Auto review: VinFast VF 8 is an affordable Tesla knock-off

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

CARLSBAD, California — Henry Ford wasn’t the only one who saw the potential of affordable transportation for the American masses. For the last half-century waves of affordable foreign vehicles have washed up on U.S. shores. Volkswagen Beetles. Toyota Corollas. Honda Civics. Hyundai Elantras. Millions of them, built to last and cheaper than anything we Yanks could hammer together.

These days electric vehicles are all the rage, and — right on cue — here comes a foreign manufacturer with a more affordable idea. Meet the Vietnamese-built VinFast VF 8. It features interior room, mono-screen, frunk and self-driving tech like the Tesla Model X — for half the price.

Just $56K. Wait, what?

It’s a commentary on today’s EV market that 56 grand (lease for $528 a month with $5,200 up front) is considered affordable. But that’s electrics for you. Governments are forcing an EV transition, and automakers have figured out the demand is among the swells. VinFast brand is targeting affordable luxury — as opposed to affordable mainstream like its predecessors.

If you crave a Model X but don’t have $100,000 (lease for $1,300 a month with $7,500 down) lying around, then come take a ride with me in the VF 8.

Open the door, touch the brake and it’s on. Just like a Tesla. To adjust the mirrors, go into the big 15.6-inch screen to the right of the steering wheel, poke the mirror icon, then use the button on the steering wheel to adjust the mirrors. Just like a Tesla. The steering wheel, too? Yup, son of Tesla.


In fact, my VinFast tester had a frunk, moonroof, two-mode regenerative braking, no AM radio and no instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. Just like a Tesla. Over the hills of Carlsbad north of San Diego, the big ute was whisper quiet but for the whine of the twin electric motors when I put my boot in it. The torque was instant, launching the beast into I-5 traffic like a shot despite its 5,700-pound girth.

Just like a Tesla.

Of course, for half the price you wouldn’t expect everything to be strawberries and cream, and it’s not. VinFast’s exterior design was contracted out to Paninfarina — yes, the Italian design house that has made eye-catching wardrobes for Ferrari and Cadillac and Alfa and Citroen. For its VF 8 fee, Paninfarina apparently took, um, a Citroen C5 design off the shelf.

The VF 8 fascia bears Citroen’s “heartbeat” logo — with an inverted V in the middle — giving the Vietnamese wagon a French accent. But the rest of the front is busy, clashing with the simplicity of the interior and elegant flanks that taper to muscular rear fenders. The big screen is waaaay too reflective.


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