New Nio ET5 Touring review: quirky EV estate shows promise
Nio’s battery-swapping tech could give the new ET5 Touring an edge against rivals like the Volkswagen ID.7 but UK buyers have some time to wait
The Nio ET5 Touring is, for now, an appealing choice in the all-electric estate car class. Although when it does eventually go on sale in the UK, it’ll be joined by presumably strong competition from BMW and Audi. The success of the ET5 Touring, and indeed the NIO brand, could rest on its innovative battery-swap infrastructure.
Not long ago, Nio was considered as an up and coming electric car maker. Now a big player in its home market and a credible alternative in mainland Europe, the Chinese newcomer is now set to launch in other global markets, bringing with it an innovative replaceable battery concept.
It’s not just Nio’s forward-thinking infrastructure helping it to gain a foothold across Europe, but appealing products including the EL6 SUV and ET5 saloon – that latter of which now comes in estate ‘Touring’ guise.
In Germany, the Nio ET5 Touring starts from 59,500 Euros (roughly £51,000) with the smaller 75kWh battery, or 68,500 Euros (roughly £58,700) for the 100kWh car we’re testing here. We’ve already tried the ET5 saloon, and while the range and technology on offer were decent enough, we thought it lacked practicality – an area where the more spacious Touring should excel.
The design of the ET5 Touring is unaltered until you get to the C-pillar – no bad thing, because the ET5’s sleek surfacing and neat proportions are easy on the eye. The door handles are flush, the windows are frameless, and the rear spoiler adds a finishing touch to the dynamic exterior.
It's stylish, but not practical in all respects. A very narrow rear window hinders visibility, and the driver's seating position is a little too high for our tastes. Just with the ET5 saloon, we suspect this is because Nio has to incorporate not only a selection of sizeable batteries, but also the space to work in its clever cell-swapping technology under the floor.
At 450 litres (just 64 litres more than the saloon), the ET5 Touring doesn’t have a massive boot, either. It’s almost 100 litres smaller than the load space you’d find on the new (and cheaper) Peugeot E-308 SW estate, and is dwarfed by that in the upcoming Volkswagen ID.7 Tourer.
On the move, the Nio feels a little firm for a family estate car, where you’ll notice the suspension working hard over rougher roads and potholes. Just like the ET5 saloon, we found the front suspension was able to cope better with road imperfections than the rear.
Upon entering a corner, the first thing you notice is the balance of the ET5 Touring is pretty good, despite the car weighing a considerable 2,315kg. Not many owners are going to take the ET5 Touring out and drive it on the door handles, but it’s nice to know it doesn’t flounder at the sight of a few bends. It would be nice if the somewhat synthetic steering responded more directly, however.
As expected, there are a range of driving modes with the raciest Sport+ topping them off. Squeeze the pedal and you’ll be hit by power from two electric motors, with 483bhp and 700Nm of torque – enough to propel this estate from 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds. Fast, but the ET5 Touring’s ability to go from 30mph to 70mph in under 2.5 seconds is arguably even more impressive.
There’s no one-pedal driving, but there’s strong brake regeneration and it’s able to slow the car sufficiently in most situations. The recuperation can be regulated via the driving modes (with Eco mode boasting the most aggressive level), or by using the independent settings.
This ET5 Touring comes with a maximum 347-mile range, 19 miles less than the saloon. This places it in the same ballpark as the BMW i4, Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3. Of course, if you’re able to utilise the battery-swap technology from Nio, range figures will become little more than an afterthought. We tried it in Norway, and were suitably impressed, though for the time being it’s only available on certain routes – and there are no swap stations in the UK. Of course, you can charge the ET5 like any EV; NIO has restricted charging speeds to 180kW to protect battery life, but that figure is still competitive in this part of the market.
As for interior technology, Nio has clearly taken a leaf out of Tesla’s book here. Everything has to be controlled via the 12.8-inch central screen – be that adjustment of the exterior mirrors, the seats, the air conditioning, the driving assistants or the navigation system. Unfortunately, the latter is not yet able to offer route planning with charging stations – something we hope Nio can offer via a software update later down the line.
The assistance systems are also a little too intrusive in the ET5 Touring. The set of eyes that sit on the dash belong to Nomi – the car’s AI voice command system. Whether it's cute or creepy is up to you, but it does monitor your inputs and makes sure you’re paying due care to the road ahead.
|Nio ET5 Touring
|100kWh battery, 2x electric motors
|Single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
|180kW (10-80% 40mins)