South Africa

WATCH: Opposition beware? Jaecoo J7 preparing for a fight

Announced as coming to South Africa mere hours after its world debut at the Shanghai Auto Show in April, the eagerly awaited Jaecoo J7 will become an official local market reality in the first quarter of 2024.

Watch the J7 in action below

Still to be specced and priced, the boxy retro-styled SUV will head an eventual line-up of two models set to be supplemented by the Jaecoo J8, due to arrive later in the year.

Petrol only

Based on the T1X platform that underpins all of parent company Chery’s current models, as well as the Omoda C5, the J7 also derives motivation from the same engine, in this case, the 1.6 T-GDi from the Tiggo 7 Pro Max and Tiggo 8 Pro, which has, however, been retuned from 145kW/290Nm to 137kW/275Nm.

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Paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the J7 has a permanent all-wheel-drive system in addition to seven driving modes; Eco, Normal, Sport, Snow, Mud, Sand and Off-Road.

Jaecoo J7 first drive off-road
Squared-off rear sports a pair of faux side air inlets.

Although shown with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain at its New Journey, New Life International User Summit held in Chery‘s hometown of Wuhu this week, this configuration is unlikely to be offered locally.

At the same time, a decision on whether to make the J7 available with front-wheel-drive or stick with the all-paw gripping system only remains to be made.

Joining Omoda

Well known, though, is that the J7, and eventually also the J8, will be sold from the same Omoda dealerships as part of a two-tier approach involving the pair’s grouping under one room separate from Chery’s workings.

Jaecoo J7 first drive off-road
Interior dominated by a tablet-like infotainment system, a freestanding 10.25-inch instrument cluster and mix of physical as well as touch-sensitive switchgear.

Set to effectively become Chery South Africa’s most premium brand alongside Omoda as a result of the ultra-luxurious Exeed division being left-hand-drive only, the final day of the four-day summit provided the South African delegation with the opportunity to get a sneak peek of the J7’s capabilities off-road on a short gravel course laid out in a park on the outskirts of Wuhu.

J7 drive

While the initial sighting lap took place with a Chery instructor behind the wheel, the resulting one-lap fling provided noteworthy hints of what the local market could expect.

Traversing the compacted surface, cut up in certain places, the J7’s ride surprised by soaking up the latter without bouncing or rolling too much.

Driving the South Africa-bound Jaecoo J7
Seats are comfortable and feature electric adjustment on the driver’s side

Despite speeds never exceeding 80 km/h, the J7 felt composed and balanced in spite of the treatment it was being subject to, plus the higher profile 19-inch wheels as opposed to the stranded issue 18-inch items.

Worth noting that is its prowess could only be tested in Sand mode and none of the other settings.

Driving the South Africa-bound Jaecoo J7
Infotainment screen measures 13.2-inches.

The brief first drive did, however, question the responsiveness of the engine, which exhibited some low down lag when setting-off.

Most likely, this could be attributed to the programming of the drive mode in question and not of how the J7 responds when setting off in every of the remaining six.

Driving the South Africa-bound Jaecoo J7
Chunky gear lever and rotary mode dial take prevalence on the centre console.

In addition, the front tended to wash-out on entry, although admittedly, as a result of entering the corners too quickly and missing the apex by subsequently laying on the throttle to get around.

Away from the track, the J7 impressed with a spacious cabin, chunky but also solid feeling interior materials, clean and minimalist design, as well as ergonomics with an in-kept mix of physical and touch-sensitive switchgear – the latter largely applying to the icons at the base of the portrait-style infotainment system.

How much?

For now, an enigma, the J7’s real self, will only show up once exports to South Africa start in earnest within the coming months.

The same, as mentioned, applies to pricing, with Chery keeping mum on disclosing any information ahead of its market debut.

Driving the South Africa-bound Jaecoo J7
J7 will be joined at a later stage in 2024 by the plusher J8.

Likely positioned between the Tiggo 7 Pro Max and incoming all-wheel-drive Tiggo 8 Pro Max, speculation has pointed to pricing of R650 000 to R700 000 depending on the model structure and spec.

At present, this is but suggestive and susceptible to change to change once sales eventually start.

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