Tesla Model X rival arrives with dual-motor powertrain

Chinese manufacturer NIO has unveiled the ES8 SUV, a high-performance rival to the Tesla Model X.

With seven seats, the car measures up at more than five metres long and two metres wide, with a wheelbase 'over' three metres. By way of comparison, the Model X measures 5.04 metres long and 2.3 metres wide, with both six- and seven- seat options.

Power will come from a dual-motor setup with 480kW of power and 840Nm of torque, for a 100km/h sprint time of just 4.4 seconds. The car sits on active air suspension, designed to deliver a "comfortable, connected riding experience".

NIO is claiming a New European Drive Cycle range of 355km, or a 500km range with the car runs at a constant 60km/h, thanks to a 70kWh battery pack. The company says the liquid-cooled lithium-ion pack offers the "highest energy density of their kind," and delivers a 2000-charge lifecycle.

Along with home chargers, NIO will develop a fast-charge network and Power Mobile, a service capable of delivering 100km of range in 10 minutes. But most significant is the NIO Power service. Should it get off the ground, it will allow owners to swap their car batteries in just three minutes.

All things being equal, the company wants to have 1100 Power Swap stations and 1200 roaming Power Mobile vehicles in service come 2020.

Based on that claim, owners will be able to deplete and fully recharge the car every day for five-and-a-half years with minimal degradation. Given very few people drive 355km every day, the real-world life of the unit is likely much longer than that.

So far, there are a number of similarities between the NIO's areas of focus and those of the Model X – performance, range and space. You can add safety to that list, too, because the ES8 is loaded with active driver-assistance technologies.

The car has 23 sensors, including a front-focusing camera, four exterior surround cameras, five millimetre-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a driver-monitoring camera. Interpreting all the information from those sources is a Mobileye EyeQ4 processor – the ES8 is the first car to use one – nine times for powerful than its predecessor.

Over-the-air updates will ensure owners always have the latest software, something becoming more prevalent in the industry. Interestingly, there's no word on autonomy (full or otherwise) at this point.

We aren't here to be arbiters of style, so we'll let you pass judgement on the exterior yourself. There are no Falcon Wing doors, and the overall profile will be familiar to anyone who's seen a modern SUV. NIO isn't trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to styling, but that might not be such a bad thing.

Inside, the dashboard is dominated by a vertically-oriented touchscreen. Owners will be able to see the nearest battery swap and charge stations on the system, while an artificial intelligence assistant is on hand to, er, assist with all your infotainment needs.