Chinese firm Seres targets Audi and Tesla ahead of UK launch

Seres 9 front quarter
Seres 9 front quarter

Seres' European line-up will be led by the 9, a range-extender luxury SUV

Chinese car firm Seres is gearing up to expand into Europe, setting premium brands like Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla in its sights.

It will enter European markets later this year with three new SUVs – the 5, 7 and 9 – offering a selection of battery-electric and range-extender powertrains.

The entry-level 5 is positioned to rival the Tesla Model Y and Volkswagen ID 4. In electric guise, it has a 76kWh (usable capacity) lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery pack. This yields ranges of up to 298 miles in single-motor cars, according to the WLTP test cycle, while dual-motor cars cut this to 280 miles.


In either case, the bulk of the 5’s power comes from a permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor, sending 268bhp and 266lb ft through the rear wheels. That gives it a 0-62mph time of 7.1sec.

Dual-motor cars add an AC synchronous motor to the front axle, upping outputs to 489bhp and 498lb ft and cutting the 5's sprint time down to 4.5sec.

Both versions can be charged at up to 100kW, affording a 30-80% top up in as little as 30 minutes.

The 5 is also offered with a pair of range-extender powertrains, using a turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine and a a 40kWh nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) battery.

The single-motor, rear-wheel-drive REx puts out 263bhp and 261lb ft and completes the 0-62mph sprint in the same 7.1sec as the BEV. Its electric-only range is rated at 114 miles (WLTP), while fuel economy is pegged at 37.7mpg (also WLTP).

Seres 5 front quarter
Seres 5 front quarter

Although the dual-motor REx is slightly less powerful than the dual-motor BEV, with 480bhp and 490lb ft, it accelerates more quickly, hitting 62mph in 4.4sec

In any case, the 5 tips the scales at more than two tonnes. The lightest version, the single-motor REx, is 2220kg. The dual-motor REx weighs an extra 115kg. The BEV versions are another 15kg heavier than the equivalent REx.

Arriving at the same time as the 5 is the larger 7, a six-seat SUV positioned as a rival for the likes of the Land Rover Discovery.

It's offered exclusively with REx powertrains with the same 40kWh battery and 263bhp rear motor as in the 5 REx.

The dual-motor version, however, swaps the AC motor at the front of the 5 for a permanent-magnet motor similar to that on the rear axle. That gives the dual-motor 7 combined outputs of 433bhp and 482lb ft and a 0-62mph sprint time of 4.8sec.

Its WLTP electric-only range is 84 miles in single-motor form and 87 miles in dual-motor form.

Seres 7 front quarter
Seres 7 front quarter

European specifications for the 9 SUV have yet to be announced, but it's longer and taller than its siblings and offers the same mix of BEV and REx powertrains. It will arrive in Europe after the 5 and 7.

Seres believes its cars can capitalise on untapped demand for advanced digital services and accompanying updates that can transform a car’s functionality throughout its lifespan.

“We aim to redefine luxury with technology, with intelligence,” its foreign markets boss, Jiaxi You, told Autocar.

“The smart cockpit, for example: you can talk to the cars and [activate] autonomous driving or the navigation assistant. That’s a highlight of the vehicles. We're mainly focused on two areas: the smart cockpit and ADAS [advanced driver assistance systems].”

Those driver aids, You claimed, are “only restricted by the regulations”. Referring to the SAE levels of autonomy, You said the cars are “very near level three”, meaning they can take full control in preset conditions.

You added that he believes Seres’ advantage to be in how quickly it can update each car over the air, compared with European rivals.

He said: “When we do have a new software version, we can push this to our customers by an over-the-air (OTA) update. The software evolves itself week by week. We keep collecting inputs and feedback from our customers to improve our product constantly.”

He claimed that “it’s much more agile than traditional development”, with “dedicated people for overseas markets” allowing Seres to tailor new features to a specific region’s tastes.

“We keep a close eye on the customer feedback for different scenarios," You continued. "If there’s a bug fix, you will get that instantly overnight, but if there’s a product upgrade, new features, new functions, we will [bundle] that to avoid OTA too much over time.”

Seres 7 interior
Seres 7 interior

You also believes that the lack of physical buttons inside Seres’ cars – they only feature switchgear on the steering wheel for critical controls – isn't a concern.

He explained: “A few years ago in China, all cars were also equipped with physical buttons. The more buttons you have, the more premium the vehicle is: it’s usually that way.

“The idea right now is that’s the [role of] a touchscreen. You have to make the user experience the best you can; we learn a lot from our customers to keep optimising the experience of the touchscreen.

“I think the voice control will become a major interaction between you and the vehicle, because we're already over the technology gap; it doesn't bother you any more.”

Seres has yet to set numerical targets for its European expansion. It instead acknowledges that building a brand is difficult and, like compatriots BYD and GWM, will partner with established dealer franchises to get its cars in front of customers.

Asked whether Seres could face similar challenges to those other new brands, You said it wasn't just an issue of brand awareness but also of trust.

“Our strategy is to take care of our customers – every one of them – by providing great products and best-in-class services,” he explained. “We plan to stay, and we plan to stay long.”

A UK launch date for Seres has yet to be fixed. The smaller Seres 3 electric SUV is already present in the UK, but it's imported and sold by British company Innovation Automotive, and You said he was "not aware" of this.

You wouldn't be drawn on which brands Seres is targeting with its European launch but noted that in China, “in the ranking of luxury brands, right behind Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Tesla, it's our car”.