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Nio ES7 first test drive and review: Ready for Europe

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There are two ways of seeing the new Nio ES7. Firstly it can be seen as an SUV version of the ET7 sedan which went on sale earlier this year. And certainly, when it comes to equipment, setup and the interior this is true. The other way is to see it as an evolution of the brand’s first generations ES6. Like the ES6, the ES7 is only a five seater and also there is a similarity to the lines with the ES7 also gaining the flat window line of the older model, even if it does get the newer looking front of the ET7 sedan.

Exterior

Size wise the ES7 slips in between Nio’s two existing SUVs but is much closer in size to the ES6. Spy shots indicate that Nio has under development an ES8 replacement on the new NT2.0 platform. For the moment it would seem that the ES6 will continue to be sold, especially as the starting price of the ES6 is RMB80,000 lower.

At 4912mm the ES7 is large as five seat SUVs go, it is 62mm longer than the ES6 and is also wider but not quite as tall. What sets the ES7 apart from its older sibling is the new platform. While the older generation of Nio cars did have relatively capable driving assistance aids the new NT2.0 platform has been designed from the ground up to radically increase this ability. Visually the most noticeable difference in Nio’s second generation vehicles is the watchtower sensor housing where the windshield meets the roof. This houses a central LIDAR unit flanked on both sides by 8 megapixel autonomous driving cameras. In total there are 33 sensors surrounding the car.

I wish I could tell you more about what these sensors allow the car to do but as seems to be the case with every car launched in China today the system has yet to be activated. Next month Nio will allow media tests of the new system, most probably on an ET7, and will soon be launching them to the buying public who will need to pay RMB680 per month for the privilege. Likely cars featuring the system will be able to have a high degree of self-driving ability in both inner-city and highway environments. What I can tell you is that Nio’s Adam supercomputing platform is supposedly seven times more powerful than that used by Tesla for FSD, so when it comes to crunching it certainly can process a lot of data from all those sensors.

Interior & Infotainment

Nio currently are keeping buying decisions very simple when it comes to the second generation vehicles, perhaps they’re hoping to replicate the success of Li here. Unlike Li though the choice doesn’t come down to just paint and interior colours. With the ES7 like the ET7 you can either get the base model car or you can get the Premier Edition as tested, which adds the larger 100kW battery pack, 21-inch wheels, Nappa leather and a swivelling Nomi on the dashboard. These can all of course be added to the base car but the Premier Edition comes in cheaper than individually specifying them.

The interior of the ES7 looks very similar to that of the ET7. What is also apparent is Nio trying to position itself on environmentally friendly credentials, although not quite to the same extent as Polestar. This might be connected to Nio’s push into the European market where such elements can influence buyers particularly when going head to head with other EVs and luxury cars. For example the Nappa leather is tanned in a far more environmentally friendly manner using coffee bean shell waste which eliminates the use of heavy metals. The base car gets Haptex vegan leather for the seats which is meant to be better wearing than real leather. Then there is the Karuun veneer material produced from rattan wood. Nio are also the first producer in China to use R1234yf for their air conditioning, this is for EU compliance and it is meant to be a more environmentally friendly coolant for AC.

Most functions are controlled by the 12.8-inch AMOLED infotainment screen and with the majority Nio’s AI assistant Nomi can activate them in response to voice commands. One of the few buttons on the centre console is the one that brings up the drive mode menu on the screen. The driver gets both a head up display and a digital instrument display. Materials are good with soft plastics, microfiber and nicely graining Karuun covering all surfaces. Both driver and front passenger get heating, ventilation and massage functions on the seats. In addition the front “queen seat” had an electrically adjustable leg support and there is a foot rest that folds down from below the dashboard.

The opening panoramic roof makes the cabin airy, and in the back there is plenty of legroom and headroom. Rear seats can be electrically adjusted for rake but they only get a heated seat function. While the trunk has a hidden storage compartment taking volume up to 658 litres there is currently no privacy cover or parcel shelf for the rear.

Performance & Driving Feel

One of my biggest criticisms of the ET7 was the front wheel drive bias setup of the car. The ES7 inherits this right down to exactly the same electric motors – the front motor provides 180kW while the rear delivers 300kW with an all up torque figure of 850Nm. Despite the stronger motor being at the back it is mainly used for bursts of acceleration with the front motor doing most of the driving. However, I don’t think this is such a problem with an SUV. There’s no shortage of front wheel drive soft-roaders, although admittedly not from the German competition, and ultimately the kind of buyers for this segment are not so interested in all out performance.

That’s not to say the ES7 is lacking in performance, in Sport Plus mode the car is only 0.1 seconds slower than its sedan sibling. Ultimately, though, with the ES7 Nio are emphasising more of a lifestyle. By the time it comes to market more drive modes such as Snow and Sand will join the ones carried over from the ET7. Then there is the optional electrically deployable towing hook. Covid has inspired a generation of Chinese to take more adventurous off the grid type trips especially glamping. As the first car in China to gain legal certification for towing – the ES7 can manage two tons – the car is very much aimed at people embracing this new outdoors joie de vivre.

I drove the car in a variety of conditions from inner city, to highway and even a stretch on mountain roads. Most of the modes are set up for comfort and that’s no bad thing, with steering light and the air suspension on soft. There is though an Individual mode which allows you to customise settings. On the mountain roads Sport Plus with its 3.8 seconds acceleration proved too much to handle and Sport which drops down the response to around 5.9s was far more manageable. Despite some wallowing the ES7 stayed remarkably planted on the road and performed in a comparable way to the long wheelbase BMW X5L which I got to drive on the same road. That the drive is directly comparable speaks volumes that Nio is really ready to tackle Europe.

Overall it would seem Nio is on to a winner with the ES7. It probably provides a better cabin environment than the ET7 and certainly with the trunk is more usable. And being an SUV the performance shortcomings of the front wheel drive bias setup are simply not so much of an issue. Prices in China for the ES7 start at RMB468,000 ($69,300 | €67,850) for the base car and rise to RMB548,000 ($81,100 | €79,450) for the Premier Edition

What next?

Nio seems to be really pushing the lifestyle element. At the media event they had a glamping activity and they gave us in the goody bag a Nio Life Outdoor camping chair. What I expect is that Nio is going to have a lot of events over the coming months to further this, expect some long range drives to remote parts of China, perhaps off road, with the ES7. They will be emphasising the towing and the V2L (vehicle to load) capabilities. V2L is where the car can power camping equipment.

Secondly, if you look at the first generation models they all have even numbers whereas so far the second generation are all odd numbers. Therefore I see the ES7 as the second generation ES6, expect an ES9 (currently known as Aries) as an ES8 replacement. As the ES8 debuted in 2018 I would expect it to go out of production not long after the ES9 goes on sale in 2023, there is also speculation of an EC7. Obviously Nio has been busy this year with the launch of 3 new models but I believe next year will be every bit as busy.

Verdict

Power & Drive feeling: 8
Passenger space: 9
Tech and UX: 6*
Price quality ratio: 10
*largely because not fully operable and also not the English system to fully test

The best thing: Comfortable

The worst thing: FWD bias

Total: 95% CNC Rating.

Overall: When we drove the ET7 we were impressed but with the ES7 it seems Nio have created a car that is easier to live with and that will appeal to today’s consumers in both China and Europe. Perhaps not surprising given that Nio is best known for SUVs the ES7 is Nio’s best car so far. International success is though going to be very dependent on what price point Nio chooses and whether they can match the service levels provided in China with differentiators such as the battery swapping.

Update: We added some highlights from our ES7 Q&A session with Nio fans as it got pretty interesting

Is the interior significantly improved compared to ES8? They say Nio is a high-end manufacturer. From the pictures I have seen on the internet, I always had the feeling interior is cheap. How is it compared to some European models? Can you compare it with Audi or BMW, or Mercedes? How does it stand? Material quality and ergonomics, and general feel?

Improved compared to ES8. There is a massive difference between the first and second-generation models. While I wouldn’t call the interiors of the first generation cheap, there’s a palpable step up in quality with the second generation, both in aesthetics and overall feel. I hopped into a BMW X5L on the same day as driving the Nio ES7; there really wasn’t any discernible difference in quality. However, when testing the ET7 earlier this year, I rode in an ES8, and I could feel the change.

I often speak with two other well-known English language reviewers; one of them doesn’t like the Karuun material but the other and I do.

A few weeks before I tested the ET7, I had driven Audi A7L, and I would say the ET7 was better in practically every way.

One question: would you buy it?
If I had the money, I would definitely consider it. Obviously, the XPeng G9 might be a competitor, but I haven’t driven that yet.

I would say for most people, the ES7 will probably appeal more than the ET7. You have a more usable trunk space, and the performance issues with the motor setup are not such a problem for an SUV where you care more about comfort than all-out handling.

How does it compare to the Model Y, and which one would you go for?
The Model Y is not really a proper SUV, more like a crossover. The ES7 on the other hand is an SUV, whether it has much in the way of off road ability remains to be seen.

Price wise a top spec Model Y is probably about comparable price wise to the base ES7 but with the ES7 you get a much larger, more comfortable car with better materials. With regard to range you are trading the Supercharger network for the battery swapping network.

I am not a big fan of the everything on one screen approach by Tesla in the Y. In the ES7 you have not only a head up display but a proper instrument panel. Also in Nio the voice control actually works, my experience with Tesla it is that it does a good job transcribing what you say but doesn’t seem to do anything particularly useful.

So I’d definitely go for an ES7 over a Model Y

How is the energy consumption? Better than EC6/ES6?
Difficult to say as China this year has switched to using CLTC whereas older cars are quoted in NEDC for range and so with the resultant calculations. I would say though it is probably about the same or perhaps better.

The base car has a 75kWh range is 486km on 20-inch and 450km on 21-inch wheels
With 100kWh it’s 620/575. For the 150kWh the only quoted figure is 930km

What didn’t you like compared to other cars
The best car from Nio so far. Regarding complaints the one thing I wish it had would be stronger braking regeneration and that it would come to an actual halt rather than coasting after reducing the speed. With the equipment, I wish it had a massage and ventilation function on the rear seats or at least as an optional extra plus it should have some sort of privacy cover for the trunk – that though is meant to be coming as an extra.

Do you think it will sell well?
Yes. It’s the same quality, powertrain, etc. as ET7 and I would say for most people the ES7 will probably appeal more than the ET7. You have a more usable trunk space and the performance issues with the motor setup are not such a problem for an SUV where you care more about comfort than all-out handling. Also, it has an electric tow and china is now crazy about caravans.

As far as price goes from $70,000to $81,000, is this considered a reasonable price for high-end car and will it have enough demand? Can a midclass in China afford this car?

There is definitely enough demand for this car in China. Price wise it comes in under the amounts for the German competition.

Do you think this will affect EC6 sales since both are 5 seater SUV?
I don’t think it will affect sales of the EC6 at all as is not an SUV coupe, it’s a different market segment. However, I think it might have a big effect on sales of the ES6. They’re both 5 seat SUVs broadly of the same size, the only advantage the ES6 has going for it still is the cheaper starting price. Regarding the EC6, there is meant to be an EC7 under development, according to a guy on Weibo. I’ve possibly seen spy shots as well. If and when that comes out, it will influence EC6 sales.

How is the overall quality compared to Tesla? Ie. misaligned panel and gaps, loose trim, etc.

With regard to Tesla, I think you are talking about American-made Teslas; the ones made in China are much better. The quality of Nio is comparable to any competent world producer.

How many liters is the trunk? And what is the width of the trunk?

There is a hidden compartment that increases the volume from 570 to 658 litres. Seats down 1,545 litres.

Sorry no idea about the width of the trunk, but the width of the car is 1987mm, so it is a wide car.

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