Well, it took me 37 years, 72 days, 9 hours, and 30 minutes, but it finally happened: I got carsick for the very first time. I’d been driving the VinFast VF8 for less than an hour when my inner ear sounded the alarm and politely (read: urgently) requested I stop to get some fresh air. On the shoulder of a scenic road in San Diego County, I paced around the VF8 wondering what the hell was going on. But I wasn’t the only one in a state of confusion and nausea. My passenger wasn’t feeling so hot, either.
Composure regained, we hit the road again, this time with me riding shotgun, and we only made it a couple of miles before the uneasy feeling returned. The road wasn’t super curvy and we’d been cruising along at a moderate pace, but the sheer amount of bouncy body motions coming through the VF8’s suspension made being in this electric crossover – and I say this without hyperbole – unbearable.
That alone would’ve been enough to tarnish my opinion of this debut product from Vietnam’s ambitious automotive startup. But things only got worse from there.
|2023 VinFast VF8 City Edition Plus
|Dual Permanent Magnet
|402 Horsepower / 457 Pound-Feet
|5.5 Seconds (est.)
|$56,000 + $1,200 Destination
Gallery: 2023 VinFast VF8 City Edition: First Drive
The Real Deal. Really.
Let me be clear: The VinFast VF8 is not a concept or pre-production vehicle. The company has already started customer deliveries of its first electric SUV, with 14 retail locations currently up and running in California and another 14 expected to open in the Golden State before the end of the year. That means the car I drove is 100 percent representative of the final product being sold to consumers. Keep that in mind.
Right now, you can only get the VF8 City Edition, which has an 82.0-kilowatt-hour battery pack and two electric motors. Credit where credit’s due, the VF8’s onboard power doesn’t draw any ire. The base City Edition Eco offers a not-insubstantial 349 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, while the Plus – what I drove – has 402 hp and 457 lb-ft. Even at a porky 5,732 pounds, the Plus accelerates briskly; VinFast estimates it’ll hit 62 miles per hour in 5.5 seconds. Midrange punch is fine, too. But that’s where the good stuff ends.
But then you get inside and things fall apart. Not literally, though I did almost break one of the seat adjustment toggles.
The VF8’s official EPA range numbers are bad: 207 miles for the Eco and 191 miles for the Plus. That puts the VF8 behind just about every other electric crossover on sale today. The VF8 can accept DC fast charging speeds of up to 160 kilowatts, which is good but not great. VinFast says the upcoming VF8 Standard Edition – which is on its way to the US as you read this – should improve those range estimates to 264 miles for the Eco and 243 miles for the Plus thanks to more energy-dense battery chemistry.
A UX Nightmare, But Hey, Cool Paint
Famed Italian design house Pininfarina is responsible for the VF8’s styling, and you know, in person, this SUV looks pretty good. The VF8 has just the right amount of weirdness baked into its design and the paint colors are really quite rich and beautiful. The City Edition Plus’ 20-inch wheels look sharp, too.
But then you get inside and things fall apart. Not literally, though I did almost break one of the seat adjustment toggles, and the center console lid on one of the display cars was halfway popped off. The entire door panel flexes when you pull the handle from inside, and the seats are as stiff as they are flat. Headroom and legroom are decent overall, but there are hella cheap materials and inconsistent panel gaps everywhere. It’s like early 2000s General Motors in here.
Photo Credit: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com
The majority of the VF8’s controls are housed in the 15.6-inch central touchscreen, which is Tesla-level lousy as far as user experience is concerned. To adjust the mirrors and steering column, you have to use a combination of a menu on the touchscreen and the physical volume/track controls on the steering wheel. At least the wipers are managed through a traditional stalk (that’s ripped from a late-model BMW, oddly).
The infotainment system’s menu structure is a mess, with some icons clearly labeled and others discoverable only through the ol’ guess-and-check method. Many inputs end up requiring repeated taps, and you need to be sure to hit the exact middle of each icon or the system won’t budge. Response times are slow, swipes are laggy, and god help you if you need to rely on the natural-language voice functionality.
Photo Credit: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com
“Hey, VinFast, what’s the weather like in San Diego?” Easy question, right? The car even displayed my exact words on the screen, meaning it definitely heard me, but then told me it couldn’t understand my request. This happened again and again. “Hey, VinFast, roll down the passenger window” worked, miraculously, but only after a delay of 20 seconds, which is an absolute eternity in tech time. Happily, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
Other problems? The backup camera refresh rate is abysmal and the feed is super low-res. The head-up display washes out if you’re wearing polarized sunglasses, so you have to look over at the center screen to see your speedometer. The one-tap/three-blink turn signal function didn’t always work, but only while turning left. The climate control has a digital temperature gauge, but in practice, it only has two settings: freezing or surface of the sun. The electronic gear buttons look ridiculous and take up as much space as a traditional PRNDL shifter. The list goes on.
If you described a car to ChatGPT and had it build something without any background knowledge or contextual awareness, the VF8 is what I imagine you’d get.
Hilariously, VinFast’s executives actually warned me that the car might constantly chime with warnings while driving, and lo, that was my experience. You can program all sorts of drive settings and driver-assistance preferences, but the moment you get out of the car, everything resets. Thankfully, the standard Level 2 driving aid – which combines adaptive cruise control, road sign recognition, and lane-keeping assist – operates without hiccups. But you can also turn it on whenever you want, and like Tesla’s Autopilot, VinFast’s system won’t ask you to put your hands on the wheel, which is unsafe. It’s all just so wild.
It Gets Worse
From a ride and handling standpoint, the VF8 needs big-time help. The crap suspension damping and motion sickness–inducing body movements aren’t even the biggest issues. The steering response is nonlinear and inconsistent, and there is absolutely no feedback delivered through the wheel. It’s terrible, especially when you put the VF8 in Sport mode and the steering becomes so overboosted that it’s borderline uncontrollable. My car also pulled to the right on flat surfaces, so that’s fun.
I cannot believe this is a vehicle you can go out and buy right now.
The brakes are decent, and there are two levels of regeneration, but even the highest setting isn’t strong enough to allow for one-pedal driving. You can turn a creep function on and off, but if you choose the latter, there’s no hill hold assist and the VF8 will roll forward or backward(!) if you take your foot off the brake while stopped.
If you described a car to ChatGPT and had it build something without any background knowledge or contextual awareness, the VF8 is what I imagine you’d get. Drive literally any other modern car back to back with the VF8 and you’ll see how much catching up VinFast has to do.
Failure To Launch
I could maybe – maybe – forgive some of this stuff if the VinFast was priced well below its competition. But with a starting price of $50,200 including a $1,200 destination charge, the VF8 is more expensive than the majority of its rivals. Even worse, the nicely equipped City Edition Plus costs $57,200. A fully loaded Hyundai Ioniq 5 Limited AWD? $57,835 including destination. No way in hell would I ever recommend the VF8 over an Ioniq 5, let alone any other new EV. VinFast’s solid 10-year, 125,000-mile warranty and 24/7 access to mobile service technicians can’t even sweeten this deal.
VinFast says the VF8 can be updated over the air, but even if the company completely smooths out every bit of the SUV’s software, that won’t fix the inherent troubles. There’s no unique selling point; no big reason to roll the dice on a new brand. The VF8 feels and drives like a prototype vehicle that’s a year away from launch. It needs work. A lot of work. I cannot believe this is a vehicle you can go out and buy right now.
I will always root for the underdog. I genuinely want VinFast to succeed. I hope the company takes these VF8 criticisms to heart and uses them to make its future products better.
Speaking of which, VinFast had a VF9 – its full-size SUV – on display at the VF8 event, which was cool, since I hadn’t seen one in person. When I went to check it out, another journalist pointed out that the VF9’s rear end was being held up by jack stands because part of its air suspension had collapsed. The VF9 is currently on sale in Vietnam and is expected to cost $83,000 when it arrives in the US. Fingers crossed.
2023 VinFast VF8 City Edition Plus