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How The BYD Seal Performed At The Drenched Zhuhai International Circuit

Wet weather revealed the Seal’s talents in swimming its way along the circuit confidently.
James Wong
James Wong
12 Oct 2023
The remarkably composed way the Seal went about the day was deeply impressive.

Zhuhai, China - “Please expect some turbulence later into the flight”, was the caution that echoed as we boarded to depart Singapore for Hong Kong. Little did we know then that a typhoon was brewing in the South China Sea and headed towards the Pearl River Delta.

We were told it would avoid Zhuhai, which would mean our drive on the Zhuhai International Circuit (ZIC) the next day would be unaffected. But fast forward a day later and the forecast was cloudy and rainy. It seemed that the typhoon decided to make its way to our direction instead.

It meant a wet and slippery session at ZIC with the BYD Seal, which actually made things a lot more interesting from a driving perspective. The low grip conditions lowered the limits of the Seal, so we easily breached them, giving us a chance to truly experience the Seal in the worst possible weather.

The world’s a stage for the Seal

BYD flew a huge group of journalists and its dealers to China for the premiere of the Seal. It’s evident that BYD wants to make a big splash with its newest car, with a track event at ZIC as well as a tour of BYD’s HQ in Shenzhen.

During the pre-event speech at ZIC, BYD’s General Manager of Asia Pacific Auto Sales, Liu Xueliang, shared how BYD already earmarked Singapore’s importance as a forefront market for BEVs very early on in its history, right after its home country, China.

China’s OG driving circuit

The ZIC is 4.3 km long and consists of 14 corners, with no elevation changes. It is set in a quieter inland part of Zhuhai, away from the bustling bay area where we stayed the previous night, famously known as Lovers’ Road.

Nonetheless, ZIC is set among tall office buildings and condominiums, and could pass off as an urban circuit. However, the track is generously wide and large, which offers an interesting contrast. Built in 1996, ZIC is the foremost circuit in Southern China and is a hub of track activity for Hong Kong and the Guangdong region.

A track drive in the BYD Seal… Again?

At first, I quizzed myself at how much more I could learn about the BYD Seal, after driving it at Changi Exhibition Centre (CEC) on a seemingly similar track event.

But as it were, I had nothing to worry about. While CEC was tight and designed as a gymkhana, thereby limiting how fast we could actually go, ZIC allowed us to hit higher speeds in sweeping bends and well sighted corners. It told a story of the Seal that I didn’t expect to hear, in a very positive way.

First up, handling courses

Our first exercises of the day were two handling courses, where I got to try both the Seal AWD Performance as well as the RWD model. It coincided with the time that it started to rain rather heavily. We were given raincoats and umbrellas.

The instructors pushed on with the schedule and off we went in the AWD Seal. Immediately, the stiffness of the Seal’s CTB chassis could be felt, giving secure and predictable handling despite the inclement conditions. Intelligent Torque Activation Control (iTAC) worked beautifully to maximise grip across all four wheels and genuinely felt like it was cleverly shuffling power around. Any possible oversteer was quickly corrected and the excess power put to useful work. Due to the gentle angles of the corners and greater space in the entries and exits, I didn’t feel the light steering here was as much a handicap as it was at CEC. Overall, there was a purposeful way in the way the Seal went about the track, and there was hardly anything disagreeable.

The next car I drove was the RWD Seal. Here things are friskier and for a skilled driver, there is more fun to be had. Even with ESC on, it is possible to use the rear to pivot around corners and the car is even more willing to do it in the wet. On the large ZIC track, more pace was demanded of the RWD model, but it was playful in the corners and seemed to have a purer, more distilled character.

Go Fast, then Stop

We were then whisked away to the acceleration and braking course. Here we used the Seal AWD Performance exclusively. With the road soaked in water, full acceleration off the line was met with iTAC decisively braking and applying power where necessary, so progress was defined by this intervention – but it felt very confident and natural.

Braking was also very impressive, and as noted from our CEC drive, while the Seal has very mild regenerative braking, it also translated to a more natural braking feel. ABS duly clamped the brake discs haltingly and got the car to a standstill in no time.

Full track driving… Finally

We had to don our helmets and balaclavas for this final exercise of the day. We followed the instructor car and I was in the second car tailing the instructor.

With the Performance variant, its prowess on the handling courses was confirmed by how it felt on the whole track. There is a nonplussed demeanour about the Seal as it hurls down the main straight at 140+ km/h. The braking feel was strong and allowed full confidence to go at speed. Corners were taken flat and in most cases we can ride the inside kerb.

If I left Singapore with any doubts about the Seal on the track, it was gone there and then. The remarkably composed way the Seal went about the day was deeply impressive. No squeaks, no rattles and certainly no cars that faced any sort of error. It’s really a great achievement for a road car - and a first iteration of its kind at that.

What we learnt and why it’s relevant

The Seal is proof that China’s progress in the BEV space is truly impressive. Chinese companies have had a head start with building EVs due to directives from the government. This allowed them to learn from their mistakes much earlier and be further ahead in the game today.

China also has much of the minerals needed to build batteries that power EVs. It has, in a way, secured the supply chain and isn’t beholden to anybody for it. In turn, China could focus on building battery technology, as evidenced with BYD’s Blade battery.

Lastly, China is also a doyen in manufacturing and has learnt much about quality, design and appeal. The latest Seal is a testament to that, a car that many of us at the event would pick over a Tesla Model 3. And that says a lot!

Photos by James Wong and BYD


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