Flash Drive: 2023 VinFast VF 8
The First Vietnamese Car Comes To North America
When Vietnam’s largest company, the VinGroup, announced in 2017 they were entering the automobile manufacturing business, it probably didn’t get too much notice. In a short five years VinFast has gone from an idea to entering the North American market with the first-ever cars built in Vietnam by a Vietnamese company.
VinFast invited Canadian and American automotive journalists to California to drive the 2023 VF 8, an all-electric midsize two-row SUV. Currently only available in California, the VF 8 also will be introduced in British Columbia, Toronto and Montreal. The company has ambitious plans to import the three-row VF 9 by the end of 2023 and the two-row VF 7 in the first part of 2024, both of which are electric SUVs built in Hai Phong, Vietnam.
Clean Fleet Report was both intrigued and curious about an all-new car from an all new company from a country that is not known for building cars. After a couple hours driving the VF 8 in San Diego County, here are our initial thoughts. We will have a more in-depth Road Test review after we had the opportunity to drive the VF 8 for a full week and put it through the rigors of daily driving.
VF 8 City
The 2023 VF 8 Eco and Plus City Edition, the first models being sold in North America, offer this power and range.
- Dual 150 kW motors producing 348 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque
- 82 kWh battery
- 124 mph maximum top speed
- 6.5 seconds: 0-60 mph
- 207-mile driving range (EPA measurement)
Plus City Edition
- Dual 150 kW motors producing 402 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque
- 82 kWh battery
- 124 miles per hour maximum top speed
- 5.5 seconds: 0-60 mph
- 191 mile driving range. (EPA measurement)
Battery and Charging
The VF 8 is charged through a plug-in port offering three charging speeds. Using the onboard charger with a maximum 11 kW charge rate, the approximate charge times are estimated to be:
- 120V (Level 1) – 80 hours
- 240V (Level 2) – 12 hours
- 480V DC Fast Charging – 10%-70% in 24 minutes
Since cold weather can affect the charging time and driving range, the VF 8 comes standard with a battery heating system to pre-condition the battery to a temperature that will take a faster and higher charge.
VinFast offers charging options. For in home, they have partnered with Qmerit for owners to receive a Level 2 charger. Or three years of charging at Electrifying America stations for either Level 2 or Level 3 DC fast charging. Details are on the VinFast website with easy steps to order the charger and arrange for installation and how to download the app and use the public chargers.
For when not at home, VinFast has developed a Plug & Charge feature.
Beginning by downloading the VinFast app. After registering a credit card, charging will be billed to VinFast, who will process the payment. This eliminates needing to download each participating charge company’s app, which makes charging significantly simpler. Just like when fueling a gasoline car at any station, VinFast owners can charge at any of the chargers at Blink, ChargeHub, EVgo, Flo, SemaConnect or Electrify America.
Additional charging is through regenerative braking that converts kinetic energy into electricity when braking or coasting. So driving around town, stuck in stop-and-go rush hour freeway traffic or coasting down hills will recharge the battery. The battery charge and mileage range are metered in realtime by a readout on the center touchscreen.
The Driving Experience
Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive the 2023 VinFast VF 8 City Plus. Heading out from Encinitas in northern San Diego County, we wound our way from the ocean to inland cities and back to the beach. Our seat time was under two hours, so we had to quickly evaluate the acceleration, handling, ride, suspension, interior comfort and cabin noise level. We got a pretty good feel for the VF 8, driving similar styles to how almost all owners will use this midsize SUV.
The first thing was to set the brake regeneration level, which in this case is on the center touchscreen. We prefer to have this function actuated by paddles mounted behind the steering wheel, but VinFast did the next best thing and made it an easy two taps on the screen. VF 8 does not have full one-pedal driving where the car can be brought to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal, which is not unique to VinFast. But not having an auto hold or hill hold button, in the absence of full one stop, meant that at stop lights with any incline in the road, the VF 8 would begin to roll, including backwards. This is remedied by continuing to press on the brake pedal when stopped, but is far more convenient and easy when equipped with auto hold.
When driving a gasoline-powered car with an automatic transmission, the combination of braking and accelerating around a corner will result in the transmission hunting for the right gear for the maximum performance. Finding those gears on some of the more sophisticated transmissions is smooth, but nothing like the feeling and sensation of an EV. If you are not familiar with not feeling transmission shifts, make sure your VinFast dealer sales representative lets you take a test drive longer than once around the block.
The VF 8 City Plus cruised at or above highway speeds with confidence. Passing big rigs was not an issue thanks to the instant torque at any speed. As noted above, there are no down-or-up transmission shifts, just step on it and, whoosh, off you go.
When approaching a high or slow speed corner, the turn-in was predictable as the AWD system offered good grip. On the most aggressive corners, you can feel the 5,732-pound mass shifting ever-so-slightly. But the low placement of the batteries, electronic power steering and 20-inch all-season tires were designed to catch the weight shift and continue tracking through the corner.
The ride was stiff and even small road imperfections were felt through the suspension. The VF 8 was not spongy or floaty, but we noticed a rocking side-to-side feeling. Expect VinFast engineers to make suspension adjustments as they get more customer feedback.
The 40.6-foot turning radius caught us off guard on a u-turn, but overall the in-town and city driving was easy, as was parking. To help with parking, Smart Parking Assist and Smart Summon Mode will be downloaded over the air on upcoming software updates. The first will help the driver enter and exit parallel, perpendicular or angled parking spots. The latter, with the push of a button on a key FOB or app, will summon a parked VF 8 and have it automatically come to where the driver is waiting. Speak to your dealer representative about when these features will be available.
The VF 8 has standard, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, power assisted vented front and rear discs and automatic emergency braking. The VF 8 weight resulted in longer than expected stops, and required progressively pressing harder on the brake pedal when getting close to the stop point.
Designed by Pininfarina
VinFast VF 8 gave the designers at the famed Pininfarina studio a blank sheet. This resulted in the VF 8 having an individual look that will stand out among the crowded SUV field. The exterior looks aerodynamic sitting still from a combination of curves and sharp edges. The front and rear have lighting features that stretch fender-to-fender, clearly identifying the VF 8 at a quick glance.
The minimalist interior has a high level of fit and finish and is in-step with the current trend of a dearth of buttons, knobs and conventional switch gear, deferring most of all controls to the horizontally-oriented 15.6-inch color touchscreen and voice commands. With a “Hey, VinFast!” many vehicle and infotainment functions can be controlled. There are no gauges directly in front of the driver, but they are projected on the color head-up display. All other vehicle controls and information are found on the touchscreen and the heated steering wheel.
The center console pulls a 180º from the bare dash design by having four, large buttons, one each for P, R, N, and D, and a volume knob. With gear selections on most new cars being shift-by-wire, these buttons could be reduced in size and relocated to allow this area to house drive mode, auto stop and channel selection controls. Otherwise, the high-definition color touchscreen is bright, clear and easy-to-use, if a bit slow to react at times.
Large windows and the panoramic glass roof, with a power sunshade, make for a bright cabin. Seating for four is plentiful, with cargo space of 13.2 cubic feet when the 60/40 folding rear seat is up, then expanding to 48.4 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat. For additional storage space, there is a 2.7 cubic-foot front trunk/frunk that is a handy place to stash the charge cord.
Power front seats are standard. Eco features leatherette and the Plus vegan leather, with the driver getting 12-way power, memory and ventilation on the Plus. We found the front seats to be too firm, bordering on hard. The thigh bolsters could be wider to accommodate larger Americans. Combine the hard seats with the stiff suspension, and it isn’t the most comfortable riding midsize SUV we have driven.
The 8 (Eco) or 10-speaker (Plus) audio system has music and entertainment through apps and the pre-installed iHeartRadio and TuneIn, plus Bluetooth for streaming from a mobile phone. SiriusXM is not available. USB-A ports are upfront with USB-A and C for the rear passengers. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, along with wireless phone charging.
Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) include traffic jam assist, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, highway driving assist, lane keeping and automatic lane changing assist, blind spot detection, automatic emergency braking and 11 airbags.
AI-based features include a driver monitoring system with facial recognition and an infrared camera to determine if a driver may be drowsy or distracted—even if the driver is wearing sunglasses. Other safety features include a 360-degree surround view camera, theft alarm and a vehicle immobilizer.
There are two 2023 VinFast VF 8 City models, with these prices including the mandatory $1,200 destination fee. The VF 8 does not qualify for federal and state credits, but in some states is eligible for a HOV sticker. Check with the dealer for updates as this is a constantly changing landscape.
- VF 8 Eco $50,200
- VF 8 Plus $57,200
The VF 8 comes with these warranties:
- New Vehicle -10 years/110,000 miles
- High Voltage Battery – 10 years/Unlimited miles
- Roadside Assistance – 10 years/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2023 VinFast VF 8
VinFast is attempting to do what Hyundai did in 1986 and Toyota and Honda did two decades earlier—a new car company trying to break into the extremely competitive North American auto market. It took Hyundai a couple decades before it gained serious traction but now, Hyundai—along with sibling brands Kia and Genesis—are recognized for its innovations, design and especially its EV technology.
VinFast has no intention of waiting that long. It has announced it’s building of a vehicle and battery manufacturing plant in Raleigh, North Carolina. Production is scheduled to start in 2025 with an initial capacity of 150,000 vehicles.
VinFast CEO Van Anh Nguyen, told us: “VinFast is creating a sustainable future with environmentally friendly EVs. The company’s execution excellence DNA begins with paving their own way and not doing things as everyone else does.” She went on to say the “advanced technology and manufacturing facility in Hai Phong, Vietnam can produce 250,000 vehicles per annum, along with 500,000 electric scooters and electric buses.”
The company exudes confidence and optimism. The 2023 VinFast VF 8 we drove will need further refinement in driving range and ride quality, especially as the purchase price may not be reduced through federal or state tax rebates. We are hoping VinFast gets through these early days’ teething pains and continues to offer highly optioned, technology-rich electric vehicles. The announcement of the VF 7 and VF 9 coming to North America, and the construction of the North Carolina manufacturing facility are bold statements they are here to stay. If you live in California, find a local dealer here and check them out.
Make sure to opt-in to the Clean Fleet Report newsletter (top right of page) to be notified of all new stories and vehicle reviews, including a more in-depth review after we have driven the VF 8 for a full week.
Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and VinFast.
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].