Nio ET7 test: is this the car that silenced Elon Musk?

We can now release a quartet of new Chinese car brands. Nio (Chinese and fully electric) is not only new in the Netherlands, the brand has only been around for eight years. William Li stood on his balcony and saw that a thick layer of smog hung over his hometown. His wife was heavily pregnant and William did not want his child to grow up in a world without blue skies. That is why he himself founded a car brand that could contribute to this.

‘Blue sky coming’ is therefore the motto of the Chinese brand. It sounds like a story put together by an expensive PR agency with a hip turtleneck, but we heard Mr Li tell it himself during the big European launch of the Nio at the Tempodrom in Berlin…

Nio ET7 subscription: no trade

Not that Nio comes with small city cars, it will conquer the world with large and luxurious models and equally large (and not too climate-friendly) battery packs. For example, the ET7 has approximately the same dimensions as the Tesla Model S, and the private leasing amounts are not bids. You have to pay 1299 euros per month to be able to run the ET7 with 75 kWh, the term is three years. You must drive 1,250 kilometers per month, with a hefty kilometer price of 30 øre if you exceed that. Nio himself does not talk about private rental, but about subscription.

Nio will launch two more models in the first quarter of 2023, the EL7 (an electric SUV) and the Nio ET5, a car the size of the Tesla Model 3. With its expensive and large models, Nio certainly does not suffer from cold feet. Is it youthful arrogance or are the Chinese cars so good that no one will want to drive a car from the European traditions or a model from Musk?

Nine interchange stations in Tilburg and Apeldoorn

Nine has more trump cards. For example, the brand breathes new life into battery exchange stations. The idea is that you can change your empty battery to a full one in five minutes – à la a top-up. This job is fully automated. Nio has already opened two stations, one in Tilburg and one in Apeldoorn. But dozens of such stations are planned. The idea behind the switching stations is that electric driving also becomes attractive over long distances. For example, for a holiday you can temporarily choose a larger battery pack at the exchange station.

Furthermore, Nio is trying to conquer European hearts with Nio houses. The posh building in Amsterdam that once housed the Metz department store is being converted into such a space. A Nio house is also planned at Meent in Rotterdam. You will soon be able to drink coffee, hold meetings, have a drink and let your children loose in a playground. In China, this kind of house seems to be a great success. Nio even organizes festivals there. Whether Down the Rabbit Hole and the Lowlands can wet their chests, we dare not say…

Nio ET7 range of 1000 kilometers

The other Nio charms are in the car itself. William Li worked first in the technology world and it shows. The Nio ET7 is a very high quality technological car that is full of safety systems and can already drive autonomously for the most part. In fact, the Nio ET7 is not a car with a lot of software, but software around which a car is built. This technique is not hidden, but given a prominent place. For example, there is a camera on top of the roof that – as Chinese brands like to do – records all journeys. You have to go deep into the menus to turn it off.

Does it run a bit nicely, like a Nio ET7? It’s certainly fast, regardless of which 75 kWh or 100 kWh battery pack it’s sold with. 0-100 km/h is in Sport+, one of the five driving programs, rushed off in 3.9 seconds and the top speed is 200 km/h. The comfort is also excellent for each other. Even at 180 km/h on the autobahn, you actually only hear some wind noise around the car. For the chassis, Nio has found a fine balance between comfort and sportiness, although the steering is also quite indirect in the sports programs.

With the charging speed (10-80 percent in 30 minutes) and the range (445-580 kilometers), Nio is nicely in line with other brands. The Chinese still have a trump card up their sleeve, an ET7 with a battery pack of 150 kWh and a range of 1000 kilometers is in the planning.

An assistant with funny eyes

Inside, we are pleasantly surprised by a design that looks more Scandinavian than Chinese. The dashboard is minimalist, but only has the few buttons that make operation a bit easier. Although it is sometimes puzzling. For mirror adjustment, it’s best to get help from Nomi (“Hey Nomi!”), a simplified Google Assistant that knows everything about the car, but little about life outside. She helps you fine with the mirror adjustment, and she also says sensible things about the weather, but she can’t tell you a good Chinese joke.

Nomi looks at you with friendly eyes and swings along when you play music. She does so with a high-pitched voice that no doubt appeals to people from the Far East. When asked, a Nio employee says that there will also be an assistant with a lower voice and without those blinking eyes.

The balance

Okay. Nio has hundreds of cameras, sensors and computers with staggering computing power. And they developed all of this in-house. Self-driving, if allowed by law, should be a piece of cake. Then there is also the very nice interior, the rich equipment (including a sound system with 23 speakers), the balanced chassis, the comfort and the performance, which we have almost nothing to complain about. But we don’t have that when we get into a Porsche Taycan, Mercedes EQE or EQS. Buy Nio ET7: now you can

Price is another important factor in determining whether the Nio ET7 has any chance of success. At first you could only get the Nio via the aforementioned subscription (a kind of private leasing), after a month the strategy had already changed. So you can ‘just’ buy the Nio ET7. The Dutch customer pays 72,900 euros, both for the 75 kWh and 100 kWh versions.

Only then will you not progress, because the price does not include the battery pack. You have to buy or rent it. In the latter case, you pay a fixed amount every month. For the ET7 with 75 kWh (range: 445 kilometers) the amount is set at 169 euros. With the ET7 with 100 kWh you pay considerably more: 289 euros (range: 580 kilometers). In five years, the battery rental of the ET7 75 kWh will cost you 10,140 euros, with the 100 kWh version you will even pay 17,340 euros.

If you go for the purchase option, it will be a little more expensive. There will be 12,000 euros on top of the purchase price of the ET7 with 75 kWh, bringing the base price up to 84,900 euros. If you want the ET7 with the larger battery pack of 100 kWh, you will even pay 93,300 euros. An additional cost of 21,000 euros.

Conclusion: how good is the Nio ET7?

You just have to dare to storm the market as new with leasing prices that you also pay in the exclusive world of BMW and Mercedes. Is the Nio ET7 good and distinctive enough? The driving behavior is somewhat distant, the software package impressive, the appearance nice and the interior beautiful. Maybe the battery change will win people over, or Nomi’s ‘charms’. The fact is that the Nio ET7 impresses and that Tesla and the European competition should be a little worried.

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