The friendly guard at the check post had a crisp and business-like tone when he asked, “You have 4 wheel?” Entrusted with the duty of guarding the 3000 meters high Jebel Al Akhdar, he was clear about who would be granted the permission to make it back its tricky descent.
THE DIMENSIONS: 4519 x 1831 x 1694 mm Wheel base: 2670 mm
THE FEATURES: Telescopic and tiltable steering, 6+2 way driver adjustable seats with lumbar support, 7 inch TFT display, keyless entry, dual tone leather
DRIVER ASSIST: Hill descent control, Hill Start Assist, Auto hold (to prevent rolling at short stops), Eco and Sport mode, 4WD lock, 6 speed tiptronic gearbox, Safe city driving and parking sensors, 166 cm of ground clearance
THE COLOURS: Jade white, Pearl Silver, Black Jade, Platinum colour, Agate Brown, Coral Red
THE PRICE: AED 64,900 – 79,900
UPSIDE: Fresh styling, good for moderate off-roading, premium interiors
FLIPSIDE: Tiptronic doesn’t let go the gearshift; some might need familiarity with steering position
As well as four wheel drive, the task demanded certain muscle power – about which I was willing to bet on the Chinese automotive major’s confidence in their first proper SUV, rather than the magnitude of its specs. Before I tell you more about this adventure, a quick recap… Earlier in the day, a select bunch of UAE motoring journalists had their first glimpse of the Geely Emgrand X7 Sport. Bathed in the morning sun, the mid size SUV had a confident stance – as though aware of its pre-eminence in its maker’s path and milestones.
Instead, watch the video review of Geely Emgrand X7 Sport on this page, or home page Video Window or our YouTube Channel
Finding Geely is all about overlooking the name and seeing the merits of a vehicle. The Chinese tag has been superseded by all the efforts that went into designing and developing this vehicle over the past three years. It has been tested worldwide from the arid and cold mountains of Mongolia to the dreary deserts of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
They have named it X7 Sport, which could lead us into believing that it is the sport variant of the already existing X7, which it isn’t. It is a different badge altogether, probably, better compared with a higher segment than what it competes in. If the only complaint about a car is a quirk in its name, we are in a good place. So moving on.
In the introductory spiel, there were plenty of stories about the stance of a cheetah and flowing finishes inspired by sparkling reservoirs but I’d rather follow the audacious lines of the new SUV that once again has the blessings of Volvo’s design guru Peter Horbury.
In the X7 Sport, as in the Emgrand GT, Geely amply makes up for the discernible semblance to a pedigree logo by presenting a very original and captivating grille design. The roof that seems to float, thanks to the blacked out pillars; the 18” alloys ‘lightning’ spokes; and the narrow ‘eagle eye’ headlights make sure that the X7 Sport looks sharp as it greets you.
Even where it looks inspired, the source seems right. The console with its stylish rails for the driver and passenger to hold takes you into a Porsche Cayenne cabin. The window line brings the X5 to mind, but the rising styling doesn’t eat into visibility, thanks to large side view mirrors. It even has a modified Hofmeister’s Kink next to the C-pillar, which models including the Toyota Fortuner have recently resorted to.
Cabin and Controls
While the fibre body has a modern and refined feel, the doors leave an old-fashioned thud that feels reassuring. Cabin materials have been chosen so as to starkly contrast with rivals – even the cheapest of Nappa leathers could signify a classier cabin than the segment is used to – underlined by the beige stitching running through the seats, door trims, the console and the dash or the fine sun-screen fabric under the panoramic roof.
The steering is compact, flat-bottomed and looks sporty; and then you realize your knees are almost on the same level. So you almost bend over it like the hulk – nothing wrong with that; it might even make you feel more in control once you get used to it.
There is no blind spot monitor and other gadgetry – tools that usually Chinese cars wield to overwhelm customers. Instead, the Geely Emgrand X7 Sport seems to offer more premium space, a refined drive and undeniable value. Looks like this brand is going to make life difficult for co-habitants of the affordable midsize SUV realm by throwing some existential questions at the makers and buyers alike – like what is it all actually worth?
In this era of turbocharged power, the 2.4 L naturally aspirated engine with a 150 hp and 225 Nm of torque sounds neither too big nor too meagre. The car gathers breath on take off, but never runs out of steam on the way. Incidentally, the engine is the same as the Emgrand GT but makes for fewer horses yet more torque in the SUV.
The steering doesn’t feel too light, like many of its compatriot cars but the involvement you expect from a flat-bottomed steering isn’t quite there. The 6-speed transmission with a tiptronic option is handy as you climb steep hills but overtaking in the city is easy regular fare. The X7 Sport comes with a 4WD lock, Hill Descent Control and Auto hold, which turned out to be useful in scaling the mountains of Nizwa.
Expectations aren’t let down by the agility of handling and level of quietness of the ride. Among the buttons on the ‘scaled down version of a Porsche console’, you will find an Eco and a Sport completing the inevitable trilogy of drives. Finally, when it was time to switch positions, even with a reasonably tall driver, I had plenty of stretch happening in the rear.
Geely Emgrand X7 Sports vs Jebel Al Akhdar
Geely is ambitious. The X7 Sport is the offspring that dutifully follows suit with the challenge of scaling the highest mountain in the region, even if it has to drag itself to the top. Thankfully, it isn’t foolhardy ambition: it is only about slipping into tiptronic and keeping the intelligent all wheel drive locked.
On the windy day, the vehicle drifted ever so slightly yet stayed stable on its 18” alloys. Jebel Al Akhdar has the blacktop winding up all the way to the Alila resort on top. So there aren’t many rugged challenges, but if the engine heated up on the steep climbs, it wouldn’t have been surprising. Sure enough, there were times when we thought the car had dug as deep as its power reserves go. Anyway, wanting to downshift remained largely a wish, as the car was adamant on taking the calls. Thankfully, the X7 Sport kept surprising us by climbing along.
The essential Geely Emgrand X7 Sport
The Geely Emgrand X7 Sport is made to look like it is a couple of notches above while priced one notch less. In looks and attitude, the Geely Emgrand X7 Sports sets the tone of the brand’s future direction – bold, inspired and independent. Even though they have no imminent plans to burden the pricing with a 3.5L, the X7 Sport customers won’t really mind the current engine. What they gain with 150 hp and save with its under 65K to 80K price tag is good enough to traverse the daily course in superb comfort and still enjoy the occasional drive to Jebel Jais. Just keep the 4WD locked and jog the tiptronic!