The AITO M5 Is The Car Huawei Should Have Made All Along
Issuing time:2022-03-21 16:21
What is it?
The AITO M5 is a result of a collaboration between Chinese automaker Seres and Huawei, one of China’s largest and most well-known technology companies. This is not the first time these two companies have worked together, and the results of their first collaboration were less successful than they had hoped.
When the AITO M5’s predecessor, the Seres SF5, went on sale in 2019, it had nothing to do with Huawei. It wasn’t till 2021 that Seres and Huawei announced they would be reintroducing an updated version of the SF5 utilizing Huawei’s DriveONE drivetrain system and HiCar infotainment system.
The updated SF5 was briefly sold through some Huawei retail locations, but while it was met with a great deal of enthusiasm at its debut, delays in production and other complications meant sales didn’t reach the lofty goals set by the two companies. With the all-new AITO brand, it appears Huawei had a much stronger hand in design and planning, with Seres providing production capacity.
Catfish face and Macan rear
While the exterior styling of the M5 does carryover one or two elements from the SF5, such as the nearly identical headlight unit, the changes made to the design are manyfold. The SF5 hid its hybrid powertrain behind a blank, nearly grill-less face, while the M5 features the de rigueur catfish mouth you see on so many cars these days.
Even the shape of the greenhouse and beltline are significantly altered, indicating just how far the companies went to update this design. The resemblance on the rear end is much stronger, likely due to the difficulty of changing things like rear glass and D-pillars.
It’s certainly a handsome design, with echoes of Aston Martin DBX up front and more than a bit of Porsche Macan in the rear. That rear end is emblazoned with the company name, pronounced “I-Toe”, which is said to an acronym for “Adding Intelligence to Auto”. Turning that into AITO seems like a bit of a stretch for us, but we’ve got bigger fish to fry.
The interior design language of the M5 errs on the side of simple, maybe even a little bland, with aesthetics are very reminiscent of a Tesla. Even the wood pattern found on the door panels is similar to the one you can find in several Tesla models.
That similarity extends to the material quality as well, which is good, but not great. This interior isn’t what we would refer to as luxurious, but there aren’t any glaring faults, with one small exception: the molded plastic piece embedded in the headliner above the rearview mirror. It looks as though the plastic has aged into an ugly, faded yellow, and the action of the small sliding door that covers the passenger monitoring camera could not feel any cheaper.
The arrangement of the center console is a mixed bag, with a very ergonomic transmission lever, but a somewhat perplexing three cupholders. Seems like that space could have been used more efficiently. No complaints, however, about the alcantara-lined wireless charging pad, which AITO says will charge at up to 40 watts, versus the 14 to 18 watts seen on most wireless charging pads.
But the star of the interior has to be the 15.6-inch screen and its Huawei-designed HarmonyOS. One can raise doubts about how much Huawei was involved with the other aspects of the M5’s development, but this system was all their doing, and it was done well.
The first thing that struck us about HarmonyOS is the amount of negative space on the screen that is taken up by your choice of high-res background images. The apps and other functions are located at the bottom of the screen, and take up a relatively small amount of space, making it easier on the eyes than almost any other system we’ve used.
The customization process for that menu bar is like that of any smart phone or tablet; go into a menu, long-press an app and add it to the bar. Of course, directly porting an OS for a tablet or cellphone over to a vehicle simply won’t work, but the Huawei system manages to bridge the gap between the two and create something that is both intuitive and highly legible while driving.
Back seat passengers won’t be able to enjoy the HarmonyOS, but they do get decent legroom, two type-C charging ports, and a massive glass roof. Complaints? The floor is a bit too high, compromising comfort. Official numbers for cargo space behind the second row are 369L with the seats up and 776L with the seats folded down.
Power and Composure
The M5 is an extended-range electric vehicle, meaning it has a 1.5L turbo 4-cylinder that acts as a generator for the onboard electric motors, but does not power the wheels. There are three motor options available. The first is a single, rear-mounted motor providing 200 kW and 360 Nm of torque (268 hp and 266 lb-ft).
Mid-range models add a front-mounted motor for a total of 315 kW and 720 Nm of torque (422 hp and 532 lb-ft). Flagship models like our test car get a combined 365 kW and 675 Nm (490 hp and 500 lb-ft). 0-100 km/h times are 7.1, 4.8, and 4.4 seconds, respectively.
All versions come with a 40 kWh battery pack that provides 150 km of pure electric on the WLTP standard. That battery can be charged using a fast charger in about 45 minutes, or a slow charger in about 5 hours. When combined with the range extending engine up front, it has a claimed WLTC range of over 1100 km.
It’s sometimes hard to tell when the range-extender is even activated while driving the M5, as very little NVH enters the cabin once it is switched on. About the only time we noticed it was when we were stopped in a parking lot and the engine was running, likely charging the battery.
What you do hear is the whine of the electric motors as they thrust the M5 forward with authority. HarmonyOS allows the driver to select from three options, "Prefer Electric", "Prefer Petrol" and "Auto".
Prefer Electric mode basically means the car will avoid starting the engine except when necessary, i.e. when there is a heavy load or when the battery’s state of charge gets below a certain threshold. Prefer Petrol mode will keep the engine on and give more charge to the battery, while Auto will just decide for you based on the circumstances.
There are also four different acceleration modes; Mild, Standard, Intense and Hyper. We chose Hyper (duh). The speed you achieve is filtered through front and rear independent suspension, and the M5 was very composed during our time behind the wheel.
That time was mostly spent driving on straight back roads and highways, so we can't speak to the handling limits. We can say that the M5 does an admirable job of filtering out speed bumps and imperfections in the road, while also delivering direct steering.
The engineers from AITO also made sure to point out the M5’s exhaust simulation modes, of which there are three: Move, Thrust, and Tech. Move and Thrust sound more like traditional engine notes, with the latter being most akin to a V8. Tech, as the name would suggest, is the more futuristic sounding of the three. In both Move and Thrust mode, the car will also simulate upshifts and downshifts. Is it useful? Certainly not, but it is fun.
The AITO M5 is priced at 40,000-50,000 USD, meaning its starting price is the same as the most expensive Seres SF5 (34,000-39,000 USD). But despite costing considerably more, we think the M5 offers a much better value by retaining the positives of the SF5, like a powerful and efficient extended-range powertrain, and adding a more attractive and advanced interior with better tech.
Article classification: Hybrids