The IM L7 Is An EV Sedan Tuned By An F1 Team
Issuing time:2022-11-07 20:00
What is it?
The L7 is what you get when China’s largest automaker and its largest tech company, SAIC and Alibaba, enter into a joint venture to form IM, which stands for “Intelligence in Motion.” The much-anticipated L7 challenges the likes of the NIO ET7 and the Tesla Model S here in the Chinese market.
The L7 has two trim levels, Dynamic and Pro, priced at 50,000 and 56,000 USD, respectively. Our Dynamic trim car had the optional leather upgrade and massaging front seats, so it cost around 53,000 USD. The NIO ET7, is priced between 62,000 and 73,000 USD here in China. The Tesla Model S? It starts at 123,000 USD.
A shark in traffic
It seems like established fact that vehicles always look better in motion than they do standing still, but there are a select group of vehicles that manage to convey a sense of athleticism even when parked. The L7 is one such vehicle. Even when stock-still, it looks like a shark that’s ready to propel itself through the water.
The L7 also has one of the best applications of LED lighting we’ve seen on a production car. Much like the HiPhi X, it has LED panels front and rear that it uses to display images, ranging from the adorable to the useful. It also has DLP projectors that can project images onto the surface of the road. But the most striking element on the L7 is the daytime running lights, arranged in the shape of an Epsilon, the fifth letter in the Greek alphabet.
The rear light signature is also very striking, with more than a hint of Aston Martin to the way it curves upward. We complained quite a bit about the trunk of the NIO ET7, which is very small for a car of its size. The L7 is an identical 5.1 meters in length to the NIO. However, its trunk is obviously deeper and taller. The opening, however, is smaller.
There’s no frunk available on either the L7 or the ET7, but in the case of the IM, they did spruce things up a bit with a small cubby containing a tire pump. The orange panel covering that cubby is emblazoned with the words “Performance Edition,” as well as its power and torque figures. Seeing as every version of the L7 has this panel, regardless of trim, doesn’t that mean that all versions of the L7 are Performance Editions? And since all versions are Performance Editions, doesn’t that also make them the Standard Edition…
Form over function
The exterior styling of the L7 might be a homerun, but that doesn't necessarily apply to the interior. An interior should be assessed based on two dimensions: how it looks, and how it actually feels to use. In that first category, the L7 is a winner, with a design that looks premium and high tech. It also manages to squeeze in some interesting features that separate it from rivals such as the ET7.
That includes three screens; one measuring 26.3 inches that acts as an instrument cluster and center screen, a 12.3-inch passenger screen, and a 12.8-inch lower screen. The upper screens can be raised and lowered several centimeters at the touch of a button. The L7 also has a very slick wireless charging pad situationed under the lower screen. It’s hard to spot at first, but when you place your phone on the center console, it lowers down to create little cubby. Even the door switches, capacitive touch buttons built into a floating silver piece, have a very sci-fi vibe.
But then we get to the part where you actually have to use these things, and that’s where this interior starts to stumble. The three-screen system looks cool, but the lower screen is too low, and the font is too small, making it hard to do things like change driving modes without taking your eyes off the road for an unacceptable amount of time.
The charging pad is slick, both in a metaphorical sense and a literal one. Taking turns at a decent speed with send your phone bouncing from one side of the cubby to another. Based on photos, there are versions of the car that use a rubberized surface, but it should be standard on all cars in our opinion. Those floating window switches are cool, but frustratingly hard to operate accurately.
The L7’s interior feels like a case of form over function, but there’s still much to recommend about it. The seats, both front and rear, are soft and supportive, more supportive than an ET7. However, the rear seat of the L7 does lack some of features found on the NIO, including the rear touch screen and adjustable headrests.
What it does have is a function that we’ve never seen before; a button on either rear door that allows the passenger to mute the car’s audio system. Despite having a slightly longer wheelbase, the L7 has a bit less space in the second row than the ET7, but slightly more headroom.
The power of Williams Engineering
All versions of the L7 come equipped with the same dual motor powertrain making 425 kW and 725 Nm (575 hp and 540 pound-feet). There’s also only one battery pack option, a 93-kWh lithium-ion unit providing 615 km of CLTC range. That big battery can’t be swapped like a NIO, but it does support 11 kW wireless charging. Not sure where you can actually find a wireless charger like that, but that’s a separate issue.
According to IM, the L7 has the power, handling, and tuning necessary to provide the driving characteristics of the legendary Black Mamba. That tuning was done by Williams Engineering, of F1 fame. The team at Williams tuned the suspension of the L7, including the springs, shocks, and antiroll bars. Bringing the L7 to a stop are Brembo brakes, just like the NIO ET7.
The L7 doesn’t have the air suspension of the ET7, instead using traditional springs. Does it overcome this seeming handicap through the magic of Williams tuning? Yes, but not entirely. Comfort mode in the L7 isn’t quite as comfortable as the ET7, and the cabin isn’t quite as isolated from the bumps and potholes of the outside world. It’s less of a magic carpet ride and more of a plush rug.
But when it comes to handling, the L7 is pretty impressive for a big electric sedan. It may not have air suspension, but it does have continuous damping control with three different modes: normal, comfort and sport. The sport mode firms up the suspension without making it feel brittle, and adds real heft to the steering.
Sport mode also allows you to dispatch a 0-100 kmh run in just 3.87 seconds, and in a rather undramatic fashion thanks to the staggered Pirelli P Zero tires, 245 up front and 275 in the rear. The steering wheel doesn't transmit a ton of information about what those tires are doing, but it is more communicative than one might expect from such a large electric sedan. That's not a high bar, but the L7 sails over it.
Williams Engineering also tuned the four-wheel steering on the L7 car, which means it has 12- degrees of rear-wheel steer. This makes for better stability when changing directions at high speeds and a much tighter turning circle than a car that doesn't have rear steer.
When it comes to driver assistance systems, the L7 falls behind the ET7 in terms of hardware, having only cameras and radar instead of the LiDAR of the NIO. That means the ET7 is a bit more future-proof, but in terms of what they can actually do today, there doesn’t seem to be much difference at this point. Like the ET7, the L7 has available highway navigation on autopilot, lane change assist, and a variety of safety systems.
With for a base price that’s 12,000 USD more than the L7, the NIO ET7 offers some pretty compelling technology, including LiDAR, battery swapping, and air suspension. Those features, and it’s much more user-friendly interior, make it the better luxury car. But if you want the more driver focused car, then you should be looking at the IM L7.
Article classification: Electric Vehicles