On the drive to Schwallungen, Indimo's import warehouse, I wasn't sure what to expect. Now it stands in front of me, the BAIC X55. And I'm disappointed - at least a little, because the SUV doesn't look like China at all. But on the contrary !
Like all BAIC Senova models, the front features the grille with stylized wings. This is what a Chinese friend wrote to remind me of Saab. Whether it does or not, I leave open. It certainly looks pleasing and gives the car a friendly, European face, as does the rest of the design. At the C-pillars a decorative turbo sticker is to be found, at the rear carries the X55 LED taillights.
Engineering DNA from Mitsubishi, Opel, Mercedes
The view under the bonnet shows a clear, tidy engine room. An 1.5 turbo engine from Mitsubishi, ECUs from European and Japanese suppliers, all routinely and skilfully arranged. The exotics effect is missing, and that has a reason. The BAIC is Mitsubishi, Mercedes, Opel. The steering wheel in the interior, as an example, is Opel. The electric power steering is used in many models from Rüsselsheim, the list could now continue even further.
A look into the interior. Our test vehicle has fabric seats with colored seams, a 6-speed gearshift and an entertainment system. In addition, automatic air conditioning, a reversing camera, Android and Iphone connection and all the other comfort features that you need. The interior appears to have been processed with routine, the materials used are no surprise. The brain classifies the ambience as European. If you sit down in a BAIC X55 with your eyes closed, you think you are in a Kia, Mitsubishi or Opel. But never in a car from China.
The impression stops when you press the start button. The BAIC starts to move and first of all the stiffness of the body is noticeable. This comes as a surprise, because we would not have expected. The chassis, the importer gets vehicles to US specification, feels surprisingly tight and comfortable. Bumps are swallowed, manhole cover filtered away. Even on the highway, the X55 drives unspectacular and very European, the test on the highway is still pending. We bravely test the ABS and ESP, let the X55 drive in a circle beyond public traffic. Everything makes a good-natured, sure impression. The vote fits, but would tolerate some fine tuning.
Oh yes, a nightpanel
The SUV from China is pleasingly easy to drive. The servo is playful to use, the clutch smooth, the shift travel but too long. In the coordination in the interaction of engine and transmission is still missing some fine work. The supercharged engine, with its 136 PS, bravely fights unsuccessfully against around 1.4 tons of curb weight. The X55 has no sporting ambitions and is a brave representative of its kind. From the turbo is not felt, but we had not expected.
The entertainment is just as easy to use. Bluetooth, Car Link, Iphone and Android connections are on board. The graphics on the monitor are not necessarily the latest, but are good average. The rear camera draws nice lines and works as expected.
As a special feature, there is a Nightpanel, but the operating unit hides unfavorable in the vicinity of the light switch. BAIC did not quite understand the background. In addition, one finds in the car a manual, the layout of Saab drivers will happen immediately known.
BAIC X55 conclusion
The BAIC X55 is a single unit in the popular 4.40 Meter class. He drives soberly and matter-of-factly like a Mitsubishi, Opel, Kia. What is BAIC / Senova as a great compliment, but should be a serious warning to all Europeans, Japanese and Koreans. The closed eyes thing was so serious. It shows how damn close Chinese carmakers came to the rest of the world, and how frustratingly little character transport modern vehicles of other brands.
The X55 will never win a comparison test in Germany. The SUV lacks modern assistance systems. But that's criticism at a high level. Because the SUV from China is roughly at the good standard of a 2010 model year if you take European brands as a benchmark.
The technique is clear, not exotic, and probably very reliable. The body made us a disturbingly stiff impression, the workmanship is routine with minor negligence. The BAIC X55 has slight weaknesses in the tuning of engine and transmission. However, we wonder if customers in this price segment even rate that. Because with 18.450 € from the importer's warehouse, the X55 delivers a lot of cars in a price-sensitive segment.
The import from China is still in its infancy. The BAIC rider is still greeting Chinese characters at the start, and there are still a few signs on the car that are Chinese. That could easily and quickly change, and probably the X55 will be even more Europeanized in a few months. His design is already there and he also has potential in his market segment.
The X55 and the Saab theme
Would the question be a conclusion. Is the X55 somehow a Saab? If it is not, even the slightly tired Mitsubishi engine prevents any Saab feeling. The bigger brother of the X55, the BAIC Senova X65 has a 2.0 liter Saab Turbo under the bonnet. It should be available in Germany in February or March and we will test it. Before we drive another SUV. The BJ40 with 2.3 liter Saab Turbo.