It’s a mark of the maturity of electric car technology that there is now a very fast-growing market for what we might call 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.
Some of them are offering a luxury angle, others 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 eTrons, even new-groove Fords and Polestars. 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
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. The Mercedes EQC 400 brushed aside challenges from Jaguar, Audi and Tesla 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.
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.
The first luxury electric car from a mainstream manufacturer to directly challenge Tesla at the high end, 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. It sets the standard for ride and handling among its all-electric 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 any rival. It's that impressive to drive, as well as really interesting and appealing to behold. It just doesn't have such a complete array of qualities as the EQC in real-world use.