This crossover doesn’t look like much. From some angles, it could be mistaken for a Nissan Murano, or some kind of Citroën. And while it also runs on electricity, it lacks the visual drama of a Tesla Model X. But Chinese newcomer NIO may just succeed where other once-cash flush startups have failed, and the fact that the ES8 looks pretty normal may just help with that.
NIO, as you may recall, managed to do some rather interesting shit for a new company in 2017. Its electric EP9 supercar claimed the record for the both the fastest electric car and the fastest road car, period, around the Nürburgring. It raised $1 billion in capital. And the company claims the EP9 is also the fastest autonomous car in the world, though it’s hard at present to discern what exactly is the point of such a vehicle. (By the way, six of those were made for investors, but cost about $1.5 million apiece.)
The ES8 seven-seat crossover, however, is far less ridiculous, and indeed is more like an actual car that NIO hopes actual people might buy. For one thing, if you’re interested in an electric crossover, this is about half the price of a Model X—it starts at 448,000 Chinese yuan, about $68,000, compared to the 836,000 yuan (about $128,000) for the Tesla.
NIO says the car boasts a 70 kWh battery pack with a range of 355 kilometers, or about 220 miles, making it practical for daily driving too. They say it’ll do zero to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds as well.
Inside, it’s nice and premium—somewhere between a Tesla and something a tad more normal, like a Volvo XC90. It’s a shame the outside is so bland, but I think the Chinese companies in general have a way to go before they have truly compelling design. Then again, this is pretty clearly aimed at mainstream sales, so how risky should it really go?
It’s also billed as having “the world’s first in-car AI system,” something called NOMI, and NIO Pilot, a semi-autonomous safety suite that uses Mobileye’s latest EyeQ4 technology. Also interesting: it has an adaptive air suspension and full-time all-wheel drive.
It’s an interesting package, and much more normal and grounded than the batshit crazy stuff we see (or more accurately, never see) from some startups like Faraday Future. The NIO ES8 is available for pre-order in China right now. No word on U.S. sales, but I doubt that’s too far off.
Knowing how much the Chinese automakers want to make inroads into the American and European markets—whether through established brands they’ve acquired, new ventures, partnerships or startups like this one—we can expect to see much more like this in 2018 and beyond.