What are the abilities of Zhi Ji to break into the fiercely competitive market?

2023 New Year, the Intelligent Electric Vehicle Industry is Even More Prosperous

At the beginning of the 2023 New Year, the smart electric vehicle industry is getting more and more prosperous.

Tonight, the second model of IM, IM LS7, was officially released with its model configurations and prices as below:

  • LS7 Elite RWD version: 329,800 yuan; 4WD version: 349,800 yuan;

  • Lux RWD version: 379,800 yuan; 4WD version: 399,800 yuan;

  • Pro version, the highest configuration model: 459,800 yuan.

In addition, in the “One more thing” segment, IM also announced an entry-level model for LS7, the Pure version with a 77 kWh battery pack, priced at 309,800 yuan.

The price range of LS7 is very wide. In terms of price, the entry-level model is benchmarked against Li Auto L7 and XPeng Motors G9, but the price of the high-end model is directly the same as Li Auto L9.

I believe that after seeing its price and configuration, you will want to learn more about the product. What is its product strength and what makes it stand out to enter the fiercely competitive market for mid-to-large-sized pure electric SUVs?

Coincidentally, I test drove the IM LS7 in Yunnan earlier this week and gained some new insights into it.

Distinctive Features

To be recognized by the market, a car company needs to demonstrate its own production philosophy with a series of products. Usually, it takes multiple models to prove its original intention and decisions, but the premise is that it must meet market demand.

# The First Product of IM, L7

IM’s first product, L7, is a mid-to-large-sized sedan with a length of more than 5 meters, but its positioning, body posture, and chassis tuning are all focused on the sporty line. To improve the handling performance of the chassis, IM Motors also brought in the Williams Engineering team to work on it. The general feedback from the market is that the sports handling performance is absolutely top-notch, but it sacrifices some of the rear passenger comfort for the body posture and handling performance.


Therefore, this mid-to-large-sized sedan, with a wheelbase of up to 3.1 meters, is not a completely family-oriented model.


Therefore, my biggest curiosity before test driving the LS7 was whether IM’s first SUV would “compromise” for comfort.

Because in IM’s previous promotional materials, we can see that IM wants to create a more family-oriented vehicle. IM CEO Liu Tao himself has also repeatedly expressed that the LS7 will be a very “family-oriented” vehicle.

So if it’s just an SUV version of the L7, it would be somewhat detached from the word “family-oriented.”

So this time, we temporarily skip the controversial appearance part, and first sit in the car to feel how IM builds a “family SUV.”

Innovative Cabin Layout

Before talking about the cabin experience of IM LS7, it is necessary to report the parameters first.

Parameters of LS7

The length of IM LS7 is 5,049 mm, and the wheelbase exceeds three meters, reaching 3,060 mm. These data are more impressive than the popular five-seat SUVs on the market such as XPeng G9 and NIO ES7.

Interior of LS7

Meanwhile, the LS7 model of Chery’s Zhiqi brand is a five-seat layout, with the official claim of being a large five-seat model. However, in actual experience, the legroom of the vehicle is not much better than the above-mentioned models. On the contrary, Zhiqi has put a lot of effort into the space layout inside the vehicle.

First of all, Zhiqi has equipped the LS7 with “zero-gravity seats”, a configuration that we have also experienced before on the M7 model, and now seems to be trending towards widespread use.

When the LS7 is in zero-gravity seat mode, the passenger seat will be folded up and “stuffed” under the center console that originally belonged to the glove box. Then the rear seat is moved forward, and the seat cushion and leg rest are raised. At this point, the back of the passenger seat becomes a “footrest”, and the rear seat can relax comfortably on the seat.

Compared to the 113° lumbar zero-pressure angle of the M7, the LS7’s angle reaches 121°.

Although the “zero-gravity” ride experience is indeed very comfortable, the prerequisite is sacrificing the number of passengers in the vehicle. When the zero-gravity seat mode is turned on, the LS7’s most comfortable seating positions are only the driver and the rear position behind the driver.

In addition, the LS7 can also fold down the front seats purely as a flat “bar” for use. Zhiqi’s product personnel painted us a beautiful scene through language: the father of the driver drives, the mother sits in the right rear seat to take care of the child on the child seat behind the driver, and the folded passenger seat can hold items that need to be accessed at any time.

Therefore, Zhiqi is not just copying the homework of Li Xiang’s “dad car”, but focusing on entertainment and comfort configurations. Instead, they create different family travel scenarios by adjusting seat modes and changing structures.### First experience with half steering wheel

If the seat layout of the IM LS7 represents an innovative concept, then there are two configurations within its cabin that are not quite as original but still stand out as differentiators in the product lineup at this level.

The first configuration is the half steering wheel. As soon as I entered the cabin of the IM LS7, my attention was immediately drawn to the half-style steering wheel. Since Tesla introduced this type of steering wheel on the Model S Plaid, there have been Chinese carmakers who have followed suit. In the past two years, car models with this configuration have included the Jidu Robo-01 and the IM LS7 I experienced today, the latter of which has named its own half-style steering wheel the YAT.

The biggest advantage of this type of steering wheel is that it can provide a broader forward view, especially for models like the IM LS7 that use a long screen, allowing the driver to easily obtain information from the instrument screen.

As for the YAT steering wheel of the IM LS7, there is a small detail that stands out: there are protruding “horns” at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, which is also designed to be more ergonomic and easier to grip. However, during the experience, I also discovered a small problem: behind the YAT steering wheel are the vehicle’s turn signal, wiper, and gear shift lever, and there are also two small paddles behind the steering wheel for assisting driving speed and distance adjustment. But when we want to operate them, it always feels a little uncomfortable to reach for them with our forefinger or middle finger. If the turn signal could be designed as a button behind the steering wheel, it would be more convenient to use.

Finally, it should be noted that the YAT steering wheel is not standard, and if you don’t like it, you can choose a conventional steering wheel.

Huge front windshield for a sunny drive

Another configuration is the giant front windshield, which turns the car into a sunroom.

We have also experienced this configuration in the Tesla Model X and the previous version of the XPeng G3, and the most prominent feeling is the sun heat.“`

After many years, IM brought back the “Renaissance” and brought it back to the market. Of course, since it has the courage to bring it back, I believe that it has also made improvements targeting common pain points.

IM’s windshield area reaches 1.63 square meters, and the official claims that this glass can expand the viewing angle of the front row driver and passenger to 106°. On the other hand, IM also pioneered the three-layer silver plating technology to ensure that it can effectively insulate heat.

At the same time, IM also did gradient processing, transitioning the glass on the top to a darker color. If you are still worried, you can also apply a heat-insulating cover to insulate and prevent sunburn physically.

Because our test drive location is in Yunnan, where the four seasons are like spring, the temperature is only more than 20 degrees, and the sun is gentler than in other regions, we did not feel particularly sunburned. We will conduct detailed testing in the summer.

Differences and similarities in details

IM LS7 cockpit has adjustments in some details compared to L7.

For example, the screen border of LS7 is narrower than L7, and the sizes of the instrument control screen and the co-pilot screen are 26.3 inches and 15.5 inches, respectively. The size of the instrument and control console screen is unchanged compared to L7, but the copilot screen has increased by 3.2 inches.

In addition, the control screen of LS7 is no longer suspended like L7, but is integrated with the center console.

This is definitely an optimized design. Because the position and angle of the L7 control screen are relatively low, the reflection is severe when sunlight is direct. The position of the LS7 control screen is relatively more conducive to driver operation.

In addition, the LS7 door button is designed with a whole metal plate, which doesn't provide a clear feedback when pressed. The LS7 has used a different material this time, which has improved the pressing sensation and feedback, but it's still not clear enough.

Overall, the LS7 has demonstrated a unique thinking of IM in creating this distinctive family SUV, making the interior space of a five-seater SUV more interesting.

## Is the Driving DNA Still There?

However, the question we mentioned earlier is whether the IM LS7 inherits the driving genes of the L7; is the handling DNA still present in this car with a family atmosphere in the cabin?


Before starting the road test, the driving instructor took us for a slow formation drive around the hotel where we were staying to help us get familiar with the YAT steering wheel. But the quiet and smoothness of LS7 at low speed shocked me when we first started.

The quietness at low speed is nothing to brag about, but in the quiet environment, the vehicle started slowly and smoothly, and at that moment, I felt like I was in a high-speed train slowly starting up.

After turning a few corners in a row, I began to slowly adapt to the YAT steering wheel. However, it's worth mentioning that although the IM LS7's steering is not sloppy, it's not as precise as a bicycle's front wheel. In some corners that require large angle steering, I still need to leave the 9-o'clock position with my hands, but the chance of slipping is not high. Maybe subconsciously, my heart is reminding me that there are media colleagues in the car, so don't make a fool of yourself.


The road conditions in the test drive area were not perfect, which gave us a good opportunity to feel the LS7 chassis.

After a few bumps in the road, I realized that the LS7's chassis tuning style is obviously to please the passengers, which is very different from the L7.```

When you drive the L7, its chassis gives you the confidence to step on the accelerator in turns. The precise steering allows you to greatly enhance the excitement of driving, and the flexible chassis makes you want to try rolling over more manhole covers, feeling the crisp vibration feedback transmitted from the chassis to the steering wheel.

The confidence that the L7 gives you may even make you mistakenly think that your driving skills have improved.

The LS7, on the other hand, not only maintains its tightness but also takes comfort into consideration. However, its comfort is definitely not the "soft and fluffy" comfort of an ideal car model, but another kind of feeling.

In terms of suspension structure, the IM LS7 uses front double-wishbone and rear multi-link independent suspension, while canceling rear-wheel steering, and adding air suspension from mainland China and electromagnetic shock absorbers from BISTEIN.

To put it simply, the chassis of the IM LS7 has created a feeling that is both comfortable and sporty.


In short, the excellent chassis of the IM LS7 is still crafted by Williams. IM and Williams have brought us two different driving styles through these two models, and each has its own personality.

### Intelligent driving

In terms of intelligent driving, there is no difference between the current LS7 and L7, and the software is still developed primarily by Momenta.

At tonight's press conference, IM Automotive's joint CEO Liu Tao also revealed the development plan for the IM AD in the future:



Currently, the high-speed domain navigation assisted driving system NOA is being gradually pushed out in popular cities, and before the end of this year, IM Auto will open the public beta of the city NOA.

The Biggest Controversy

After experiencing its unique cabin and unique driving performance, we inevitably come to discuss its appearance.

This is also the biggest controversy of this car, without any doubt.

The design team of IM LS7 is not the same as L7. IM team revealed that there were three companies bidding for this car at the beginning, from Italy, Germany, and Japan, and IM finally finalized the design proposal of the Japanese team.

Since it comes from different teams, and SUVs and cars have different usage scenarios, it is inevitable that there will be differences in appearance. However, we can still find a common DNA through the design of many components.

Although LS7’s light group design is not as sharp as L7’s, it is still very similar in overall shape. Both cars have a through light strip prominent at the rear of the car, but because LS7’s protrusion is more significant, and the lines are too similar to DBX, it is jokingly called “little Aston Martin”.

In addition, the digital projection headlight DLP is also present, and these design elements and configurations are very “IM”.

But why does it become a “patchwork monster” in the eyes of users when put together?

In fact, the main problem lies in the proportion. Let’s take a different perspective.

IM LS7’s overall shape is roundish, which is very different from L7. However, L7 pursues a very low attitude, which leads to the rear half of the car body being “arch-shaped” enough. This kind of line makes L7 beautiful but sacrifices the headroom of the rear seats.

The overall positioning of the LS7 leans more towards family use, sacrificing some posture for a large five-seater space. The roofline of the LS7 slopes down only at the position of the tail triangle window, and the angle of the sloping rear cut reaches nearly 90°. Therefore, it is a sleek back model that satisfies the headroom space of the back seats.


In addition, the ZhiJi LS7 is also the only model that adopts the periscope-style dual-laser radar, along with the Carlog camera module in the middle, causing three raised "bumps" which inevitably contradicts its design. Similarly, under such a design, its drag coefficient will not be too outstanding, and the official data is 0.268.

Also, to give way to the huge front windshield, the positions of the three bulges have been pushed back to near the B-pillar, which does require some visual adaptation.


Design and practicality have always been difficult to balance, and we can only seek balance from it. Perhaps, under the definition of the ZhiJi LS7, this balance point will tilt towards "practicality" a bit.

Additionally, there is a small interesting fact about the design, the product manager of the ZhiJi LS7 said that their "baby" (LS7) doesn't look very photogenic, and the actual car looks better than the photos. After hearing this, I carefully observed the LS7 for a long time and came to a shallow conclusion: its grandness and momentum does cover up some of its design weaknesses to some extent.

## Conclusion

After experiencing the heavily anticipated flagship model given by ZhiJi, I believe the tag that can be attached to the LS7 is "unique".```

In this highly competitive market of large pure electric SUVs, one must have their own expertise to survive. Within this market, there are products with an ultimate positioning as a "Daddy car," products that are firmly on the path of intelligence, and products that can rely on services to build barriers. Facing this challenge, it is not the best choice to fight head-on and aim to surpass others' advantages.

LS7 leaves a deep impression on people, and that is enough. This is also very important.

This article is a translation by ChatGPT of a Chinese report from 42HOW. If you have any questions about it, please email bd@42how.com.