At long last, the first crop of electric SUVs from Jaguar, Audi and other auto makers is set to challenge Tesla’s Model X.
The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-tron will both arrive later this year, with the Jaguar likely undercutting the price of the Model X.
However, that’s not to say electric SUVs are finally going to be affordable. The price and range of these vehicles can’t yet compete with gasoline rivals, but new models from Jaguar and Audi will give electric vehicles more mainstream appeal than before.
The I-Pace, recently unveiled at the Geneva motor show after years of teasers and concepts, is Jaguar’s first all-electric vehicle. With its large 90-kilowatt-hour battery, driving range is rated at 386 kilometres a charge based on industry-standard U.S. Environmental Protection Agency testing. That’s on par with the range you’d get from the base-level Tesla Model X.
Canadian deliveries for the Jaguar will begin in the second half of 2018, but pricing has yet to be announced. In the United States, the I-Pace will start at US$69,500, so a price of about $85,000 Canadian is a reasonable estimate.
It’s certainly expensive for a mid-size SUV, even one from a luxury auto maker; Jaguar’s gasoline-powered F-Pace starts at $50,250. However, the I-Pace should be significantly less expensive than its only real rival.
The Model X starts at $102,300, and doesn’t include all-wheel drive. The Tesla though is larger, capable of seating seven people, albeit at an additional cost of $4,000.
The all-wheel drive I-Pace won’t be slow, accelerating from 0-100 kilometres an hour in 4.8 seconds, or 0.4 seconds faster than a Model X 75D. The combined output of the Jag’s electric motors is rated at 394 horsepower and a tree-stump-pulling 512 lb-ft of torque.
First impressions of the I-Pace are that it feels more high-tech than the Tesla, thanks to a slick dual-touch-screen dashboard interface that’s neatly integrated into the cabin architecture. The infotainment system is similar to what you’d find inside the Range Rover Velar. What the Jaguar doesn’t have though is the Tesla’s nifty – if temperamental – falcon-wing doors.
As little as 10 years ago, nobody would have predicted Jaguar – that frequently financially troubled maker of stately, slightly stodgy luxury sedans – would be the first luxury brand with an electric SUV in its lineup. But this is a brave new automotive world.
When we first saw the I-Pace concept in 2016, Jaguar’s design director, Ian Callum, said, “SUVs traditionally have been quite conservative. So it was an opportunity to do something different.” He and his team have certainly accomplished that goal.
Audi isn’t far behind. As parent company Volkswagen Group rapidly moves away from diesel engines after it got caught cheating on emissions testing, it’s looking to quickly boost development of electric vehicles to meet emissions targets.
Audi will lead the VW Group’s electric charge with the e-tron SUV. It will arrive in European showrooms late in 2018, which means Canadian cars should arrive early next year.
“In 2020, we will have three all-electric vehicles in our product range,” Rupert Stadler, chairman of Audi’s board of management, said in a recent speech. Besides the e-tron, Audi’s other forthcoming electric models will be a four-door fastback sedan based on the e-tron Sportback concept arriving in 2019 and the high-performance e-tron GT in 2020.
Key specifications of the e-tron SUV are still largely unknown, despite the fact the company has already taken 3,700 reservations for the vehicle from Norway alone.
The e-tron is priced from €80,000 ($128,000) in Germany, Stadler announced during the company’s annual press conference in Ingolstadt.
We expect the performance to remain essentially unchanged from the concept car, which featured a 95-kWh battery, mated to three electric motors, providing all-wheel-drive traction and a zippy 0-100 km/h time of 4.6 seconds.
The company claims a range of at least 500 kilometres, which should translate into 350 to 400 km on the EPA test.
Similar electric luxury SUVs from BMW and Mercedes will arrive beginning next year.
The first all-electric production vehicle from Mercedes-Benz will be the compact EQC sport ute, arriving in 2019.
The company recently released photos of heavily camouflaged prototypeundergoing cold-weather testing in northern Sweden. Unlike the Jaguar I-Pace or Tesla Model X, the EQC is a fairly conventional-looking SUV. It has a pronounced front hood despite the fact there’s no need to make space for a large internal-combustion engine.
The concept car, unveiled at the 2016 Paris motor show, featured a driving range of 500 km on the European NEDC test-cycle, which translates into roughly 350-400 km on the EPA test. Expect more details on the EQC’s specifications at the Paris show in September or at the Los Angeles show later this year.
BMW was the first luxury auto maker to put an all-electric vehicle into production with the 2014 i3.
But that car was ahead of its time and sales have been sluggish. BMW is being more cautious with its next EV.
This first cohort of luxury SUVs are not going to single-handedly lead the electric-car revolution, but it’s one more step toward making EVs mainstream.