Nio is a Chinese manufacturer who has just landed in Europe via Norway. Maxime Fontanier traveled to Oslo to evaluate the ES8 large SUV offered at a tight price compared to those of the competition. What he discovered is not going to really appeal to European and American brands.
The arrival of Nio in Europe
In mid-2019, a few ominous birds had predicted the rapid disappearance of the Chinese brand Nio, which was then faced with a serious massive recall of its first electric cars due to a risk of fire in the batteries. A year later, this manufacturer threw a snub at them by displaying 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 had already been brought back to the second half of 2021, for a first drop-off point envisaged in Copenhagen, Denmark. The new deadline was met, but ultimately choosing Norway and Oslo to open Europe’s first Nio House in October last year.
Its mission: To distribute the ET7 sedan and the ES8 SUV. It is the latter that Maxime Fontanier went to discover for Automobile Propre. Note that Nio offers the exchange of batteries in a few minutes in dedicated stations. That too, our prolific colleague has tested. This amazing 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 be picking up 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 further back, or seven seats when it consists of a bench seat.
It was in this last combination that our tester journalist encountered the Chinese electric car. It has intelligent all-wheel drive thanks to 2 motors which 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 a maximum torque of 725 Nm.
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What to bring down the 0 to 100 km / h in 4.9 seconds, before spinning towards the top speed of 200 km / h. However, it is possible to choose one of the two quieter driving modes (Comfort, Eco). This will preserve battery life.
The 150 kWh pack, for around 800 km before recharging, is not yet available. The copy at our disposal received one with an energy capacity of 100 kWh, credited with 500 km of WLTP range in the combined cycle. A smaller endowment also already exists: 75 kWh.
A very Chinese style
No doubt the man with the cap would have taken a ride in the two-seater electric supercar that has welcomed visitors to the Nio House in Oslo since its opening. The EP9 distinguished itself in May 2017 on the Nürburgring by completing the lap in 06:45.900.
No, no, Maxime not even in a dream: it’s the ES8 SUV waiting for you in an adjacent street! Him, and Nomi, your travel companion installed in the middle of the dashboard to ensure that everything goes well during your test drive. The boiling of the vehicle almost seems to have been obtained from a mixture between two other Chinese cars: the MG Marvel R and Aiways U5.
Turning around the ES8, we quickly notice the abundance of cameras and radars: under the hood, facing the road at the level of the interior mirror, in those outside, at the very bottom of the rear bumper, etc. The model tested is based on air suspensions which allow in particular to lower the body height to facilitate access on board, and 21-inch alloy wheels fitted with Continental tires in 265/45.
A modular trunk
Behind the electrically opening tailgate, the trunk offers a volume of 310 litres, which can be extended to 871 and 1,861 l by gradually folding the two-part backrests of the second and third rows of seats. On the six-seater version, the space can even climb to 1,901 l.
Depending on the items to be transported, it is possible to condemn certain wheelchairs and not others. This exceptional modularity makes it possible to carry relatively long objects while still carrying 4 or 5 people. The Nio ES8 is a real example at this level. In addition, the rear of the wheel arches are well cleared. What about charging cables? They can be stored in a false bottom to their measure.
” I am really very impressed with the build quality of this model. “says the man with the cap after discovering the different materials that line the cabin and the good joint of the openings. Thanks to a panoramic and sliding glass roof, all passengers enjoy good light. Except to launch a relaxation session which triggers the closing of a blackout panel.
The comfort of people transported in the back
Carrying more than five people in a car is sometimes a necessity, especially for large families. From the 1950s and even before until the eighties, French manufacturers had already thought about it, with 7 and sometimes 8-seater configurations, without resorting to fitting out a utility vehicle. Thus, for examples, Peugeot with its 203, 403, 404, 504 and 505 family, and Citroën with the Traction, DS and CX.
What is remarkable about Nio is to have thought of foamed armrests and cup holders for the 2 people installed closest to the boot. Note that the central row is sliding, in a differentiated way, between the person seated on the right and the one on the left. Both also benefit from heated and ventilated seats.
In the 7-seater version, accessing everything at the rear requires agility. Provided that the bay just ahead is well forward or that the backrests are lowered, the legroom is correct.
On the other hand, it will be better not to accommodate people over 1.80 m tall. Even if the ceiling lamp is padded and covered with a beautiful alcantara covering. The legs are well off the seat, which is not necessarily very pleasant. It’s quite different on the bench seat directly in front, where space is everywhere plentiful.
The driver’s point of view
Storage is available throughout the Nio ES8. Except that there is no glove box, like on 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 a height adjustment, Nio, on the contrary, pampers it by providing it with a relaxing position with a cushion to raise to have the legs extended. Attention that could well make the difference when choosing between several models of electric cars.
Very clear, the digital instrumentation is completed by the head-up display and the controls grouped together on the steering wheel: on the left for the driving aids, on the right to manage the multimedia.
All systems can also be configured with the tablet implanted in portrait mode. Including the airflows in the cabin, Tesla-style. She is very responsive. In order not to leave fingerprints on the screen, a wheel and buttons are used to navigate through the menus and validate the modifications.
Before setting off, the height and depth of the steering wheel can be adjusted electrically. ” We have good visibility in this vehicle “Immediately noticed Maxime Fontanier. And this, thanks to a high seat, thin pillars at the front, well-sized windows and mirrors, and a 360-degree view.
The drive selector comes in the form of a large rocker button housed on the left of the console. The steering is relatively smooth from the outset. ” For a 4×4 with big 21-inch wheels, it’s quite comfortable “, appreciates the videographer tester while evolving in the cobbled streets of Oslo.
If the Nio ES8 appears quite dynamic in the city, its regeneration power seems rather light, even in sport mode, when compared to the vast majority of other electric cars. What impresses when driving with this trendy SUV is the detection by the cameras of other street and road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. Which translates into Nomi’s virtual head or eye movement, or voice warnings as needed.
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Now that we know that Nomi can talk, we also find out that he shows his disapproval when the ES8 is heckled. ” The downside of these connected cars is that they are watching you. We are in an intermediate phase: the driver is not entirely responsible, but the car is not completely autonomous. And as long as we don’t have this total autonomy, we have the car that teaches us lessons », explains Maxime Fontanier.
By taking a little sharply a curve, the ESP comes into play. It didn’t completely wallow. Not bad for such a big vehicle. “, assures our automotive tester.
The machine still weighs 2,425 kg. Thanks to the tires which have a relatively sporty profile, the car benefits from good grip on dry roads. With a wet surface, or even more slippery, it will of course be necessary to moderate its ardor at the wheel.
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 jostling the Nio ES8 too much.
In these conditions, experienced by a lot of motorists in Ile-de-France, autonomy, bordering on power failure, would amount to around 430 km. At the end of the course, the figures even went down to 21.9 kWh/100 km (456 km).
In Oslo, the Nio ES8 is displayed at 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 a 20% VAT, we would arrive at a price of 63,600 euros. Not to be taken at face value, however, because manufacturers often allow themselves a few freedoms from one country to another, depending on the aid granted or the desire to boost sales in certain territories.
Even at this price level, a 7-seater SUV, with the performance highlighted by our specialist journalist, excellent autonomy, and a convincing finish, has reason to worry European manufacturers.
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