Yes, there are such things as well-made Chinese cars and we want them.
The Great Wall of China was built in 206 BC and will likely remain the most intriguing and effective wall in the world even if Donald Trump becomes president. The reason why is that the wall separates two different worlds of cars very effectively. For the most part, the cars of Europe, the US, and Japan can be purchased anywhere in the world, including in China. However many parts of the western world cannot get their hands on Chinese cars. Given quality concerns, this is perfectly okay with most people, unless they consider these five cars.
Special editions of cars are pretty cool to have around because they are unique and represent an extended element of creativity from the design team. Thing is, the fun stops when these special editions are made to be country exclusives. The primary offenders are always the high-end automakers, which makes seeing an unobtainable car all the more painful. Some notable examples are the Pagani Huayra Dinasta, the Lamborghini Murcielago China Limited Edition, and even America’s own Jeep Grand Cherokee Hyun Black Edition. We get that automakers need to woo the new class of wealthy Chinese business people with exclusivity, but why can’t we all just share the love of a cool car around the globe?
In the US, a hand on the steering wheel and the open road ahead is the automotive equivalent of manifest destiny. Fun aside, we simply don’t want another driver dictating where we go. We want an individualistic experience where the risk and the yield is all up to us. Not so in China. The ultimate status symbol is to be driven everywhere because successful people can’t be bothered with such lowly tasks. That’s why long wheelbase versions of most cars are slated for China, and this includes the uber-cool BMW 5 series long wheelbase and upcoming 3 series LWB. Even if we do enjoy piloting our own cars, we can’t deny that bringing these cars here would be cool, if only to help out with another American tradition: backseat romance.
When China actually does bring its design pens to the table and draws up its own car, the results are pretty cool. Look no further than the Hongqi L5 Limousine if you need an example. The car is brand new but is styled with a retro flair to it. Inside the nostalgia continues but with screens and a modern tablet center console that somehow manages to look at home surrounded by leather and wood. Tesla, take note. The car also has a 6.0-liter V12 underneath the hood, beating the pavement with 400 horsepower; it needs every pony to motivate its 6,000-pound frame around China. At 20 feet long, no long wheelbase is needed but you shouldn’t need extra options on a car that starts at $800,000.
There’s no way to hide it but in case you can’t tell, the Shuanghuan Noble is a blatant rip-off of the Smart Fortwo. The real Smart Fortwo is not exactly a car you buy to enjoy since it has the footprint of a go-kart and a 70-horsepower engine that may as well be out of a go-kart. Like Brabus, China tried to improve it and did so by raising the ride height. Unfortunately this means that the car now has a higher center of gravity and handles even worse than it previously did. On the other hand, we expect that drivers of the Noble will feel more confident than those in a Smart Fortwo. With the added convenience of slight off road capabilities, we’d vote the Noble as the car that should replace the Smart Fortwo.
The BAW Motors Yongshi may be the coolest car to come out of China yet. It not only has the looks of a rugged off-roader, but it is actually capable and reliable enough that the UN buys these vehicles for use in its fleet. It is a military vehicle, which means that like the G-Wagen, it's very versatile and can be had in multiple body styles, including a pickup, minibus, or dedicated SUV. It may not have the looks to scare Land Rover, Jeep, or Mercedes, but it’s a different approach to the off-road vehicle and is sure to get more looks than a lifted Wrangler. Americans haven’t been able to buy a dedicated military vehicle since the Hummer H1 was on the market, but the Yongshi is available to Chinese citizens, giving us another car to lust over.