It’s the latest clean-running carmaker to speed onto the scene; VinFast by name — and even faster by nature — for, even as recently as a decade ago, this now-global car brand simply didn’t exist. The first whispers of its inception (almost as hushed as the marque’s all-electric engines) were heard in early 2017, when a cabal of car designers and industrialists, led by Vingroup founder and billionaire businessman Pham Nhat Vuong, quietly broke ground on a state-of-the-art automotive manufacturing complex on Vietnam’s Red River Delta.
It was a grand undertaking. But the 828 acre industrial park, built on Cat Hai Island, was envisioned and erected specifically to help streamline the car production process. It was to be a place where modern, future-facing cars could be built in their entirety — from the tire treads up. On the site, you’ll find an engine workshop, assembly lines, press and welding shops, and even paint booths, all built to top-tier specification and completed within just 21 months.
Yet, even as the complex began to turn out cars, Vuong refused to take his foot off the accelerator. At the 2018 Paris Motor Show, barely over a year since the company began, VinFast was unveiled to the world, with its initial, internal-combustion-powered models — the LUX A2.0 saloon and LUX SA2.0 SUV — making award-winning impressions on the global motoring media. And both of these preliminary models were, in a headline-grabbing reveal, designed by renowned Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina.
This was another show of speed from the electric carmaker, as VinFast certainly wasn’t slow when it came to making friends. Within a year of firing up its engines, the Vietnamese automaker had forged firm links with BMW (for its chassis), the development team at Magna Steyr (which created Mercedes- Benz’s “4Matic” all-wheel drive system), and even Chevrolet, with whom the brand launched a rebadged version of the Spark hatchback in Vietnam.
By 2020, VinFast’s cars were cropping up all over the world, with field tests of its rapidly growing fleet taking place everywhere from Cape Town, South Africa, to Victoria, on Australia’s south coast, where the brand bought Holden’s old Lang Lang Proving Ground from General Motors. The carmaker was even earmarked as the title sponsor for Formula One’s inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix, before the pandemic put the brakes on the event. Yet, even as other manufacturers’ global operations came to a grinding halt, VinFast didn’t slow down. Attracting talent from other high-profile carmakers, more and more models were put into development, with pickup trucks, city buses, and even electric scooters joining the brand’s ever expanding model range.
In January 2022, at CES — the trailblazing technology trade show held in Las Vegas — VinFast announced its all-electric future with a line-up that included the VF 5, a crossover city car; the VF 6, a subcompact SUV; and the VF 7, a crossover SUV. That same month, the marque opened orders for its mid-size crossover, the VF 8, and began deliveries of its VF 9 — a full-size SUV that led last year’s global expansion into Australian, European, and North American markets. That’s when VinFast landed in Canada.
Last November, the ribbon was cut on a national flagship store in Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, followed swiftly by seven additional stores across the country (from CF Carrefour Laval in Quebec to Park Royal Shopping Centre in Vancouver) before the end of the year. At VinFast Yorkdale, visitors became the first in the world to experience the marque’s new blueprint for its store designs, centred around large LED screens that clearly highlight and explain key features of the model range. It’s even possible to book a test drive for the VF 8 onsite.
The VF 8 is another VinFast designed by Pininfarina, and with such fine provenance and pedigree — the Italian brand dreamed up cars including the Ferrari California and the Maserati GranTurismo — it’s a predictably slick-looking machine. There’s a well-observed blend of sharp and fluid shapes, with LED lighting tracing some of the more racy, aerodynamic lines, and a panoramic sunroof that, in the words of the brand, promises to “keep you connected with nature.”
Inside, the cabin makes similarly sustainable, environmentally-centric claims, with premium vegan leather upholstery anchoring what is a commendably restrained interior. Though it’s not necessarily billed as a top-of-the-market motor, the VF 8 has an elegant character and includes touches of insouciant innovation that sit it tremendously close to the luxury sector. It exceeds expectations, especially considering a starting price tag of $56,026 (which would only buy you about a third of a Tesla Model X) because, while there may be a heated steering wheel here and some ambient lighting there, everything about the driving experience has been engineered to ensure that the VF 8 is, first and foremost, a solid everyday driver.
A 15.6-inch touchscreen sits front and centre in a subdued dash, an ‘Emergency SOS’ button pre-empts any accidents, and 11 meticulously placed airbags attest to an unerring concern for safety — a key tenet of the brand since 2019, when its two launch models were awarded exemplary five-star ratings from NCAP. It’s encouraging to see that, despite speedy development periods and an expedited production process, VinFast isn’t cutting any corners when it comes to customer safety.
In terms of actual road-going speed, the VF 8 does similarly solid numbers. It’ll whisk you from 0-100 km/h in around 5.5 seconds, has a maximum 402 horsepower to play with, and will deliver a dependable, if not sector-topping, range of 425 km per charge. The more powerful, purposeful VF 9 (which is currently available to reserve in Canada and will be available later this year) boosts these numbers with an almost 600 km range — but the same top speed of 200 km/h.
And yet, despite these numbers — and the non-stop pace of production across the entire company — VinFast’s nimble nature isn’t actually the reason behind its name. “Vin” is derived from the carmaker’s country of origin, Vietnam, but “Fast” is acronymous — phonetically formed from the first letters of “Phong cách,” meaning style; “An toàn,” meaning safety; “Sáng tao,” meaning creativity; and “Tiên phong,” meaning pioneers. Take a ride in one of the brand’s all-electric cars and those VinFast values certainly ring true. These are models with their priorities perfectly straight — made definitively for the modern world.