AP exclusive test – Nio ES8: the Chinese Tesla Model X

Nio is a Chinese manufacturer that recently landed in Europe via Norway. Maxime Fontanier traveled to Oslo to evaluate the ES8 large SUV offered at a tight price compared to the competition. His discovery did not appeal to European and American brands.

Nio’s arrival in Europe

In the middle of 2019, some alarmists predicted the rapid disappearance of the Chinese brand Nio, which previously faced a serious recall of its first electric cars due to the risk of battery fire. A year ago, this manufacturer put a snub on them by showing good health and significant ambitions.

Europe? Yes for 2025, said Lihong Qin, president of Nio, in May 2019. At the end of 2020, this deadline has been pushed back to the second half of 2021, for the first drop-off point envisaged in Copenhagen, Denmark. The new deadline was met, but in the end Norway and Oslo were chosen to open the first Nio House in Europe in October last year.

Its mission: The distribution of ET7 sedan and ES8 SUV. It was the latter that Maxime Fontanier went to discover for Automobile Propre. Note that Nio offers the exchange of batteries in a few minutes at dedicated stations. That, too, was tested by our prolific partner. This unique experience is the subject of a specific video and article.


Up to 543 hp!

By offering a large high-end SUV that covers an area of ​​5.022 x 1.962 m, for a height of 1.756 m, Nio seems to take the Tesla Model X (5.057 x 1.999 x 1.680 m). Especially since the ES8 offers 6 or 7 seats, depending on the configuration of the second row of seats: six seats if it has two seats with clearance between the two to facilitate access to the back, or seven seat if it consists of a seat seat.

It is in this last combination that our tester reporter met the Chinese electric car. It has intelligent all-wheel drive thanks to 2 motors that develop a combined power of up to 400 kW or 543 hp (160 kW or 218 hp at the front / 240 kW or 326 hp at the rear), for maximum torque of 725 Nm.

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What is going down from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds, before spinning towards a top speed of 200 km/h. However, it is possible to choose one of the two quiet driving modes (Comfort, Eco). This will preserve battery life.

The 150 kWh pack, for about 800 km before recharging, is not yet available. The copy we disposed of received one with an energy capacity of 100 kWh, which is credited with a 500 km WLTP range in the combined cycle. A smaller endowment is also available: 75 kWh.

Very Chinese style

There is no doubt that the man with the hat would have been riding in the two-seater electric supercar that has been welcoming visitors to Nio House in Oslo since its opening. The EP9 distinguished itself in May 2017 at the Nürburgring by completing the lap in 06:45.900.

No, no, Maxime is not even in a dream: this is the ES8 SUV that is waiting for you on a nearby road! He, and Nomi, is your travel companion installed in the middle of the dashboard to make sure everything goes well during your test. The boiling of the car almost seems to have been obtained from a mixture between two other Chinese cars: the MG Marvel R and Aiways U5.

Turning to the ES8, we quickly noticed the abundance of cameras and radar: under the hood, facing the road at the level of the interior mirror, outside, at the very bottom of the rear bumper, etc. The model tested is based on air suspensions that allow a particular lowering of the ride height to facilitate access on board, and the 21-inch alloy wheels fitted with Continental tires of 265 /45.

A modular trunk

Behind the electrically opening tailgate, the trunk offers a volume of 310 liters, which can be increased to 871 and 1,861 l by gradually folding the two-part backrest of the second and third row of seats. In the six-seat version, the space can increase to 1,901 l.

Depending on the items to be carried, it is possible to condemn some wheelchairs and not others. This unique modularity makes it possible to carry relatively long items while still carrying 4 or 5 people. The Nio ES8 is a true example of this level. In addition, the back of the wheel arches is well cleaned. What about charging cables? They can be stored in a false bottom of their scale.

I am very impressed with the build quality of this model. “said the man with the hat after discovering the different materials that line the cabin and the good connection of the openings. Thanks to a panoramic and sliding glass roof, all passengers enjoy good light. Except to launch a relaxation session that causes the blackout panel to close.

The comfort of people brought back

Carrying more than five people in a car is sometimes necessary, especially for large families. From the 1950s and even before until the eighties, French manufacturers were already thinking about it, with 7 and sometimes 8-seater configurations, without using a utility vehicle. So, for examples, Peugeot with the 203, 403, 404, 504 and 505 family, and Citroën with Traction, DS and CX.

What is unique about Nio is the idea of ​​foamed armrests and cup holders for 2 people placed closest to the boot. Note that the center row slides, in a different way, between the person sitting on the right and the one on the left. Both also benefit from heated and ventilated seats.

In the 7-seater version, access to everything in the back requires agility. If the front bay is well forward or the backrests are lowered, the legroom is correct.

On the other hand, it is better not to accommodate people over 1.80 m tall. Even if the ceiling lamp is wrapped and covered with a beautiful alcantara cover. The legs are far from the seat, which is not necessarily very nice. It is very different from the seat directly in front, where there is a lot of space everywhere.

The driver’s point of view

Storage is available throughout the Nio ES8. Except without a glove box, like the Aiways U5. The driver and his right-hand neighbor are surrounded by padded areas covered in leather with stitching. Their seats are electrically adjustable.

While some manufacturers deprive the latter of height adjustment, Nio, on the contrary, improves it by giving it a relaxed position with a pillow that can be raised to extend the legs. Attention that can make a difference when choosing between several models of electric cars.

Clearly, the digital instrumentation is complemented by the head-up display and the controls are grouped on the steering wheel: on the left for driving aids, on the right to manage multimedia.

All systems can also be configured with the tablet planted in portrait mode. Including cabin airflows, Tesla-style. He was very responsive. In order not to leave fingerprints on the screen, a wheel and buttons are used to navigate the menus and validate changes.

dash

Before taking off, the height and depth of the steering wheel can be adjusted electrically. ” We have good visibility in this car “Maxime Fontanier is immediately noticeable. And this, thanks to the high seat, thin front pillars, good-sized windows and mirrors, and a 360-degree view.

The drive selector comes in the form of a large rocker button located on the left of the console. The steering is quite smooth from the start. ” For a 4×4 with big 21-inch wheels, it’s comfortable “, appreciates the videographer tester while progressing through the cobbled streets of Oslo.

If the Nio ES8 appears to be dynamic in the city, its revving power seems light, even in sport mode, compared to most other electric cars. What impresses driving this fashionable SUV is seeing the cameras of other road and street users, including pedestrians and cyclists. Which results in Nomi’s virtual head or eye movements, or voice warnings when needed.

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Expressways

Now that we know Nomi can talk, we also know she shows her disapproval when ES8 is teased. ” The downside of these connected cars is that they are watching you. We are in an intermediate stage: the driver is not fully responsible, but the car is not fully autonomous. And while we don’t have this total autonomy, we have the car that teaches us lessons », explained Maxime Fontanier.

By taking a slightly sharp curve, ESP comes into play. It’s not completely submerged. Not bad for such a big car. “, assures our automotive tester.

The engine still weighs 2,425 kg. Thanks to the tires with a slightly sporty profile, the car benefits from good grip on dry roads. With a wet surface, or more slippery, of course it is necessary to moderate its heat on the tire.

Consumption and autonomy

During our test, which included city and busy highways, we recorded an average consumption of 23.2 kWh/100 km. And this, without pushing the Nio ES8 too much.

In these conditions, experienced by many motorists in Ile-de-France, the autonomy, with the limit of power failure, reaches 430 km. By the end of the course, the numbers were down to 21.9 kWh/100 km (456 km).


Prices

In Oslo, the Nio ES8 was shown for 539,000 Norwegian kroner. Which gives a little more than 53,000 euros. But beware: In this Scandinavian country, there is no tax on electric cars.

For France, by applying 20% ​​VAT, we arrive at a price of 63,600 euros. However, it should not be accepted at face value, because manufacturers usually allow themselves some freedom from one country to another, depending on the aid given or the desire to increase sales in some territories.

Even at this price level, a 7-seater SUV, with performance highlighted by our specialist reporter, excellent autonomy, and a convincing finish, has reason to worry European manufacturers.

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