Writing | Kang Ji
Editing | Zhou Changxian
What is luxury?
BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volvo, Lincoln… various luxury car brands, each with their own interpretation and style.
Senior automotive journalist Wang Honghao believes that luxury often comes from functionality and decorativeness. When there are new functions, showcase them. When functionality becomes mediocre and inexpensive, emphasize decorativeness.
This approach applies to German, American, and Japanese luxury brands, and even the Nordic brand Volvo. The only exception is Tesla.
Tesla’s styling designer Franz Von Holzhausen once said that his design philosophy is to create timeless designs that simplify complexity, and that any design must prioritize functionality and become the most beautiful product subject to functional requirements, with no decorative elements without functionality.
His boss, Musk, who adheres to first principles, is even more direct. He believes that the core of the vehicle’s interior design is the communication of information between people and screens. To improve communication efficiency, all useless information should be eliminated.
So what about NIO, which aspires to challenge BBA?
Wang Honghao believes that NIO has chosen a design path that is more technologically oriented, but warmer and more humane than Tesla, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
Is his opinion reasonable? Recently, I personally test drove the NIO ET7 in Shanghai, and gained some intuitive insights and judgments.
Design: Less is More?
Less is more.
This is Apple’s design philosophy, which Tesla also follows, but not NIO.
NIO believes that automobiles are the third space between home and the office for many adults today. This space should be private and non-noisy, comfortable and understated. Just the right amount of embellishment can create the most comfortable atmosphere inside the car.
Specifically, NIO’s design philosophy can be summarized into 4 DNA elements: purity, warmth, futuristic, and exquisite. This is also the starting point for NIO ET7’s interior design.
It should be noted that these 4 DNA elements do not exist independently, but are interdependent.
For example, the ET7 has 14 interior decorations made of renewable rattan from tropical rainforests, with each piece retaining its unique texture and quality.
This renewable rattan is very interesting. Its original form is palm vine, which can reach a length of 160 meters and has a unique pore structure inside. It mainly grows in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Various eco-friendly fillers are injected into the internal tube holes of the palm vine, making full use of the natural properties of the palm vine. This enhances the color, strength, flexibility, and waterproofing of the renewable rattan wood, which was originally not wear-resistant and lacked support, making it suitable for almost any environment.
Compared with other luxurious brands that are more extravagant in materials and more dazzling in color, the NIO ET7 gives me a feeling of purity and delicacy, which is not an overstatement.
The intelligent frameless electric suction door, which is standard on all NIO ET7 models, is also worth mentioning. Simply place your hand lightly on the handle, and the door will open automatically. When you close the door, there is no need to use force, as the door will close automatically. Isn’t it futuristic and considerate, giving a sense of high-tech warmth?
The air conditioning design is also creative. Like Tesla’s design, the ET7 creates a clean and pure front cabin view by using hidden intelligent air outlets to form a uniform air vortex of two intersecting vertical air planes. The benefits of such a design are obvious: the air flow is directed more uniformly and accurately.
It is worth mentioning that the ET7 can precisely control the scene and, in combination with intelligent fragrance and air purification systems, ensure a comfortable and natural sensation. This is what was mentioned earlier, namely, NIO’s design is more warm and humane than Tesla’s.
The ET7’s use of light is very particular.
On the one hand, there is the use of natural light. For example, the frameless door design minimizes the sense of the frame and other boundaries by incorporating more sufficient, clean, and pure lighting, better reflecting the spaciousness of the car interior. Additionally, the dome sunroof with double-layer insulating glass covers an area of 1.9 square meters, bathing in sunlight while blocking 99.9% of UV and over 80% of heat.
On the other hand, there is the design of the ambient lighting. Unlike the common light strip-style ambient lighting, the ET7’s light cascade ambient lighting is designed to surround the cabin, utilizing hidden lighting strip bodies.
Moreover, it can independently control the three partitions of door panels/storage layers/floors, each with 256 intelligent color fields that can be individually adjusted for color and brightness. On this basis, the ET7 preset 9 ambient scenes, including natural sunlight, stars, and rosy clouds, as well as 4 lighting scenes, including fast finding and in-car invisibility.In the first ET7 media test drive, many people praised the roller blind-style cushions of the front seats, and the spacious legroom of the rear seats that exceeds its peers. What impressed me the most was the Air Cushion pressure relief system equipped on the rear seats. By inflating or deflating the three airbags that cover 70% of the backrest area, it can better alleviate fatigue during long-distance rides, providing an experience that can be compared to “Ge You Lie Down.”
After all, being an executive car, the boss key is also essential. ET7 supports the rear seat exclusive function: when there is no one in the front passenger seat, users can quickly adjust the position of the front passenger seat through the center screen and rear screen to enhance the seating comfort of the right rear passenger. Of course, all seating functions can also be controlled through NOMI voice.
To be honest, none of the above made me feel that ET7 was very luxurious until the moment I turned on the audio system.
The entire ET7 range is equipped with 23 speakers, including 7 tweeters + 7 midrange units + 4 woofers + 1 subwoofer + 4 sky channels, with a total output of 1000W. At the same time, it is equipped with Dolby Atmos, which enhances the vertical expression on the basis of the traditional flat sound field through the 7.1.4 immersive sound system.
In addition, NIO has carefully selected a batch of playlists that come pre-installed in the car’s infotainment system, including the annual concert programs well-known by NIO owners.
Moreover, the ET7 has added an AR/VR panoramic digital cockpit experience, supporting the connection of high-performance AR and VR devices developed jointly by NIO and its partners.
Feature: More is Better
If NIO has DNA in driving performance, it is high performance.
Look at the ET7’s performance -100 km/h acceleration in 3.8 seconds (half-load condition) and 33.5 meters for braking distance when braking from 100 to 0 km/h. It can be said that it runs fast and stops steadily.
ET7 is equipped with NIO’s new generation of efficient electric powertrain platform, with a front permanent magnet synchronous motor with a maximum power output of 180 kW and a rear asynchronous induction motor with a maximum power output of 300 kW. As NIO’s first model equipped with silicon carbide material, the overall peak power and peak torque of the ET7 electric powertrain system have been improved by 20% and 23%, respectively, compared to the existing 160 kW and 240 kW electric powertrain systems.
It is necessary to introduce silicon carbide. It is the most typical third-generation wide-bandgap semiconductor material, characterized by fast switching speed, high breakdown voltage, and strong ability to withstand high temperatures. Using silicon carbide power devices designed electric motor controllers can greatly increase the efficiency and power density of permanent magnet synchronous motor drive systems.
ET7 also has strong braking capabilities. It uses front Brembo high-performance four-piston calipers and rear Astemo brake combinations. With high-performance NAO brake pads, it can reduce braking noise, provide better wear resistance and anti-heat attenuation ability.
Besides, ET7 is equipped with a brand new electric brake assist system, using a one-box structure, which can establish a brake cylinder pressure of 100 bar within 150ms. In this way, the braking foot feels more linear, precise, and the kinetic energy recovery experience is smoother.
In different driving modes, ET7 has different braking foot feelings. In comfort mode, the braking pedal force is moderate, balancing control and comfort. This mode is more suitable for urban roads, even if you start-stop, you won’t feel very tired. When switching to the sport mode, the braking pedal feedback is more elastic, making the braking more precise and easy to control.
This is probably the joy of the driver.
During the test drive, when we talked about the soft suspension of the first-generation platform of NT 1.0, the NIO engineer sitting in the co-pilot opened his mouth.
He said that because the suspension control system used by the first-generation platform is from a foreign Tier 1 manufacturer, during performance tuning, it can only rely on the manufacturer’s engineers. Moreover, the engineers of these big manufacturers not only cannot cooperate well, but also guard against each other, and even use anti-peeping screens for computer monitors.
On the NT 2.0 platform, NIO’s independently developed suspension control system is applied, breaking the monopoly of foreign suspension control systems and expanding performance tuning bandwidth and software fusion.
Doesn’t it sound inspiring? But to achieve these, it all requires a lot of investment.
According to NIO’s official statement, the second-generation platform has achieved two qualitative breakthroughs:
First, an innovative supply chain cooperation model, deeply researched and developed, from 0 to 1, to develop a brand new air spring.
Second, self-developed chassis domain controllers, with high computing power and fully integrated safety redundancy, including the first redundant parking system at the OEM level.The chassis suspension system of this car adopts the front and rear multi-link suspension structure, equipped with self-developed intelligent air suspension and dynamic damping control shock absorber, which can not only ensure the vehicle’s body stability during intense driving, but also take into account the comfort during daily driving.
According to a media colleague, compared with ES8, ES6, and EC6, the ET7 is more “easy to drive” and “comfortable to sit in”. This is all thanks to the chassis suspension system.
Another major investment is the tires, but this does not require NIO’s R&D expenses, but lets consumers choose on their own with their money.
For example, the test drive models all use a great tire: Pirelli P ZERO tire.
Its most impressive feature is the “SEAL INSIDE TECHNOLOGY,” which uses pre-set rubber sealant to wrap sharp objects (such as nails with a diameter of less than 5mm) that puncture the tire, preventing it from leaking air. When the object is removed, the sealant will enter the punctured area under the action of the tire pressure to maintain the tire’s complete seal.
In addition to investing heavily in driving performance, the NIO ET7 also spares no effort in intelligentization.
For example, the NIO supercomputer platform ADAM, which is equipped with four NVIDIA Orin X chips, 48 CPU cores, 256 matrix computing units, and 8,096 floating-point computing units, totaling 68 billion transistors and a total computing power of 1016T.
Thanks to its powerful intelligent hardware, the NIO NAD can be opened at a higher standard, bringing vast functional expansion and experience enhancement space. An engineer stated that NIO’s overall optimization from map positioning to perception algorithms, from underlying systems to control strategies, will bring more secure, accurate, and comfortable experiences.
NIO President Qin Lihong revealed: “At present, the test drive car has basically reached the mass production and delivery state, but the software is currently version 0.7.0, and it will be further upgraded to version 1.0.0 when delivered.”
There is, unfortunately, one thing worth mentioning: The physical key customized for the ET7 is still in R&D and will not be available until sometime after mass delivery.
Some people say that the emergence of Tesla, NIO, LI, and other new forces has opened the era of intelligent electrification and triggered a struggle for the definition of luxury with traditional luxury brands like BBA.
I completely agree with the first half of this statement, but I have a different opinion on the second half.
Because, in different eras, the definition of luxury is different, even in the same era, there are various kinds of luxury. Regardless of new or old forces, everyone has already invested heavily in the era of intelligent electrification, not only inheriting, but also innovating.The advantage of new forces lies in their lighter historical burden, but their foundation is shallower!
This article is a translation by ChatGPT of a Chinese report from 42HOW. If you have any questions about it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.