2023 Auto Guangzhou: A quick look at the NIO ES8 flagship SUV

Clifford Chow

NIO was listed on the Singapore Exchange just a year ago, and even has an R&D centre here. But will we get to see their cars here anytime soon?

Photos: Clifford Chow & NIO


Another car brand which caught our attention at the Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition, was NIO. Currently, there are eight models in its lineup, and that is quite an impressive feat, given that they only began producing cars as recently as 2016.

More recently, they listed on Singapore Exchange (SGX), which made them the first Chinese automaker to be listed in three locations. They have also recently announced a tie-up with Changan Automobile (a state-owned Chinese manufacturer) to build and share their battery swapping networks – tech which sets NIO apart from the competition.

So we managed to get acquainted with one of the brand’s latest offerings, the second-generation ES8 full-size flagship. Visually, the 6-seater luxury SUV is much more pleasing to the eye, compared to the first generation car. It now sports a slipperier front-end, and a straight-rising beltline and a tidied-up rear-end. The ES8’s side window profile has also been set flush against the B, C and D pillars, which gives the impression of a one-piece glass house. It is also a slightly larger car, with its wheelbase now 3,070mm, an increase of 60mm, while its length has increased to 5,099mm. This makes it approximately 150mm and 185mm longer than the BMW iX and Audi Q8 e-tron respectively. But unlike the German offerings, the NIO ES8 is a three row SUV with six seats; so this is in a sense closer to a Mercedes-EQ EQS SUV, or BMW iX7, the latter which is rumoured to be due for launch in 2027.

On the inside, the ES8 sets the mood, by bathing occupants in three layers of Dynamic Waterfall Ambient Lighting, a feature which can be tuned with a selection of 256 colours. NIO offers the ES8 in two six-seater formats, the first being the Executive Console variant, which provides middle-row occupants with… an “executive” console, complete with a wireless charging pad which can house two mobile devices. There is also an optional refrigerator, which when specced, is located within the console’s lower tier. The Center Aisle variant leaves the area between the middle seats open for easier access to the third row. Being a luxury SUV, doing luxury SUV stuff, the ES8’s front and middle-row seats are equipped with an Air Cushion System, hot stone massage, ventilation and heating. While the third row loses out on those rolling hot stones, they still are ventilated and heated.

Up in-front, the 12.8-inch AMOLED infotainment touchscreen is powered by the brand’s Smart System Banyan firmware. Like its German counterparts, the infotainment is also voice-activated. The NOMI AI can pick out which occupant in which seat is giving a command. The voice-activated concierge is physically represented by an interactive face-like swivelling interface, which sits on the top of the dashboard.

For its drive, the ES8 is powered by a front 180kW (241hp) permanent magnet motor, and a rear 300kW (402hp) induction motor, which in-all delivers a system output of 480kW (644hp) and 850Nm. In Sport+ mode, the ES8 can reach 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds. As for ride comfort, the ES8 is equipped with an adaptive dual-chamber air suspension system, which does the important work of keeping the SUV poised around corners, or when tasked to provide a comfortable ride. For added driving assistance the AQUILA Super Sensing modules includes an ultralong-range LIDAR, seven 8 MP cameras, five millimeter-wave radars, and twelve ultrasonic sensors among the many other sensors. 

Buyers can choose from three battery types – a 75kWh unit, which provides a range of 465km is the base (supplied under the battery leasing programme), next is a 100kWh battery, which gives the ES8 a range of 605km. The largest 150kWh battery is claimed by NIO to provide a range of 900km. Aside from regular plug-in charging, and as mentioned earlier, NIO vehicles also support battery swapping. Currently the company allows up-to four free battery swaps per month (we hear that NIO might eventually turn this into a fully-paid service, once there is enough take-up of their vehicles). The innovative battery exchange process takes approximately three to five minutes at a Power Swap Station. Currently, NIO has about 2,000 of these stations dotted around China, and in certain Western European countries.

In another related development, The Chinese EV maker has also developed their first NIO Phone. This is powered by a second generation Snapdragon 8 processor, and where its Sky UI and is specially integrated with NIO Link technology, designed to control NIO vehicles. With the phone, users are able to toggle features such as climate control, seat adjustments, massage and more. They can also unlock the car via ultra-wideband or NFC, and even summon the vehicle. Incidentally, another Chinese brand has done the reverse – smartphone brand, Xiaomi has also embarked on building their own electric car.

According to our estimates, the NIO ES8, if it arrives, will be priced in Singapore as a mid-$500k to $600k tier car… that is given today’s COE climate. We reached out to NIO for comment if we will see their vehicles on our soil anytime soon, especially since they do already have an R&D presence here, and are listed on our SGX. Unfortunately they have yet to reply at the time of publishing.


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About the Author

Clifford Chow

More than seven years beating the same drum! He loves good autos, but Shifting Gears has its merits. Wants to travel the world, but he needs the money. He's also damn good in his photos, but not like Jay Tee kinda good. @thenewcarguy

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