Human Horizons HiPhi X

hiphi x review 2023 01 tracking front
Electric car division of Chinese ‘big tech’ group comes to Europe will a full-size luxury SUV

This is Chinese luxury EV start-up Human Horizons’ tilt at the BMW iX and Mercedes EQS SUV: the HiPhi X.Although it’s an older car than the HiPhi Z electric GT, it’s hardly old – the HiPhi brand itself was only founded in 2019. It’s similarly differentiated to the Z as a product: by the cutting-edge digital technology that Human Horizons believes will define the future of automotive mobility, combined with a genuinely luxurious ambience and level of passenger accommodation.Chinese consumers especially love to see the very latest digital tech on a new car, it says, and none of the ‘legacy brands’, it reckons, offers quite the same double act of tech-laden wow factor paired with world-class material richness, quality and comfort.The X has a simpler, comfort-first dynamic brief than the Z, which it meets more successfully – and it offers some more innovative design features, too.Sharing its platform and air-sprung-and-all-wheel-steered axles with the Z, the X is both longer and taller but not quite as bluff as a conventional large SUV. It’s like a stretched Jaguar I-Pace, offered as it is in both two- and three-row cabin formats.And it has some interesting practicality-boosting tricks. In the version with individual second-row seats rather than a three-seater bench, the outer second-row chairs can motor outboard of their conventional positions to make entry easier, then inboard again and backwards on their bases so as to make for more reclining space.Those seats are accessed through motorised, rear-hinged ‘suicide’ rear doors, which open especially wide to admit you. Above them is a half-gullwing-style roof panel that hinges upwards along the roof’s spine, so you can literally step in and stand up in the back row and then sit down, as if in a train carriage.Fully networked digital touchscreens dominate the X’s interior: there’s a tablet-size one in the second row and two huge ones in the front – one landscape-orientated directly in front of the passenger, the other hung portrait-style as the more typical central infotainment display. A fully digital instrument screen completes the offering.These screens weren’t fully operational in our test car, which was in Chinese-market specification and so didn’t have a European data connection. But they should offer quite the digital overload once they do work.The usability of the central infotainment console is complex, integrating the majority of secondary systems and adjustment functions just as a Tesla’s does. Want to move a door mirror or remotely open a rear door? You will need the right touchscreen menu. Ditto to move the steering column or adjust the ventilation settings. It’s quite imposing until you get used to it, and it could probably be distracting until you grow used to which functions can be adjusted on the move and which need to be set before departure.The good news is that the front passenger’s TV-size display isn’t distracting from the driver’s seat (thanks to its directional pixels) and can be switched off when not in use.Space is generous in rows one and two and just about adult-appropriate in row three, if only for those of average height and below, so pretty class-typical.Material quality isn’t quite a match for the likes of Audi or the latest Range Rover, but considering that this is Human Horizons very first production car, one designed, engineered and delivered to the road in only three-and-a-half years, it’s impressive. The front seats and comfortable and adjustable, the driving position semi-recumbent rather than off-roader-upright.Rearward visibility is the only serious bugbear: it’s alarmingly scant in the rear-view mirror unless you’re happy to use the rear-view camera, which most who go in for a car like this will surely be content to do.Like the Z, the X feels impressively isolated, comfortable and refined on the road, although not especially large, heavy or unwieldy. It’s lacking little in terms of up-to-date suspension and steering technology, so while it’s not an exciting drive, it manages and manipulates its mass cleverly and keeps its occupants comfortable while doing so. There’s a surfeit of performance here but fine drivability and contained body control too. There’s only as much lasting driver appeal as you might expect of a 2.6-tonne, high-rise EV, of course – as well as just a hint of excitability about our test car’s secondary ride on German back roads that might have been better dialled out by its adaptive air suspension. For the most part, however, the X hits its dynamic marks well. Considering that most of its owners will be drawn in by the car’s tech-packed interior, and to judge by what Tesla has achieved over the past decade especially, the X’s driving experience is quite a bit better than it needs to be in order to provide a sound basis for success. It’s a car for a certain sort of buyer with a taste for the very latest consumer electronics and a willingness to spend big on an alternative premium brand that only those ‘in the know’ will recognise. It’s clearly not a car for anyone sceptical about the way that some brands seem intent on turning their latest cars into fully converged electronic mobility devices – the same transition that mobile phones went through two decades ago. A lot of cars, electric ones especially, seem headed that way, whether we like it or not.While it’s that bit less conspicuous-looking than the Z, that could play to the favour of the X, which is certainly smart, spacious, comfortable and still clearly quite different – and it should please those who seek it out.
Source: Autocar

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