The 2023 VinFast VF 8 is on its way to Canada – apparently as soon as the end of this year.
A brief test drive beforehand offered some interesting insight into how it compares to other compact electric vehicles (EVs) already on the market. It also provided an opportunity to poke around inside and out of a few pre-production units, where some features stood out more than others. So without further ado, here are eight of the most interesting facts we found in the process.
1. Subscription No Longer Required
It seems like every brand building EVs these days likes to imbue them with iPhone-like features. In the case of the VF 8, that extends beyond stuff like voice recognition technology and downloadable games, with the initial launch plan including a subscription for the battery pack that feeds the electric motors. (Yes, you read that right.)
The concept is certainly a curious one, although it’s far less confusing in the context of car-buying when you substitute subscription with the word lease. Ultimately, that’s what the program amounts to: paying to use something you don’t own.
Pricing is unclear at this point, with the latest figure standing at $259/month for unlimited mileage, and free replacement once the battery degrades below 70 per cent capacity. Fixed mileage plans that would cost less for, say, 500 km each month but include overage fees weren’t available at the time of this writing.
Something tells us public reaction to the plan hasn’t been as positive as VinFast hoped, as the automaker now says it will sell the batteries outright to customers who would prefer a more conventional purchase. Of course, that means the automaker would no longer foot the bill for replacement batteries outside the warranty period; but then it means one less monthly payment in an era of cellphones, cloud storage, and streaming services.
2. The Steering Column Stalks Are BMW Parts
Plenty of automakers reach into rivals’ parts bins, with characterless interior components the most commonly shared. Take Tesla, which for years has used Mercedes-Benz gear selector switches. In the case of the VinFast VF 8, the steering column stalks stood out right away as borrowed from BMW.
Fighting the urge to joke about surplus turn signals that BMW drivers tend not to use anyway, it’s anything but a criticism to see such familiar protuberances in such an unfamiliar cabin. Sure, they’re made of passable plastic, but there’s something oddly satisfying about the way they move and click into place.
3. There’s a Creep Mode
On the subject of sharing, it seems VinFast has taken a page out of the Tesla playbook. Either that or someone at the brand is a fan of the band Radiohead, because a dive into the infotainment system found the VF 8 has a hilariously named “creep mode” hidden amongst its various drive settings.
As funny as that name may be, it’s also accurate, as it allows the vehicle to roll forward when the brake pedal is released rather than remaining stationary. Another way to think of it is like the opposite of the brake-hold or auto-hold function you might find in other vehicles, including electric ones, that keeps the brakes applied – and the brake lights illuminated – after coming to a stop.
As with Teslas, that brake-hold mode is the default one for the VF 8, but allowing it to be turned off leads to a more conventional feel when driving. Instead of applying throttle to initiate movement, this crossover will start to roll as soon as the brake pedal is released the way most of us are used to.
4. The Mirror Controls are Weird
Like creep mode, mirror adjustments must be initiated through the massive touchscreen that’s stuck to the dash. Unlike that brake-based feature, however, there’s another step in the process that involves using the controls on the steering wheel.
In truth, it’s not especially intuitive – especially not next to the more traditional method that involves dedicated mirror controls. More than that, it’s all just a little janky. For starters, there’s a delayed response to inputs, with more than a split-second elapsing before the mirrors actually move. They also adjust incrementally rather than fluidly, so no matter how long you hold the button the corresponding movement is short.
5. It Has Two Back-Up Cameras
Opening the VF 8’s tailgate led to an interesting discovery – and one we still don’t have an official word on: there are two back-up cameras. Of course, the most likely explanation is that one of them is for the surround-view monitoring system, but it still stands out as unique.
6. There’s No Instrument Cluster
Less unique but equally noteworthy is the lack of an instrument cluster in front of the driver. Instead, relevant information is projected on the windshield via the head-up display, as well as on the infotainment screen.
7. The Rear Seats are Heated and Ventilated
Heated seats are available in just about every new vehicle on the market these days, but ventilation has been slower to spread across the market. Slower still is the inclusion of both heat and ventilation for back seats, which is why the inclusion of both in the range-topping VF 8 Plus stands out. If there’s another sub six-figure EV to offer both, we can’t name it.
8. There are Little Floor Mats in the Frunk
Last but not least, the VF 8 has a reasonably spacious frunk. With underhood storage surprisingly rare amongst modern EVs, the inclusion of it here would be enough to earn a spot on this list. But it’s the little floor mats that are perfectly tailored to each of the three oddly shaped spaces that made us smile the most.