With Toyota's reluctance to embrace the EV revolution, Chinese premium EV brands, like Zeekr, are eyeing the luxury MPV space as a chance to charge big money.
Zeekr, Geely's premium EV brand, has introduced a luxurious MPV called the Zeekr 009. But why would a Chinese premium EV brand make an expensive people mover?
MPVs in the West have largely died out from their hay day in the 90s. Nowadays referred to as ”Soccer Mum Vans,” they don't have the swankiest of images. In China, there is a smattering of low-end MPVs for sale but most of the action in this segment happens at the top-end.
MPVs are mostly statement vehicles, a sign of wealth and success; they're chauffeur-driven rides of the wealthy. My experience living in China for the past decade, the absolute epitome was the imported Toyota Alphard.
With Toyota's reluctance to embrace the EV revolution, Chinese premium EV brands, like Zeekr, are eyeing the luxury MPV space as a chance to charge big money and show off their tech and quality nouse.
The large grille, a mainstay of the luxury MPV space, is perhaps a necessary evil. Behind it 154 programmable dot-matrix LEDs dubbed “The Spring of Light.” Distinct square LED daylight running lights, a break from the EV norm of LED Light bars.
It's a big square front end, with deliberate and unapologetic styling. It's a brutal-looking thing. But there's something quite cool about that, especially in all-black.
The side profile is long, square, and functional. Darkened pillars give the roof the illusion of floating, with some choice of chrome accents down the side, including the door handles.
Thankfully the door handles are normal door handles; Unlike so many EVs that try to create new intricate ways of opening a door, confusing every passenger you have.
The whole rear is cleaved in half by its chrome belt line. A huge rear windscreen gives gobs of rearward visibility. Something you'll need in this 5.2-meter long MPV. The rear end carries over the styling cues from the Zeekr 001 with its fin design in its rear LED light bar. The rear-end styling isn't as abrasive as the front-end and offers a clean look.
The interior of the Zeekr 009 boasts premium materials that solidify its status as a top-notch vehicle. From the abundance of Nappa leather, micro suede, and metal touch points, to the borrowed styling cues from the Zeekr 001, such as the steering wheel and gear selector, this vehicle exudes class.
The ambient lighting, which primarily resides in the rear, is a deliberate styling choice rather than an ambitious soft under-glow.
All seats are comfortable, with multiple options for heat, ventilation, massage, and adjustment. However, it's the second row that truly shines. As a luxury MPV, the second-row seats are essential, and the Zeekr 009 delivers plenty of room and adjustment options.
In fact, the layout of the three rows is incredibly well thought out, with even the third row providing ample space while still allowing for a trunk space of 37 liters with the seats up and a cavernous 2979 liters with the third row down.
Entertainment in the rear is delivered through a roof-mounted 15.6 LCD screen controlled by a remote. While it may seem archaic, it makes sense given the amount of legroom in the second row.
The first and second-row seats also boast headrest speakers, bringing the total speaker count up to 20 for the super-powerful Yamaha system.
The second row is truly the place to be with its HDMI connection for screen mirroring, roof-mounted camera for conference calling, pull-out solid metal tables, and built-in 60W fast charging for each seat.
Overall, the Zeekr 009's interior is classy, comfortable, and functional, with a particular focus on the second row to deliver a luxury MPV experience
Battery, Range, Charging
The Zeekr 009 is available in two trims: the WE Edition and ME Edition.
- Priced around $72,500
- Equipped with a 116-kWh CATL NCM battery pack
- Claimed range of 702 km
- Priced around $82,500
- Equipped with a 140-kWH CATL Qilin battery pack
- Claimed range of 822 km
The Zeekr 009 is positioned as a premium vehicle, but its pricing is surprisingly reasonable compared to the Toyota Alphard in China, which commands a price of between $121,000-134,000.
One of the major selling points of the Zeekr 009 is that it is the world's first vehicle to be equipped with CATL's Qilin battery, which offers a 13% increase in power compared to a pack of the same size filled with Tesla's 4680 cells. CATL Qilin is an advancement in the cell to pack packaging rather than cell chemistry. But it offers impressive gains.
DC fast charging is of course available and quoted at 10-80% in 28mins.
Upfront the driver is greeted with a 10.2-inch digital instrument panel and a 15.4-inch central LCD touchscreen which together with the rear screen is powered by a Snapdragon 8155 CPU.
The central infotainment screen is snappy and well laid out. However, there is no English UI, but you can't blame Zeekr for that, especially when it's highly unlikely the 009 will be released in Europe.
There's a 5G connection, plenty of USB-C connections, and a wireless phone charger. All pretty standard tech on premium and even mid-level EVs in China nowadays. I do wish there was a HUD, but it's not a dealbreaker. A voice assistant is also included, but again in China, this is a somewhat standard affair.
In the second row, you'll find Zeekr's smart bar, a 3.4-inch circular LCD panel on the door that controls the third zone A/C, as well as capacitive touch buttons for the rear windows and panoramic roof shade.
Zeekr's Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) is powered by the Mobileye Supervision full-stack ADAS solution. While they have promised a more advanced ADAS suite called the Zeekr Autonomous Driving (ZAD) that can be added for a one-time fee, it is not yet available. The ZAD promises to provide exceptional ADAS capabilities for complex driving scenarios.
Currently, the Zeekr 009 comes standard with a level 2 ADAS system that includes Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), as well as Zeekr's Highway Autopilot (ZNP).
The ADAS sensor array includes seven 8MP cameras, twelve ultrasonic radars, one milliwave radar, and four 2MP cameras for the 360-degree camera system.
The Mobileye Supervision solution is vision-based, which means that the Zeekr 009 does not have LiDAR. All the data collected by the sensors is processed by dual Mobileye EQ5H chips that deliver 48 TOPs.
Driving & Performance
For an MPV, the Zeekr 009 has a ridiculously powerful dual-motor drivetrain. Delivering 400kW (544hp) of power and 686Nm (506ft-lbs) of torque to the pavement; it smashes 0-100kph in 4.5s.
While it's unclear why an MPV needs this level of power, it certainly adds some fun to the driving. The Zeekr 009 can come to a stop from 100kph in 36.9m, which is impressive, but the sheer mass of the vehicle is felt during heavy braking.
Driving dynamics are nothing to write home about, as expected, but it delivers a comfortable ride thanks to its air suspension and CDC. While this sort of vehicle is not ideal for high-speed cornering, the tires do a commendable job, but no matter what physics cannot be overcome. This is very much a comfortable point-and-squirt kind of speed. Slow in, fast out.
Ultimately, the Zeekr 009 is designed to deliver comfort to the person in the back, most likely the "Big Boss." The rear seats are feature-packed, relaxing, and remarkably comfortable, making them perfect for long chauffeured journeys.
Would I buy a Zeekr 009? I'm not wealthy or important enough to warrant a luxury chauffeured ride, but if I were, I'd take the Zeekr 009 over the Toyota Alphard any day of the week.
However, the decision isn't as simple as that. In my city, the Alphard still reigns supreme as the go-to MPV that screams "I've made it." Even though the Zeekr 009 is a superior product with a lower price point, those with seemingly endless pools of money aren't price sensitive.
But in larger cities where getting a license plate for an internal combustion engine is expensive and difficult, the Zeekr 009 may be a popular seller.
In my city, I think I'd still be a maverick for choosing it over the Toyota Alphard. But I'd be right, they'd be wrong. And I'd have $40,000-50,000 in my back pocket, a better vehicle and a big smug smile on my face.