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The luxury EV market has rapidly transformed from almost empty to chock-full. Here are the main protagonists

It’s a mark of the maturity of electric car technology that there is now a very fast-growing market for premium-branded luxury EVs. It was a segment created a decade ago by Tesla, but plenty of manufacturers are now desperate to be seen to be at the very forefront of it and competition is growing fierce.

Some of those manufacturers are offering a luxury angle, others more of a performance bias, some the capability and convenience of a SUV bodystyle – and some a combination of all of those things. Some cars charting here are big, others not so big. And while some come from established automotive industry powers, others are from newer and more ‘disruptive’ outfits you might not have heard of. 

If you’re looking for the some of the longest-legged and most usable electric cars in the world, this chart is where you’ll find them. This is where Teslas do battle with Mercedes EQs, BMW i cars, Audi E-trons, and even new-groove Porsches. If you've got a bigger budget to spend on an electrically powered family car to use and rely on for any kind of trip, then, with claimed ranges of up to 400 miles and beyond, these are your main contenders.

Best Luxury Electric Cars 2021

1. BMW iX

"A BMW like no other," is how our man Greg Kable described the iX, the firm's new all-electric luxury SUV flagship model for its 'i' brand. Some critics have used other words to make their feelings plain about the way this car looks and the departure from classic BMW design type that it, and other recent BMW model debutants, represent. Feel free to make up your own if you're so inclined: this is a car clearly intended to provoke a reaction.

Munich is no stranger to convention-defying exterior design, though; and it has stressed every sinew to make this a landmark electric car, as well as a watershed moment in its transformation from a maker of internal combustion cars to a brand that deals almost exclusively in zero-emissions models. The iX is roughly the size of an X5, but is based on a specialised platform adapted with lightweight composite materials and mixed metals, and is powered by one electric motor per axle.

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The entry-level BMW iX xDrive40 version is priced from a whisker under £70,000, and gets 296bhp of power and 249 miles of WLTP-certified electric range. Upgrade to the £92k xDrive50 model, however, and those statistics take sizable jumps: up to 516bhp and 373 miles of range, delivered along with 200kW rapid charging potential. An iX xDriveM60 model is expected to offer even more power and performance in pretty short order: but, even allowing for the lightweight platform, no iX will weigh less than 2.5 tonnes.

It saw off the Mercedes-Benz EQS in a comparison test. The Mercedes is comfortable, but the isolation and sophistication of the iX’s ride is really very special indeed and makes it a particularly compelling luxury car. The BMW also counters the EQS’s wide-eyed futurism with a warmer, more idiosyncratic and less formal flavour, both inside and out.

The iX continued to impress when we put it through our full road test. The car’s combination of generous SUV-level cabin comfort and versatility, and of a genuinely relaxing and understated luxury ambience, with world-class rolling refinement and drivability, instant and effortless performance, and creditable real-world range is one unmatched by any of the market’s other zero-emission SUVs. Even if it doesn’t smash down barriers in terms of outright electric range in the way that some will expect of a top-level EV, the BMW iX has compelling fitness for purpose and a real completeness of appeal as a near-£100,000 luxury car.

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2. Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo

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Porsche has broadened out the range of its first all-electric model, the Taycan, quite a bit since the car first zapped onto the scene in 2020. You can now have one with one drive motor or two; with four-wheel drive or two-; with an indecent amount of power, or just a lot of it; and also in either four-door swoopy saloon form, or as pseudo-estate-style Cross Turismo instead. It's the kind of breadth of choice that has transformed a breakthrough sporting EV into a luxury-segment contender with enough pull to have outsold every other Porsche model in the UK.

The Taycan is a world-class operator however you configure it, but the extended cargo space and ride-height-boosted extra versatility of the Cross Turismo version certainly don't appear to have weakened the car's dynamic powers. This car rides with an uncannily absorbtive and poised sort of body control, but it retains chatty, communicative steering, fine handling response, ideal handling balance and security, and as much real-world pace as you could ever expect to deploy on the road. Electric range isn't class-leading - but 250 miles is certainly possible from most versions of the car in mixed, real-world used.

Seats for up to five occupants, plus a boot within sight of that of a BMW 3-Series Touring for carrying capacity, seal the deal on one of the most accomplished electric cars that any budget might buy; and you can buy one, with options, for less than £90,000.

3. Mercedes EQS

The oldest car-maker in the world isn't taking any prisoners when it comes to the switch to electric mobility. Mercedes' first dedicated EV, the EQC SUV, came along in 2019, and we've seen a few other smaller EQ models along since. But none matters more reputationally than the big one: Stuttgart's all-electric, new-age limousine, the EQS.

Built on a brand-new model platform (and partly in response to the market share lost by the conventionally powered S-Class when Tesla's Model S struck it big in the important North American market), the EQS is a luxury EV without compromise. It's expensive: on sale in the UK now, it's priced from £102,160 for the 325bhp, single-motor, rear-driven, EQS 450+ version, rising to well north of £150,000 for the Mercedes-AMG EQS 53. But it is a car engineered with true commitment, and packed with technology in a way few other passenger cars can even approach. 

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Read the headlines about the optional 'Hyperscreen', which turns the whole dashboard into a touch screen, and you could easily be fooled into thinking the EQS is all about the tech. It turns out that is the least impressive part of the car. Everything works, looks good and does what it’s supposed to, but it's ultimately just three contiguous screens.

More notable is the way the EQS slips through the air, making the most of its massive 120kWh battery and helping it to achieve a real-world 400 miles. It drives well, too. Four-wheel steering helps this 5.2-metre long car to turn like a black cab, while air suspension ensures high standards for isolation, comfort and refinement. 

The Mercedes EQS is a fantastically well-rounded car, one that shows that the car industry's oldest power has found its feet in the electric car market, and finally returned the disruptor brands' serve with interest.

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4. Jaguar I-Pace

The first luxury electric car from a mainstream manufacturer to directly challenge Tesla at the high end of the market, the I-Pace delivers on its brief with standout handling dynamics, first-rate interior quality and a striking design that’s slightly more SUV than saloon yet is both attractive and innovative. This car sets the standard for ride and handling among its all-electric crossover-SUV peers, delivers strong performance from its twin 197bhp motors, and feels like a premium-branded electric car should: an unshackled, clean-sheet design.

The I-Pace will rapid charge at up to 100kW, but its slightly disappointing real-world range dents its potential as a long-distance tourer somewhat: 220 miles is not a result worth celebrating - and moreover the I-Pace's slightly buggy charging software seems to trip it up more often than other EVs are when you're out and about, trying to get plugged in. If you’re unlikely to rely on public rapid charging facilities or routinely to trouble the outer limits of the car’s electric autonomy potential, this a car we’d consider before most rivals. It's that impressive to drive, as well as really interesting and appealing to behold.

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5. Audi E-tron Quattro, E-tron Quattro Sportback & E-tron S Quattro

Audi has distilled the various qualities for which its revered brand is known and given all of them a new future-proofed home in its first series-production electric car: the E-tron Quattro SUV.

Sized to fit in between the firm’s existing Q5 and Q7 models but offering interior space to rival the latter, the E-tron is powered by a separate electric motor per axle and develops 402bhp and 487lb ft of torque in ‘boost’ driving mode. A Jaguar I-Pace is smaller, lighter, torquier and faster – but the E-tron beats its close British rival on overall battery capacity, offering 95kWh of storage, which is good for a claimed WLTP combined range of 249 miles. In day-to-day use, expect to see between 210 and 220 miles of that before the battery goes flat.

Our first taste of the E-tron came in late 2018, on roads out in the Middle East, where the car impressed most with its classy and refined cabin ambience, its quiet cruising abilities and its Audi-typical apparent build quality. The driving experience was impressive, too, not least for its responsiveness and muscular feel up to motorway speeds, while precise and well-balanced handling completed the picture. Subsequent tests in the UK – not least with the recent Sportback variant – show that the car's ride quality is also a selling point.  

So the regular E-tron’s strong suits make it a superb luxury car, although it doesn’t have quite as much driver appeal as certain rivals. Audi's solution to this has been to launch the 496bhp E-tron S Sportback, whose sensationally versatile rear-axle drive unit gives it a degree of handling adjustability and involvement beyond the basic E-tron. At nearly £90,000, it's pricey, but potentially worth it for pace, panache and the novelty factor of safely sending an electric SUV sideways on a whim.

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6. Tesla Model S

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The car that persuaded the world an electric saloon could be a viable alternative to a combustion-engined one, and made the EV break into the luxury-car big time, is still our pick of Tesla’s model catalogue for its combination of performance, usability, price and range. If you simply want a luxury EV that you can charge and use easily with the greatest usable range, the firm's original breakthrough model is still the one to have.

In its most potent form, the Model S can accelerate with the ferocity of a super-saloon, and handles tidily enough – although without the tactile involvement you might expect of such a fast car. Overall, the Model S certainly makes a better luxury car than a driver’s car.

All models have a futuristic-feeling cabin topped off by a mammoth touchscreen infotainment system. Meanwhile, Tesla’s Supercharger network enables easier and more convenient long-range driving than many would imagine possible in an electric car, and practicality is exceptionally good thanks to useful-sized boots at both ends of the car and an extra rearward-facing pair of jump seats available in the boot.

In Long Range Plus form, this car is the only one here with an WLTP-cerfified range of more than 400 miles. In that form, it's an expensive option, costing only a whisker under £80,000. But if you need the most usable EV going and you've got the budget to pay for it, there's no mistaking that it's still Tesla that offers it.

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7. Mercedes-Benz EQE

The Mercedes EQE is to the EQS what the E-Class is to the S-Class. At least some things in the automotive world still make sense. It’s every inch the downsized EQS, for better and worse, from its teardrop-shape outline to its almost seamlessly smooth surfaces and its ever so gently arcing ‘one bow’ silhouette.

The EQE uses a shortened version of the EQS’s EVA2 platform, which means there isn’t quite room for the same mammoth batteries, but 90kWh of usable capacity is still an impressive number and means the EQE 350+ has a quoted range of 394 miles.

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In the UK, we will get EQE 300, EQE 350+ and twin-motor, four-wheel-drive AMG EQE 53 versions of it (the uppermost and lowermost coming along slightly later than the mid-ranger), while other markets will get four-wheel drive EQE 500 and AMG EQE 43 versions as well.

In practice, it’s not quite as deeply impressive as the EQS and we’re still unconvinced about the EQE’s use of space and how the EQS’s looks translate to this shorter car. However, it’s still more than impressive enough to make it into this list.

On air springs, The EQE rides remarkably quietly and isolates its occupants from wind noise too, but remains wieldy enough in the bends. We’ve only driven it in Germany so far, so we look forward to finding out whether those qualities translate to UK roads and UK-spec cars with big wheels.

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8. Mercedes EQC

An outright triumph in our electric SUV group test in September 2019 heralded the arrival of a new all-electric champion for people looking to combine practicality with performance, and luxury with sustainability, in their next big car purchase – while also securing a car that can easily be used on a daily basis on UK roads. Back then, the Mercedes EQC 400 brushed aside challenges from key rivals en route to its big moment, overcoming all by virtue of its technology-laden and upmarket interior, its impressive blend of comfort and driver appeal, and its first-rate infotainment and navigation systems. You could say that an Audi E-tron Quattro is a better luxury car, and a Jaguar i-Pace a better driver's car; but the EQC's package is nonetheless complete and convincing.

Sharing its platform with the related GLC, the EQC has twin electric motors, torque-vectoring four-wheel drive and combined peak ouputs of 402bhp and 564lb ft. WLTP-verified battery range is 259 miles officially, with our tests suggesting that between 80% and 90% of that is reproducible in mixed real-world driving. That's not quite as much cruising range as the most long-legged EVs, but it's a competitive showing all the same.

The EQC has plenty of driving modes, and there’s much complexity to get to grips with in configuring its many battery regeneration settings and semi-autonomous driver assist systems to your liking. But negotiate that hurdle and you’ll find the car very drivable and rounded at its best, as well as every bit as classy and luxurious as you’d want a £70,000 family car to be.

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9. BMW iX3

BMW has changed tack on its strategy for electrification. Having conceived the i brand to contain its very first EV and plug-in hybrid, it is now spreading electric cars among its wider model range, and the iX3 was the first of its new-wave EVs to hit the streets. It's also the first car that BMW has produced in China for export markets.

Using a rear-mounted motor offering up to 282bhp, and with a battery of 74kWh of usable capacity for a maximum claimed WLTP range of 285 miles, the iX3 isn't quite as fast or as long-legged as some of its rivals; and priced from £62,000, it isn't cheap, either. But its trump card may prove to be DC rapid charging potential of up to 350kW as an option, which can restore an empty battery to 80% in little more than half an hour where a compatible charger is available.

Practicality, handling and luxury-level refinement are all very creditable, but there may not be quite enough else to make this car stand out in a fast-growing growing EV segment.

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10. Tesla Model X

The Model X is the biggest of Tesla's model army, and the only seven-seater. Even though it weighs more than 2.5 tonnes, it's still a car capable of startling performance, although its range suffers somewhat as a result of its bulk.

Tesla's 'falcon' rear doors are the car's big party trick, but be careful opening them when the car is in a packed car park or a low-roofed multi-storey. It has a slightly stiff-legged ride, disappointing cabin isolation and handling that's grippy and direct, but not exactly exciting. This remains about the only six- or seven-seat electric car you can buy - but unless you really need something so large, we'd avoid it.

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COMING SOON

Genesis Electrified G80

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Hyundai/Kia's premium brand will launch two electric cars in 2022, and one of them will be an all-electric version of its 5-Series-sized saloon, the G80. It'll have the same 800-volt electronic architecture as the group's new-generation EVs, and a twin-motor powertrain with 365bhp and 516lb ft of torque. A range of around 300 miles is expected.

 

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gavsmit 13 October 2020

How about the top ten best value-for-money EVs?

Oh yes, that's right - none of them represent good value for money.

FRI2 13 October 2020

Joke of a List

Besides this "report" being horribly outdated, having Autocar never taking price into account is not just poor journalism but down right lies. A $200,000 Taycan at #1 is a joke.

lambo58 17 December 2019

Nobody in the know takes this

Nobody in the know takes this article seriously ...Laughable