How does the Chinese NIO EL7 drive in everyday life?

How does the Chinese NIO EL7 drive in everyday life?

There's a new star in the automotive sky for us, and it doesn't come from here, the USA, or Japan – but from China. The NIO EL7, an example of China's rapid development in the automotive industry. Just a few years ago, one would have been laughed at for wanting an Asian car as a company vehicle. Clearly: Those days are over! Good examples of the rise of Asian brands are Kia, Hyundai, and NIO as well.

In my search for a new company car, I obtained various offers from well-known manufacturers, including Mercedes (EQB, GLC), Audi (Q8 Etron), Land Rover (Defender), and Genesis (GV80), to name just a few. In addition to purely electric vehicles, some internal combustion vehicles in the same price range were also available. My choice was the NIO EL7. Why? The offer from NIO was not only unbeatable in price thanks to the all-inclusive subscription model but also impressed with an unbeatable comprehensive service offer, which even includes a pick-up and delivery service. The technical data of the NIO also stand out: Established software, many functions, good performance data, and a long warranty.

By the way, Audi is the reason why the NIO is called EL7 in Germany – because ES7 was too close to their own model names for Audi's liking.

The path to our NIO EL7

At the beginning, I had the opportunity to take a test drive with a NIO ET7 (sedan) in Leipzig (Germany). The EL7 was not yet on the market at that time. And I must say, I was deeply impressed by the advanced software and the incredible comfort that the ET7 had to offer. When the EL7 finally became available, we took the opportunity for a company outing to Leipzig to extensively test the latest model, the EL7, together.


The handover of the EL7 in Leipzig

After I ordered the NIO, some problems arose regarding the correct invoicing. It became clear that NIO had only recently entered the German market. Mr. Treml, who was supposedly responsible, skillfully ignored our inquiries. Even our fellow couldn't do anything about it. A fellow is a combination of a salesperson and customer care agent. However, the delivery ultimately went very well. At the handover in Leipzig, I learned that the team had traveled especially from Berlin to deliver the vehicle. The staff were very friendly and gave a comprehensive introduction to the vehicle and its systems. Unlike traditional brands, there is no paperwork here. Everything is done through the app. At the handover, I took various photos of all sides with the app and then signed the protocol digitally. Nothing could be simpler!

I don't mind that NIO doesn't have traditional dealerships. The entire service is run through the app. If there are problems, someone is sent to help. So there's no reason to miss a stationary dealership.

My conclusion after 4,000 km with the NIO EL7

The ride comfort of the NIO is high, as one would expect in this price range. Its air suspension is appropriate for the SUV and has already proven useful to me in the mountains and off-road. The 360-degree camera provides good quality, even at night. The ambient lighting, which illuminates the surroundings in the dark, is also practical. The vehicle offers plenty of space and storage. No rattling or creaking. When charging, it shows solid performance but is not a standout. Like in a Tesla, there are many acoustic signals from the assistance systems. For my taste, these are somewhat annoying. Fortunately, some acoustic signals can be turned off via the menu. So far, we have also had no hardware or software failures – I have experienced quite differently with German-made vehicles.

The navigation works decently but gets creative quickly with detours. The infotainment itself runs very smoothly, definitely on par with Tesla. Unfortunately, the AC charging power cannot be regulated, which is impractical when using CEE sockets. Here, a mobile charging solution like a Juice Booster can help. However, a menu to adjust the charging power would be cheaper. It is also worth mentioning that the Vehicle to Load function was quietly omitted. At the time of ordering and down payment, this function was still advertised.

In direct comparison with the Tesla Model Y Performance, I can also note that highway driving at higher speeds takes a toll on the EL7. At a speed of about 140 km/h, the percentages drop rapidly, and one should have the next charging station in sight.

How does the NIO EL7 drive with a trailer?

The trailer hitch is included as standard in the NIO EL7 and does not incur any additional cost. Driving with a trailer is useful, for example, for hardware store purchases, furniture pickups, or disposing of garden waste. Here, the NIO can shine and handle up to 2 tons of braked trailer load. The air suspension adjusts to the load in trailer mode.

Unfortunately, there are hardly any assistance systems available once a trailer is hitched. This will surely change with the occasional software update. The trailer hitch can be folded in and out via a menu, but not through the app. Nomi also cannot unfold it – you have to find the menu yourself.


What is the quality of the EL7?

My experience with Chinese products is limited, but compared to French cars, Tesla, and other brands, I am very satisfied with the NIO. There are no rattles, and no issues have arisen so far. The vehicle impresses with high-quality materials, especially in the areas that are often touched, and an appealing center console. It offers premium features such as a very large sunroof with blackout, optional cabin scenting in three fragrances, massage seats for the driver and front passenger, and an air suspension.

However, one criticism is the sound quality. Personally, I miss a strong subwoofer. In direct comparison to the Tesla Model Y Performance, the NIO falls short. However, I must also note that Tesla offers one of the best systems I have used so far.

Update from October 24, 2023: After installing software update 2.0.0, the audio quality was completely different. Suddenly, there was bass, and my music came to life. I am positively surprised that this was merely a temporary software issue.

How does the NIO app work?

The NIO app forms the centerpiece of the driving experience. Through it, all aspects of the vehicle, from ordering and handover to daily use, are managed. Within the app, there is a community forum where experiences can be exchanged. The vehicle itself is controlled through the app. The smartphone becomes the car key via the app. The app is also central for topics such as spare parts, repairs, or accessory orders. The latter works smoothly, with discounts granted through so-called NIO points. These points can be collected through actions such as referrals or regular use of the app.

How helpful is NOMI?

NOMI is a digital assistant, similar to Amazon's Alexa. She can engage in small talk, greet the driver friendly, and for example, issue warnings about bad weather. She can control many vehicle functions, but requires clear and distinct voice commands. When calling NOMI with loud music, she often doesn't respond. It remains exciting how future updates will further develop NOMI.

I recommend the EL7 for those seeking a vehicle in the higher price range. Because the NIO is by no means cheap. However, in comparison, it is already very affordable and reasonably priced in my opinion. Personally, I prefer the modern gadgets and contemporary design over traditional cars, which seem rather monotonous to me. The NIO scores as family-friendly with plenty of space for children and child seats, with Isofix being standard. The kids also enjoy NOMI.

For frequent drivers, the range combined with average charging speed is not ideal. They should rather consider the ET7, as it has a low consumption due to its design. Battery swapping is a nice option, but it hardly plays a role in everyday life for me. We mostly charge at the wallbox in front of our office. However, battery swapping stations are definitely relevant for long-distance drivers.

Anyone driving a NIO should have a certain enthusiasm for modern technology. The user experience, as NIO calls us customers, is different. Everything is best managed through the app, through which the assigned Fellow is also reachable.