Today, the U.S. press embargo appeared to break on the VinFast VF8 City Edition, the EV startup’s first product destined for these shores. I say “appeared” because Jalopnik didn’t get invited to drive the SUV here at home, which entirely tracks given Kevin Williams’ rather concerning review of the VF8 for this site back in December, that he traveled all the way to Vietnam for.
Well, the VF8 is on our turf now, and based on the impressions of our colleagues across the auto media landscape, absolutely nothing has changed, even though these things are being delivered to actual, live humans as we speak, and are priced north of $50,000. This car still needs all the work.
Let’s begin with Scott Evans for Motor Trend, who set the tone early on. “I’ve driven camouflaged prototypes that were far closer to production-ready than the in-production VF8,” Evans wrote. He continued:
I may not like the way a turn signal sounds, but I expect it to work every time I use it. One of the VF8s at the launch event couldn’t do that. Similarly, multiple VF8s (including our test vehicle, which had fewer than 1,300 miles on the odometer) had HVAC systems that would only blow cold air when set below 80 degrees and only blow hot air when set above 80, but never warm or cool air regardless of whether manual or automatic climate was selected. Another VF8 would reset the climate to 80 degrees every time the car was powered off and back on.
Even the simple act of moving from a standstill in the VF8 — something every car must do at some point — is not a confidence-inspiring experience:
Put the VF8 in reverse to back out of a spot and the whole car shudders violently. The parking brake doesn’t release until you step on the accelerator, and once you do, there’s no hold function so you’d better keep “creep” mode engaged so it’s always sending power to the motors. Disable creep and the car will roll away in gear. I nearly rolled backwards into another car at an intersection like someone learning to drive stick.
The VF8 also made our good friend Steven Ewing sick, which is an offense we at Jalopnik take personally. Steven’s the nicest and deserves so much better. Anyway, the bouncy ride and generally wayward road manners had a lot to do with that, as he wrote for InsideEVs:
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.
Mack Hogan and his stomach concurred for Road & Track:
The VinFast VF8 has the worst body control of any modern car I’ve ever driven. Over a 90-minute drive, the 5600-lb SUV never stopped bobbing, swaying, and bucking, producing near-constant head-tossing motions. Riding in the passenger seat, I became car sick for the first time in years. When I switched seats with the driver, he felt queasy, too, even though he says he’s never been the type to get car sick. Despite the firmness you feel over impacts, though, the VF8 is also sloppy and prone to excessive roll in corners. It is unclear if this is the result of poor tuning or fundamental issues with the vehicle’s suspension geometry (control blades at the rear, “smart axles” at the front), but the ride quality alone is enough to disqualify the VF8 from serious consideration.
Hogan particularly called out the “zero-feel” steering, which rendered the SUV “sketchy” to drive at normal speeds. Then there’s Emme Hall, whose VF8 wailed that every aspect of its ADAS suite was dead or dying the moment she sat in her tester. VinFast responded by giving her a different one. Guess how that went? As Hall explained for The Autopian:
Eventually, my second car bricks all its ADAS features just like the first car I got into. The only way I can get the native navigation system to work in my tester is to hotspot the system off of my drive partner’s phone. I repeat, I have to give the car internet to use the built-in navigation system.
A VinFast rep says that won’t happen to folks who buy or lease the car, but I can get into any other vehicle as a journalist and the navigation system works, so what up?
Read enough of these, and you begin to pick up on mutual pain points. Lousy interior materials with panel gaps befitting of the worst penalty box you can think of from 20 years ago. The aforementioned driver-aid glitches and unending chimes. The fact that even when those assists did work, they didn’t impose any restrictions on the driver to keep their hands on the wheel. It’s all pretty dire.
The positives? Some writers liked the brake feel and regen modes, most agreed the interior was at least roomy despite the quality issues, and the colors — which include “Sunset Orange” and “Deep Ocean” green — were a hit. Three points for VinFast!
But the real commonality between all of these accounts is that overnight, the VF8 has obliterated the notion that there are no terrible cars for sale anymore. Frankly, it’s hard to remember the last time a car released to overwhelming disdain; a car that every critic agreed simply wasn’t ready. VinFast’s About page says the company set out to “lead the EV revolution.” Perhaps it’s not prepared for leadership yet — though it’s certainly left a mark on the state of play.