MO­TOR­ING

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

Friday - - Contents -

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

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