First drive: 2016 Geely Emgrand GT GC9 "Flagship Sedan" in the UAE

First drive: 2016 Geely Emgrand GT GC9 “Flagship Sedan” in the UAE

2016 Geely Emgrand GC9 in the UAE 2

What do iPhones, Nike Air Jordans and Honda Accords have in common? All three popular products are made in China. However, actual homegrown Chinese brands have built a reputation for their lack of build quality, let alone safety, especially when it comes to cars. So when a Geely executive contacted us, directly from China no less, to try out their latest still-to-be-formally-named midsize sedan, consider our interest piqued.

The only experience we’ve had with Chinese cars before was with the MG brand, which failed to take off in the UAE due to no marketing whatsoever. Currently Chery seems to be aggressively going after the low-end market, while Geely is re-entering the UAE after a hiatus, with a new dealer and a fresh showroom.

We’re told Geely has actually made some headway in Saudi Arabia already, becoming the 8th best-selling car brand there, posting numbers similar to Kia. Here, they will have an uphill task in establishing a name, and their new midsize sedan offering will be part of that effort.

2016 Geely Emgrand GC9 in the UAE

Known as the Emgrand Borui GC9 elsewhere, we were introduced to the car as the “Geely Flagship Sedan”, as the final name for the GCC hasn’t been decided yet. There’s still time, as the car is due to be launched here at the end of the year. Until then, it’s undergoing hot-weather testing, and that’s the well-worn car we tested today.

Geely bought Volvo in 2010, and the fruits of that purchase are already evident. Geely poached Volvo designer Peter Horbury to design the GC9, and while the results are decidedly conservative, maybe even a bit ill-proportioned in places, there are several unique touches such as the “ripples in a pond” grille, the fastback roofline and the original rear-end that looks like nothing else on the road. This top model gets 18-inch alloys, while lower-spec versions get 17-inch ones.

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Stepping inside, the interior is very nicely done, with soft-touch materials on the dash and upper doors, thickly-padded stitched-leatherette armrests and piano-black treatment on the centre-console. Even the build-quality was generally flawless, at least as good as the Japanese, let alone the Americans and the Koreans. Having spent a lot of time in Volvo V70 chauffeur-driven wagons, we could instantly recognise some Volvo influences in the choice of cabin materials and the thick B-pillars, the latter a sign of serious safety considerations.

In fact, we’re told it has a 5-star rating in C-NCAP crash tests, which is apparently somewhat similar to EuroNCAP standards after a recent revision. Even base models will come with 4 standard airbags, while this top model will come with 7 airbags, including a knee airbag. Good to hear.

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The tech on offer include an LCD multimedia screen with a dial-controller just behind the gear-shifter. It has clear colourful graphics and is used for everything from playing music from a USB-connected to a four-camera top-view parking camera system. There’s even an electronic parking brake, blind-spot monitor, heads-up display, tyre-pressure monitor and adaptive cruise control, all of which worked perfectly fine. The automatic a/c, with rear controls, worked especially well in the hot Ramadan sun.

It’s is a big car, longer than a Toyota Camry even, but while cabin space up front is excellent, it isn’t as spacious in the back in terms of legroom, apparently a compromise for the “fastback” styling. It’s still more than enough for most adults, and the space seems to have gone towards a huge boot. The right rear-passenger seat even reclines, which happens to be a popular feature in China.

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While a 170 hp 2.4-litre engine is available, part of the testing regime involved breaking in the all-new 270 hp 3.5-litre V6 with 326 Nm of torque, Geely’s first ever six-cylinder engine. Mated to a 6-speed automatic, it offers good power even with a full load of 4 passengers, but it feels slower than other V6 sedans, which was confirmed when we found out the sturdy sedan weighs in at 1780 kg, a fair bit heavier than its rivals. That, and a conservatively-tuned ESP that cannot be fully turned off.

That conservative stability-control system also had a tendency to kick in early when cornering at above-average speeds, which is a shame because we felt the sedan’s handling is actually pretty good, with well-controlled body roll and wide 245-section tyres.

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With suspension tuned by rally-specialists Prodrive, the ride is slightly firm yet fairly compliant and smooth on most surfaces. Wind and road noise is a tad above average, but we’re told the final product will be further improved. The steering offers a bit of feedback and is perfectly-weighted, becoming heavier with speed. The ABS-assisted brakes are pretty good too, with decent pedal feedback.

Our car wasn’t perfect though. Being a pre-production engineering prototype, it’s seen 20,000 hard kilometres. As such, it had a mild vibration in the steering wheel, it didn’t quite brake exactly straight on hard stops and there was a gaping hole in the wheel-well. We’re guessing the suspension took a hard knock at some point, and an alignment job is in order. Also, we were frankly told that the a/c cuts out at a whopping 190 kph. All of these will be fixed by the time the production model is launched here.

So wait, did we actually like a Chinese car? While it’s not perfect, it’s actually a pretty good car that felt solid and drove well, while being loaded with tech and luxury features. It will likely be priced to just about undercut all other midsize offerings. Remember when Korean cars were dismissed as cheap and unworthy? We believe Chinese brands such as Geely are just a generation away from becoming as mainstream as Hyundai.

For future information, visit the Geely buyer guide.

Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.

What do you think?



  1. That back end looks like one of those cars in GTA 😛

  2. You get what you pay for. Cheap cars will be cheap; it doesn’t matter how good it may seem at the first drive, give it a year or two before everything starts breaking down.

    • OOOoook, go back to driving your Rolls Royce, which I am sure is super dependable 🙂

    • You had obviously never driven a “flagship” Chinese car before, sir. Loads of options, but everything is of inferior quality. Look at Brilliance’s Galena for example, everything about it seems right until you get to drive a 1 or 2 years old one.

    • Hazem, If you have friends in Saudi and Oman, they would tell you why this brand is best selling Chinese brand there. Saudi have this brand since last 7 years.

  3. those overhangs are huge, which gives the car an awkward profile.

    love the tech in there, even has HUD!

    Price it at 80k max for the full optioned V6 model, slap a 5 yr / 120k warranty and service package and I am sure they will sell well!

  4. The outgoing models EM/EC9 and E7 are quite common here in Saudi, thanks to the low price.

    Mash is right in his comparison to Hyundai, they used to be Geely 10-15 years back and if the Chinese keep improving the quality and design they will definitely sell well.

  5. Those headlights and wheels looks very similar to the chevy Impala’s !

  6. Why get adventurous when u hv the altimas or sonatas @ 60 something.

    • Najeeb, For less than the “starting price” of Altima or Sonata which is much more than 60 something…You get a full option Geely EC8. You have to be adventurous to discover what better value is out there. These cars have proven their reliability in Saudi, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain in the GCC. And now they are here with Union Motors in Dubai.

  7. Remember new Honda Accord is also Made In China !!

  8. They have stolen the exterior from impala and interior from hyundai and lexus cheaters

  9. All those ‘Crash test fail’ videos from YouTube are coming to my mind when I look at these cars !!

    • Author

      To be fair, the old crash test videos were based on the older models, and mostly other brands. The recent EuroNCAP test for a Geely compact sedan (forgot the name) wasn’t bad, at 4 stars.

  10. Pay bit extra and get something worth !!

  11. A generation behind is 4-5 years in the automotive industry. I agree that Chinese cars will be on par with Korean cars by 2020 in terms of safety, quality, performance, and engineering.

  12. This is lekker guyz when are you bringing it to south africa l have MK 1.5 5 doors hatch back, l would love to drive this one my number is 0826301377

  13. Need Reviews and Feedback on Geely EmgrandX7 …

  14. May I know the cost of Geely EMGRAND GT.
    If possible do let me know from where can I find Geely automobile model car’s prices.

  15. Hi ! i want reviews from owners of Geely, not doubt its is comfortable and stable car, but how about reliability and safety? i want have its owner’s rating (out of 10) and reviews? any can help?

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