive mode. But you can use the voice assistant to set the drive mode. You can say, hey VinFast, set the drive mode to ECO. And eventually it'll do it.

CAR: Setting driving mode to ECO.

- There you go. And so it sets the drive mode to ECO for you. What's interesting is when you use the voice control, it actually shows what you're saying here at the bottom. There's also a few other things that they have here. They have Alexa. They have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both of those are wireless. It has iHeart Radio. But also has a sing app. It has a karaoke app.

There's also a fun thing that Tesla has that apparently other automakers are just really slow to work on. And that is pet mode. So you can set the pet mode. Overall, though, yeah, this system works well. Climate controls are easy to get to, and there's not a lot of latency. So of the rest of the car that feels sort of there, but not quite there, this system actually seems to be working really well, including the voice assistant.

For those concerned about traction, all variants of the VF 8 come with all-wheel drive and a dual-motor setup. Meanwhile, the ECO has 348 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, while the PLUS has 402 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque. For those looking for storage, it has 48 cubic feet of cargo space with the back seats folded down and an additional 2.7 cubic feet in the lockable trunk.

So thoughts on the VF 8. Well, this vehicle-- not just this car-- this vehicle, this VF 8, this green one that I have-- feels about 85% on par with the rest of the market. That said, there was the weird creep thing, where the car just would creep. The navigation doesn't work. I couldn't use karaoke. And other automotive journalists that are on this trip with me, they're having a slew of problems. One vehicle-- all the advanced driver assistance systems just said, hey, we need service.

Another automotive journalist said that the car was pulling to the right a little bit. And of course, I still can't get over the fact that the creep, you couldn't turn it off and the car rolled backwards. So there are some quality issues right now. If you buy a VinFast VF 8, I can't guarantee it's going to drive as well as this one. Hopefully, in the next few months, VinFast can, well, work on its quality issues. For more automotive coverage from sunny San Diego, be sure to subscribe to Engadget.

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