Fangchengbao Bao 5 DMO (2024 Chinese-market car) review
BYD’s spinoff SUV brand wants to take on the Land Cruiser and Defender with this big plug-in hybrid 4x4.
Neil Briscoe
Neil Briscoe

Published on May 10, 2024

The Fangchengbao Bao 5 is undeniably a great-looking car, packing in visual references to the Land Rover Defender, the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Ford Bronco yet still managing to look unique. However, it will need a name change - and some suspension changes - if it’s going to take on the best European and Japanese 4x4s.

In the metal

BYD - Build Your Dreams - is fast becoming known among Irish drivers. How many of us have recently hailed a cab and found it to be a BYD Atto 3 crossover? Certainly, many have slapped down a deposit on a Seal saloon, as it’s one of the best-selling electric cars in the country right now (currently in sixth place in the Irish electric charts).

So, the company billed as the ‘biggest car maker you’ve never heard of’ is rapidly becoming heard of. This, then, is the next step - proliferation. BYD soon won’t be selling just BYD products. It already has plans to bring its premium Denza brand here, and the Yangwang super-luxury brand is also gearing up for an eventual European debut. And then there’s this - Fangchengbao.

While that name might be a bit of a mouthful for European consumers (it translates, very roughly, as “Excellent Leopard”), this off-road focused spinoff brand from BYD is destined for these shores too, although to better suit European tastes it will probably be rebadged to slot into the Denza model lineup.

This Bao 5 is the first product from Fangchengbao, but it’s a brand that’s expanding fast. At the recent Beijing motor show, we saw the larger Bao 8 model with six- or seven-seat layouts inside, as well as the Super 3 concept which previews a compact Qashqai and Tucson rival. There’s also the matter of the Fangchengbao Super 9 concept, which is - unlike the rest of the 4x4 lineup - a roofless, windscreen-less electric roadster in the mould of the McLaren Elva and Ferrari Monza. It’s only a concept for now, but the BYD execs were quite seriously talking up its production prospects at the Beijing event.

Well, that’s all for the future we suppose but right here and now is the Bao 5 and it’s a serious-looking rival for the Toyota Land Cruiser and Land Rover Defender. As mentioned above, it’s handsome on the outside and if anything, the interior is even better. It’s a largely digital cabin experience as you might expect, with big 12.3-inch screens for the driver’s instruments and the passenger’s entertainment, plus a larger 15-inch screen in the centre of the dash for the primary infotainment and controls. You get a steering wheel with a squared-off base, and some chunky controls for gear selection and driving modes, but alas the climate controls are on the screen and therefore rather fiddly. The sheer comfort of the front seats makes up for that somewhat, and the view out through the upright windscreen is excellent.

In the back, there’s space aplenty although on the standard springs you do have to heave yourself up a long way to get there. There’s room for three people to get comfortable though. The boot is huge too, although the side-hinged door will limit practicality in some circumstances. Fangchengbao hasn’t issued an official boot volume yet, but it looks subjectively like an easy match for the plug-in hybrid version of the Land Rover Defender.

Driving it

We were limited by Chinese regulations (not allowed to drive on public roads without a special permit) and time to a short drive on a tight and twisty test track that’s more usually home to go-karts. Not the ideal place to be driving a Bao 5 with its gargantuan 220mm ground clearance, and its ability to tackle a 35-degree approach angle and a 32-degree departure angle. This is a serious 4x4, not an SUV really, and that becomes even more apparent when you start looking at the powertrain.

The Bao 5 uses BYD’s DM-i plug-in hybrid system, centred around a 1.5-litre petrol engine and two electric motors fed by a 31.8kWh ‘Blade’ lithium-iron phosphate battery pack. That pack can be fast-charged at up to 100kW on DC power, but a rather slower 6kW on AC.

Sadly we didn’t get a chance to drive it off-road, but the fact that the Bao 5 is designed to be driven primarily in electric mode (a full charge gets you 125km of electric range according to the official Chinese test results, although the official figure is likely to be considerably less once it’s been through the European WLTP certification) and that means torque - all 760Nm of it - can be carefully parcelled out to the wheels that need it most, which is ideal for mud-plugging and rock-climbing. Like its bigger sibling, the Yangwang U8, the Bao 5 can tank turn, spinning 360 degrees on the spot. BYD calls this off-road focused powertrain DMO, the O standard for Off-road.

It’s also immensely powerful, with a quoted maximum power output of almost 690hp, which is kind of ridiculous when you consider that the Land Rover Defender P400e does very nicely on 400hp and the new Toyota Land Cruiser on even less.

The thing is, though, that as we exit the pit lane of the little test track near the industrial sprawl of Shenzhen city, the Bao 5 doesn’t feel as if it’s giving us full power. In fact, acceleration is leisurely, and certainly not the massive thump you’d expect from the on-paper figures. Perhaps someone had de-tuned the system a little to prevent us barrel-rolling off into the weeds at the first corner?

Speaking of corners, the Bao 5 doesn’t like them, at least not in this form. Wearing locally-produced ‘Giti’ tyres it instantly understeers to the outside of any of the corners on the track tackled at more than a very gentle pace, and the soft suspension means that there’s copious body lean and a hint of a ‘lazy-8’ from the rear suspension when swinging the big nose from one direction to the other.

That said, it’s not appalling and there are some potential fixes on the way. BYD officials did admit that the suspension - set soft, currently, in line with Chinese market tastes - will probably be retuned for Europe and beyond, and there is the option of trick hydraulic suspension, borrowed from the bigger Yangwang U8. Equally, exported Bao 5s should be on BF Goodrich or Michelin tyres, which should help a lot. On the upside, the Bao 5 feels solid to drive with nicely weighted steering so there’s the potential for something very good here.

What you get for your money

An Irish launch is some way off yet, but the Bao 5 could turn out to be one of the motoring bargains of the next few years. In China, right now, the basic model sells for the equivalent of €37,000 which is almost ridiculous. Reengineering and passing European homologation tests will doubtless drive the price up, but even so the Bao 5 looks likely to significantly undercut the likes of the Land Rover Defender and Toyota Land Cruiser when it finally does arrive. We’ll keep you posted on potential Irish launch dates.


The Fangchengbao Bao 5 is a pretty impressive thing, albeit with the big caveats that the suspension and tyres need sorting, and we still don’t think we’ve driven one with all its power available just yet. However, it looks terrific, has a great cabin, and if BYD can sort the handling and bring it in at a truly competitive (perhaps even a bargain?) price, then this Bao 5 - badge or otherwise - could well be giving the best European and Japanese off-roaders a seriously hard time.


Tech Specs

Model testedFangchengbao Bao 5 DMO
Irish pricingnot sold in Ireland
Powertrainplug-in hybrid - 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, 200kW electric motor up front and 285kW motor at rear, plus 31.8kWh lithium-iron phosphate battery pack
Transmissionautomatic - e-CVT gearbox, all-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat SUV
Irish motor tax€140 per annum (estimated)
Official electric range125km (according to Chinese-market test)
Top speed180km/h
0-100km/h4.8 seconds
Max power687hp
Max torque760Nm
Kerb weight2,890kg
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