Smart Electric Tourer NIO ET5 with a ‘T’
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But let's start at the beginning: The design of the Nio ET5 Tourer should appeal to almost everyone who is not committed to the SUV culture. The Nio ET5 Tourer combines a classic, flat front with a greenhouse that is reminiscent of the silhouette of a station wagon, but tends a little towards a shooting brake. Shooting Brake? Those were the "station wagons" that still had two doors and a long trunk in the 1970s and 1980s, such as the Jensen GT and the Aston Martin Virage. But more recent models such as the Ferrari FF also paid homage to this beautiful shape. Mercedes now also has sleek shooting brakes such as the CLS, VW has the Arteon in its range and Genesis has the G70 - but none of them are purely electric or really only have two doors. However, all of them have one motto in common: beauty before utility.

Small Trunk

The Nio ET5 Tourer (also) impressively proves that beautiful design also has its disadvantages. The vehicle looks great - except for the bumps above the windshield, where the sensors (radar/lidar) for front monitoring are located and are supposedly ‘ideally positioned’. Slim daytime running lights and the headlights, which are almost invisible when not illuminated, create a face in the crowd, even if hardly anyone can identify the brand.

From the side, the lack of frills is particularly striking. The orange-painted brake calipers stand out there - although they cost an extra 420 euros. If you look further back on the driver's side, you will notice the charging socket. Not ideally positioned, but you get used to it - and when DC charging at urban fast chargers, which are mounted alongside the road, you simply need to park against the direction of travel, at least in most European countries where you drive on the right hand side of the road. Shining at the rear light strips, as on almost all new vehicles, and a large spoiler prevents the car from getting clean in the car wash.

Anyone interested in a Nio can either visit or one of the several Nio Houses in Europe. The first one of these Nio houses opened in Oslo early 2021, on prestigious Karl Johans gate, not far away from the royal palace. In Germany Nio runs these houses in Düsseldorf, Berlin and Frankfurt or a so-called Nio Hub in the east of Munich. The latter also has a workshop on board. By the end of 2023, the Chinese run 125 of these houses globally, hosting a lab, library and café next to the display of the newest Nio electric vehicles.

Hopefully the driver of a Nio doesn’t even need a service hub, at the earliest to change the brake fluid or transmission oil (after 200,000 kilometers), coolant must be checked after five years or 100,000 kilometers and replaced if found to be faulty. Nio only gives a warranty of 90,000 kilometers or three years, a direct competitor, Genesis, does a better job: five years without mileage restrictions.

Nio is all about Swapping

The power swap stations are a special feature of Nio. These are battery swap stations where an empty battery is automatically replaced with a full one within around five minutes. There are currently seven stations in Germany, a total of 30 power swap stations in Europe (by the end of 2023) - and more than 1,200 in China, which, according to Nio, are heavily frequented. But now things are getting a little complicated. 

If you want to use the stations as a Nio customer, you have to have leased the car or at least the battery. This costs (battery rental) in the cheapest case 169 euros (gross) per month for the basic battery with 75 kWh. If you have rented the 100 kWh battery (as in our test car), you pay 289 euros per month for the rental - plus the leasing rate for the ET5 Tourer, which costs at least 1,119 euros gross on and only includes 1,250 kilometers per month.

If you buy the Nio vehicle, you pay from 39,916 euros for the Nio ET5 Tourer plus the aforementioned monthly rental rates. If you buy the battery, you pay a one-off fee of 10,084 euros for 75 kWh (battery weight 535 kilograms) and 17,647 euros for 100 kWh (the battery weighs only 20 (!) kilograms more). Incidentally, the battery prices are identical for all Nio models, as they can also be interchanged at any time.

So it's no bargain, which is why the sales figures for the Nio models ET7, EL6 and now ET5, which are already available, are very limited and progressive customers may prefer to choose a Tesla, which is known to have an almost perfect charging infrastructure and is significantly cheaper in comparison.

Although the Nio ET5 Tourer's material quality and workmanship are just right, with a purchase price (including battery) of at least 50,420 euros, the Chinese car dances the Schuhplattler with a BMW i4, which is known to be no bad electric car - albeit not (yet) a station wagon.

Well-made interior

Anyone who does not want to or is not allowed to swap the battery of the Nio ET5 (because they have purchased the power storage unit) will receive a technically upgraded battery, which should enable charging currents of up to 180 kW. Previously, only 130 kW was possible with Nio, which has nothing to do with a premium status. At least automatic preheating is included when the charging point is selected via the navigation system - manual preheating is also possible. However it was nice that Nio reacted quickly to the charging speed.

If you have booked the swap package, the fast-charging battery in the swap station leaves you the first time you swap and you are unlikely to ever get it back. According to Nio, it takes about six months to replace all the old batteries in the exchange stations - which is probably an optimistic estimate. But then ET7 and EL6 vehicles also charge at a maximum of 180 kW - provided the battery exchange is booked in the package - all a bit complicated.

Small rear window

Enough theory, let's get into the ET5 with a ‘T’. Beautiful materials, clean workmanship and a thoroughly pleasant ambience greet you. Only the fine speckles in the center console irritate the sense of quality. The seats (comfort package) are individually adjustable and quite comfortable, although they will not provide a perfect seating position for every body.

However, there are no air cushions for adjusting the side bolsters or they cannot be adjusted via the seat operating logic. The integrated headrest, on the other hand, is - as almost everywhere - a nuisance, as it is not adjustable and puts the head in an unnatural position when sitting upright.

There is sufficient space in the rear, which is a matter of course in a 4.80-meter car. However, the small rear window and the headrests that cannot be folded away are annoying. The fact that the rear windows can only be lowered by a third is also a shortcoming. There are no grab handles anywhere. But there is a coat hook as soon as you open the trunk. At least the lashing eyes are on board.

Nio drivers can tell you that all cars from the brand lack the standard frunk synonymous with EVs ©

Too much on the screen

The gear selector lever is easy to use and immediately understandable. However, hardly anyone will be able to adjust the mirrors without instructions. This is only possible via the infotainment menu in conjunction with the steering wheel buttons. A premium car should have real switches for such functions, ideally in the door trim. The few cents for the plastic parts and cables should not matter. In general, we miss a few quick quick selection buttons. If you don't want to rummage through the menus, you can try to see if "Nomi Mate" understands you and implements what you have understood as intended. By the way, Nomi Mate is the ball on the dashboard. To make it wave, blink and speak softly, you have to pay an extra 504 euros. Otherwise there is nothing there, it speaks in a male voice (presumably) and does more or less the same thing, only with a little lack of love.

Younger generations may see it differently, but it's better to donate the money to a good cause, as it will help others in any case. The large info display is overloaded with information, depending on the view. You need to know where you can quickly read the total odometer, otherwise you could end up flying blind for a long time. A little tip: it is shown at the bottom right of the display, but unfortunately not in the instrument cluster. VW doesn't do any better in the ID models - unfortunately.

Detailed work required

The German manufacturers do better when it comes to fine-tuning details such as the speed limiter. If you drive it to the limit, the brakes are applied gently and the speed is maintained. If you drive the Nio ET5 Tourer at 200 km/h according to the speedometer, it jerks into the limiter the whole time without ever coming to a stop. Okay, hardly anyone drives at 200 for long periods of time - and certainly not in an electric car. But it shows which details are being skimped on. Including the glove compartment, by the way. There is none. Instead, there is a large storage compartment under the center armrest, which is the only part that looks really cheap. At least it can be folded out on both sides.

Back to speed and the subject of driving: The suspension of the Nio ET5 Tourer is a classic one with no adjustment options. And it is a good one. The dynamic drivers in particular will feel right at home. To match, there is a potent dual drive with an electric motor at the front (204 hp) and one at the rear (285 hp). Together, this results in a maximum of 490 hp. That's right, maximum. Because this power is only available in Sport+ mode. This means that the crazy sprint of four seconds to 100 km/h is only possible if the corresponding mode has been selected beforehand using the button in the center console.

After starting the engine, Comfort mode is always activated, which delivers bread-and-butter values of around eight seconds. There is no kickdown function. Too bad. On the other hand, this is good for the range. Up to 590 kilometers should be possible with the 100 kWh battery. The WLTP consumption is specified at around 20 kWh - a value that is easily undercut.

The ET5 Tourer's only USP

The Nio ET5 Tourer does many things very well. However, it does nothing better than others in the price segment. The biggest advantage of the Nio, the ability to swap batteries, is perhaps also the biggest disadvantage of the Chinese model. Because if you don't lease or rent, you don't get the benefit of battery replacement. Leasing rates are still high and established brands usually have better offers. And anyone who is not traveling in the regions of the existing exchange stations has no advantage anyway.

Many customers probably see it that way too, at least in Germany as only 885 Nio were registered in the first nine months of 2023 (from January to September inclusive). In comparison: 890 Maserati, 764 Lamborghini and 668 Bentley were newly registered in the same period. There is still some way to go for Nio as a new player in the premium vehicle segment.

This article was originally published in German language on Autoflotte. All images courtesy of