The GAC GS3 Emzoom R-Style is a Free Bird

I was given the chance to drive the GAC Empow in Batangas Racing Circuit around October last year. We went through a series of activities that ended with a hot lap in BRC. That day I learned that GAC can create a monster if they so choose and it can perform well. Now, I’m excited how they’ll translate that with a crossover. 

Enter the 2024 GAC GS3 Emzoom R-Style (what a mouthful!). It has the same 1.5-liter turbo engine as the Empow but with the bigger body, I was worried if the Emzoom would be less exciting. After spending a day and almost 200 kilometers with it, I can say it’s more addicting than the Empow. 

It’s hard not to fall for the GS3. The looks alone will reel you in as it proved that math can be beautiful. Just look at all those polygons formed by the lines and even in the headlights! The sharp cuts on the side profile are also tasteful, complementing the overall design while also giving a fast illusion on the crossover. You also won’t mistake it for anything else thanks to the unique taillight pattern and vertically-oriented third brake light in the middle of the spoiler.

The cabin is surprisingly a delight for me in both black and blue or the camel brown theme. I’m usually not a fan of driver-oriented cockpits but this one passed for two reasons – the center cluster in the dash isn’t too angled, and the touchscreen is big enough at 10.25-inches. My shotgun rider won’t have a hard time taking control if I’m too busy behind the wheel. 

Some will raise their eyebrows at the curtain-like sunroof cover. In my experience though, given we drove it at high noon, it passed light but not so much heat that the auto climate control can’t handle. Although the single rear air vent for the R-Style is a definite miss for me.

The rear air vent becomes a non-issue once you’re on the road. The GS3 is certainly spacious and has good ride comfort. Legroom is great on both ends of the cabin and cargo space is aplenty. 

It’s not all looks as GAC fitted the GS3 with contemporary toys. This includes Advanced Driver Assist System, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless charger, powered tailgate, and auto climate control among others. There are more that make this compelling but I’ll leave that to the spec sheet. 

Now as I said in the beginning, the bar was set pretty high by GAC themselves when they let me have a hot lap with their Empow around the Batangas Racing Circuit. However, the GS3 Emzoom showed that it’s a totally different beast altogether and smashed that bar into pieces. 

First of all, this GS3 is very engaging to drive. The steering is snap-responsive, suspension is firm but not overly so, throttle has minimal delay, shifting is on-point, and the braking is soft but bites early. Both new and experienced drivers will have minimal time settling into this crossover. 

I’m not saying the Empow had none of those. It’s just that it’s amazing to have those qualities in a crossover of this size and price point.

What makes this GS3 more fun than the Empow is the unforgiving powertrain. This Emzoom R-Style has the same engine and transmission as the lower variants but it’s tuned differently, resulting in more smiles per kilometer. It has a lot of torque that cannot be tamed even in Eco mode. Some will notice the lack of paddle shifters or manual override in the shifter but in my experience, you won’t need those. Just floor the throttle and the GS3 will overtake with ease – again, even in Eco mode. Kudos to GAC for a thrifty mode that’s not dull to drive.

Switch to Sport Mode and the GS3 literally roars to life. The valves open up resulting in a throaty exhaust note as you climb up the rev range, blasting from the massive twin pipes at the center of the rear bumper. It’s more than a week already since I drove the GS3 but I can still distinctly remember that addicting sound. Combine the Sport Mode with its driving dynamics and it makes light work of reaching the speed limit, or doing overtakes at 100. 

The attitude of the GS3 Emzoom reminded me of the guitar solo from Free Bird. Shortly before the 5-minute mark of the Lynyrd Skynyrd track, the solo comes in blistering and keeps going and going, seemingly unending. It’s the same with this crossover. It doesn’t run out of juice and will keep giving you more. You’ll inevitably think of the roads you can drive this on – Marilaque, Nasugbu, Talisay, Timberland, or the many hidden scenic local highways in the country. 

There are only two things that seek forgiveness in this crossover. One is its weird single-vent at the second row, and two is its name. GAC GS3 Emzoom R-Style is just too hard to flaunt to one’s friends, family, or anyone asking what this striking crossover is called. They should’ve called it GS3 Max, since it gives out the max amount of smiles.

In a time of numerous taxes, inflation, and weak Peso, it’s outstanding that GAC Philippines can sell this crossover with a pre-pandemic price tag. The GAC GS3 Emzoom R-Style has an SRP of PHP 1,198,000 – the same price as the top trim Geely Coolray when it was launched in 2019.  It also makes the GS3 a standout in its segment since its rivals are either too expensive, not as feature-packed, or not as spacious. Lastly, no other crossover in this price point is as fun and liberating to drive as the GS3 Emzoom R-Style.

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