Geely used to epitomise everything that was wrong with the Chinese car industry. But things aren’t what they used to be – and the Emgrand X7 Sport is a prime example of this, says wheels’ Imran Malik
With the new Emgrand X7 Sport, Chinese carmaker Geely has redeemed itself.
Automakers from Japan and South Korea are in the top five car exporting countries in the world. What about China? It doesn’t even make the top 20. But it’ll only be a matter of time before that changes, thanks to brands such as Geely – if they keep giving us models like this Emgrand X7 Sport.
Some might still consider Geely to be a cheap, no-frills carmaker (it is generally unheard of anywhere else in the world). It wasn’t that long ago that we held Hyundai/Kia in the same esteem. We all know how that turned out, and following a week spent with the midsize SUV – which is absolutely loaded with tech, affords a smooth ride and has been designed by none other than Peter Horbury, the British car designer who revived Volvo in the Nineties and changed the face of Ford in the Naughties – it’s clear that this brand is going places.
And by that, I don’t just mean the developing markets such as Russia, Ukraine or South America. Geely is aiming much higher and has an ambition to break into the European and US markets. Having acquired Volvo in a 2010 buyout from Ford (and getting its hands on all of that car building skill and knowledge and tech), there’s every chance the brand will achieve that target.
But you wouldn’t have thought it possible back in 2007, when the X7 was launched, because during its early years, it wasn’t the best-looking SUV you’d ever seen. It didn’t have a particularly good interior, it rode on tiny wheels and looked gangly at best.
However, the 2016 model is a huge improvement. This might be Geely’s only SUV in its line-up for now (two larger models should be joining it soon) but it has plenty to offer in terms of kit, comfort and refinement. With loads of leg- and headroom in both rows, padded leather seats, a panoramic roof, satnav, rear-view camera, parking sensors and an Eco and Sport mode (our tester was the flagship of the range which, funnily enough, is called the Flagship), the five-door, five-seat Emgrand X7 Sport makes for the ideal family-hauler.
It also has lots of advanced safety features and if you thought it couldn’t get any better, er, it can’t. There’s a slight hitch – the drivetrain can leave you feeling a little wanting.
Backed by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder and mated to a six-speed automatic it makes just 150bhp and 225Nm of torque. It certainly isn’t the peppiest and you have to really try to get the most out of the motor – and sometimes, even with your foot floored, it takes its sweet time to get up to speed. Things don’t improve much when you push the Sport button and aside from the 7.0in TFT dash turning red and it holding on to first gear a little longer, it still fails to deliver much in the way of thrills. The