Yangwang U8 review – we drive the world's most powerful SUV

The Yangwang U8 is the most powerful SUV in the world and promises superb off-road capability, range-extender technology – and the ability to float. Here's how it performed in our test drive...

Yangwan U8 front left driving on sand

James Bond’s cars were rarely short of gadgets, be that the amphibious Lotus Esprit or the Aston Martin DB5 that could leave rivals spinning on an oil slick.

And with the ability to spin itself 360 degrees on the spot in a "tank turn" manoeuvre and float to navigate flooding, the Yangwang U8 looks to be rekindling the spirit of Q’s secret R&D operations.

This big luxury SUV is the first model from Yangwang (an upmarket Chinese brand owned by BYD) and is similar to the Land Rover Defender and Mercedes G-Class in terms of its focus on go-anywhere ability and sumptuous luxury.

Yangwang U8 rear cornering on sand

The U8 employs some radical technologies, including one motor powering each wheel that can work independently of the others – enabling that tank turn party piece – and suspension that can keep the SUV stable in the event of a tyre blowout.

There’s no mistaking it for anything else on the road either, with huge clusters of LEDs combining to form vast lighting panels front and rear. The rows of lights on the rear windscreen pillar aren’t just for decoration either, because they can illuminate to show the level of charge.

Oh, and there's another thing: with 1184bhp, the U8 is the world’s most powerful SUV, with an explosive 0-62mph time of 3.6 seconds, which we confirmed in our brief test drive on a track. Yes, you read that right – 3.6 seconds.

Yangwang U8 interior steering wheel

What is the Yangwang U8 like to drive?

The first thing to strike you about the U8 is its size. At 5.3m, it’s longer than a Land Rover Defender 130 and a Mercedes G-Class. It’s wide too, but visibility is pretty good, and it’s festooned with parking cameras showing the distances to obstacles in centimetres, making it slightly more wieldy.

Once you're on the move, steering isn't as quick as in a Range Rover Sport and we could feel the car pushing power to each wheel independently as it battled to find grip on our slippery track surface. Given the power available, and that a race track isn’t its natural habitat, it does a fine job. In this regard, it bodes well for the Yangwang U9 sports car, which is likely to use similar technology.

Yangwang U8 front static

When you corner at speed, there’s a fair degree of pitch and roll, although it’s less flustered in its sports mode. With the suspension in comfort mode it breezed over the smooth race-track Tarmac, although imperfections could still be felt in its more dynamic settings. Still, the U8 does weigh 3.4 tonnes, and there’s only so much technology can do to overcome physics.

We weren’t able to venture on to public roads, because at the time of writing the U8 hasn’t gone through the regulatory approval process for it to be driven in the UK. Indeed, BYD has yet to make a firm decision on whether it’ll ever come here.

Of course, the likely buyer is more likely to find themselves on pock-scarred streets than a high-speed circuit. Here, its ability to use its complex suspension systems to overcome instability following a tyre blowout – and for it to perform its bizarre-looking tank turn manoeuvre – is of more importance.

Yangwang U8 rear right static

The emergency floatation system means it can float across water using its wheels for propulsion for up to 30 minutes. It’s designed to only be used when you absolutely need to, and the car will require a service if the function is deployed.

Even so, it can wade through water up to one metre deep – deeper than a Range Rover can cope with. The wheels are pushed out towards the corners of the car, the U8's approach and departure angles are greater too, which means it’s able to enter or exit steeper slopes.

In the range-extender version we've driven, power comes from a 49kWh battery delivering its power to four 296bhp motors, which feed each of the four wheels independently. The Yangwang U8 also has a 2.0-litre petrol engine, which acts as a generator to charge the batteries on the move or deliver up to 6kW to power external electrical devices. There's also a fully electric version.

Yangwang U8 interior

What is the Yangwang U8 like inside?

Inside, the Yangwang U8 looks every inch the luxury SUV – and feels like it too. The materials used are very impressive, and almost every surface is covered in Nappa leather or open-pore wood. There are three screens: two 23.6in displays ahead of the driver and passenger and a curved 12.8in central screen in the centre. The graphics are crisp and the controls are responsive.

The seats are deeply sculpted, with active elements to support occupants during hard cornering. 

There’s no shortage of space for occupants – rear head and leg room are remarkable and the panoramic roof makes the space feel even more airy. The 1031-litre boot is comparable with the Land Rover Defender 130, and like that model it has a side-hinged boot door (which could be tricky to open in tight parking spaces).

Yangwang U8 side detail


As it’s yet to be confirmed for a European launch, there’s no word on standard equipment or pricing – though a starting price of around £150,000 doesn’t seem unrealistic. As such, it’s hard to gauge the Yangwang U8’s value for money. If it goes on sale in the UK, it’ll likely be sold through BYD’s 60-strong dealer network and covered by the same 6 year/93,750-mile warranty.


What does Yangwang’s badge mean?

The graphic on Yangwang’s badge is derived from a Chinese glyph that means electricity.

Who builds the Yangwang U8

The U8 is built by Chinese car maker, BYD, which in the first half of 2023 sold more electric vehicles around the world than Tesla.

Is the Yangwang U8 a plug-in hybrid?

The U8 has electric motors and a petrol engine like a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) but because the engine never drives the wheels directly it’s technically a range extender electric vehicle. There's also a fully electric version.

Read more: Best plug-in hybrid cars

Read more: Best luxury SUVs

Read more: All the electric cars coming soon

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