The premium EV market is set to be transformed from almost empty to chock-full by 2021. Here are the main protagonists today – and a preview of what they might be in a couple of years' time
28 March 2019

It’s a mark of the maturity of electric car technology that there is now a small but fast-growing market for premium-branded EVs.

Some have a luxury angle, others a performance bias; some are big, others not so big; and while some come from established automotive industry powers, others are from more ‘disruptive’ outfits. But whatever you’re looking for, if you’re looking for the longest-legged and least compromised 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. Many of the cars we’ve listed aren’t quite on the market yet but are expected very soon – and where that’s the case, we won’t rank them until we’ve driven them. Whether here or not quite here, however, they are all reasons for the early-adopting EV crowd to get very excited.

Best Premium Electric Cars 2019

1. Jaguar I-Pace

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 EV ride and handling, delivers strong performance from its twin 197bhp motors, and feels like what a premium-branded electric car should: an unshackled clean-sheet design.

The rarity of 100kW public chargers around the UK road network dents its potential as a long-range tourer somewhat, although that will improve quickly over time as infrastructure grows. As things stand, the car will run for 200-275 miles on a full charge, depending on your cruising speed and driving style.

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Our Verdict

Jaguar I-Pace 2018 road test review hero front

It looks the part, promises 0-60mph in 4.5sec, has a near-300 mile range, and is among the first luxury EVs to arrive from an established brand. Can the I-Pace topple Tesla?

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2. Audi E-tron 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 interestingly 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.

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-brand-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.

When the opportunity arises to compare the E-tron, on a back-to-back basis, with its rivals from Jaguar, Mercedes and Tesla, we’ll take it: and this order may well change to reflect the result. As things stand, however, our first impression would lead us to expect the car to finish a very close second to the I-Pace for interested drivers.

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3. Tesla Model S

The car that persuaded the world that an electric saloon could be a viable alternative to a combustion-engined one, and that made the EV break into the luxury-car big time, would still be our pick of Tesla’s model catalogue for its combination of performance, usability, price and range.

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 good-sized boots at both ends of the car and an extra rearward-facing pair of jump seats available in the boot.

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4. Tesla Model 3

So far, we’ve had opportunities to test Tesla’s new smaller saloon, the Model 3, both in North America and Europe – but only in its more expensive, twin-motor guises. Its maker introduced the much-anticipated ‘standard range’ version of the car, available in the US for less than $40,000, early in 2019, and this may be the car to really broaden Tesla’s reach and boost its market presence – but it’s not expected in right-hand-drive form until 2020.

The Model 3 Performance will be available to UK buyers this year but, at a price that’s likely to be close to £60,000, it won’t be the affordability revelation some are waiting for. It’s certainly fast. With two electric motors combining to the tune of 444bhp and a 0-62mph dash of just 3.4sec, it responds to throttle inputs in a way that really challenges your fine motor control as well as your neck muscles. Electric range should be better in other 75kWh versions of the Model 3, however – the Performance version delivering a real-world range much closer to 200 miles than 300 in our testing experience.

The car’s cabin is certainly of higher perceived quality than in Tesla’s earlier models, but the back row’s a slightly tight squeeze for adult passengers, and the boot isn’t as roomy or as accessible as a Model S’s.

5. Tesla Model X

The sheer size and bulk of Tesla’s biggest model, the seven-seat Model X SUV, is what penalises it relative to its range-mates.

It’s currently in a league of one as far as all-electric seven-seat SUVs are concerned, and so it seems a bit churlish to criticise it in some ways. Nonetheless, if you’re expecting Model S range and performance in a bigger, more versatile package, you’re headed for disappointment. Our testing suggests even range-topping 100kWh versions of the car won’t go much further than 200 miles at typical UK motorway speeds, with the cheaper ones struggling to pass 150 unless you’re conservative with your cruising speed.

Still, if that kind of range suits your purposes, you’ll find an awful lot to like here. With upper-level versions packing more than 600 horsepower, the Model X is well capable of beating 4.0sec to 60mph and can feel fast in a way you wouldn’t believe possible of such a large and heavy car. Handling is dulled somewhat by the car’s mass, but still more than credible enough to make the Model X feel coherent at pace.

Meanwhile, until you’ve seen a pair of all-electric gullwing doors opening automatically in a multi-storey car park and cleverly avoiding any nearby cars or masonry while doing it, you won’t fully appreciate the Model X’s party trick.

Save money with new Model X deals from What Car?


6. Mercedes EQC

The EQC will bring Mercedes into the battery-electric market when it launches in the UK later in 2019. Although slightly shorter than the Audi E-tron, the EQC will offer a very similar mid-sized SUV prospect to the Audi’s, with five seats, just over 400 horsepower, an 80kWh battery and a claimed WLTP combined electric range of 249 miles. It will be the first of four EQ-branded electric Mercedes passenger cars due by 2022.

7. Porsche Taycan

When a company like Porsche enters the electric car fray, you know it’ll be with an EV of real driver appeal. That’s the prospect represented by the Taycan saloon, which is now in the final stages of engineering sign-off before a motor show debut at Frankfurt in September, and a UK sales debut at the very end of this year.

Insiders have hinted that the Taycan will ultimately be available in circa 450, 530 and 630 horsepower guises, with most offering between 250 and 300 miles of usable battery range.

8. Tesla Model Y

Tesla boss Elon Musk claims the recently announced Model Y crossover SUV has even greater sales potential than the Model 3 saloon, and should be twice as popular when it launches in North America in 2020. It will share the Model 3’s platform and much of its component set but will be the first Tesla built at the company’s Gigafactory 1 site in Nevada, USA. A European delivery schedule has yes to be announced.

9. BMW iX3

This will be an electrified version of BMW’s X3 SUV, and so a direct rival for the Audi E-tron, Mercedes EQC and Jaguar I-Pace, due in the UK market in 2020. It’s set to share a platform with the current X3, and to have “more than 70kWh” of on-board battery capacity, according to BMW.

10. BMW i4

The BMW i4 will follow the iX3 to market in 2021. Set to be Munich’s answer to the Tesla Model 3, it’s already in late-stage development and is claimed to be good for close to 400 miles of range and 0-62mph in 4.0sec flat. It will share a factory, a platform and a design resemblance with BMW’s forthcoming 4 Series Gran Coupé.

Read more

Top 10 Best Electric Cars 2019

Top 10 Best Hybrid SUVs 2019

Top 10 Best Luxury Cars 2019

Join the debate


28 March 2019
... I still think the battery technology needs to advance more - these cars only have reasonable ranges due to enormous, expensive batteries.

I'm about to make a 1200 mile trip in my ancient Vectra - still unthinkable in the current electric car lineup without wrestling with non working/incompatible/too slow/unavailable charging points.


28 March 2019

You mix up basic facts. The I-Pace has 292 miles WLTP, more than the Audi. And the claimed 95kWh battery for teh Audi is false advertising, a lot less than that is usable as they have a large cache.

The Merc is 249 miles NEDC so just under 200 miles EPA and some 220 miles WLTP. Model 3 P has 329 miles or so WLTP and you do get over 300 miles, if you don't drive like a maniac.In any case, it's much more efficient than anything else on the list. 

Audi, BMW and Mercedes are just harvesting parts from their ICE models and using some primitive first gen EV platform while making no effort to build the car around the powertrain to take advantage of what it offers. The Audi has a 73% larger battery than Model Y base, for slightly less range and cargo space, at almost 2x the starting price.

When you make a top, you got to make a minimal effort to get informed. You don't seem to understand EVs at all and that's not surprising when you don't even know the most basic specs.

29 March 2019

basically all electric cars are premium there's hardly any electric car that havent been included.


29 March 2019

Yup, fully agree 5cylinderT

Although one they forgot was the Nissan Leaf, which is surley one of the most premium EVs there is. How do you explain this Autocar? Putting unheard of upstarts in first place when the Leaf obviously is the King?


Ummm..... No, I don't think so


29 March 2019
JMax18 wrote:

Yup, fully agree 5cylinderT

Although one they forgot was the Nissan Leaf, which is surley one of the most premium EVs there is. How do you explain this Autocar? Putting unheard of upstarts in first place when the Leaf obviously is the King?


Ummm..... No, I don't think so

I  might consider a ZOE they are so upmarket.


29 March 2019

buy combustion whilst u can, forget about electric for a little plssssss

30 March 2019

Another blatantly JLR biased Autocar article. Putting the iPace in No. 1 slot and quoting the complete rubbish WLTP range in what is well understood by proper journalists to be a car that does not efficiently use its batteries. This is why I stopped subscribing to the magazine. You're meant to be able to gain real insight from editorial, and instead you can never trust a word of what Autocar says nowadays. How much longer must this shame continue? 

Lotus Evora 400

13 May 2019

I know wheelman.

And the same applies to the Car of the year award, europes best car award, green car of the year award, etc, etc

Everyone is just biased towards JLR, when in actual fact all they produce is rubbish.

You would know even though youve never driven one.

The world is just a pit of misinformation.


5 April 2019

Mercedes EQC is the future favourite of electric cars! 


17 April 2019

basically all electric cars are premium there's hardly any electric car that havent been included.

Router info: network settings

thank you.


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