Tuesday, 8.43am, Milton Keynes Coachway: Britain’s latest and most powerful electric car charging station, installed by Ionity in a corner of Milton Keynes’ park and ride bus station, consists of four charging bays. And right now, it just so happens that we’ve got four EVs with batteries to brim ahead of an Autocar group test with a twist. What luck.
Pretty soon, the brand-new Mercedes-Benz EQC that I’ve brought along – the newest boy in the electric luxury car class – is joined by fairly recent arrival the Audi E-tron, electric SUV old boy the Tesla Model X and current class favourite the Jaguar I-Pace. With the hum of flowing current and cooling fans that duly ensues, it’s as if we’re in some giant, open-air computer server cupboard.
Plugged in and topped up, the Tesla makes the grandest promises – 287 miles of battery range advertised, compared with only 226 miles for both the Audi and Jaguar, joint least. Will any of those advertised range figures be enough to complete our planned convoy road trip to the Severn Estuary and back, though? And over the next 250 miles and 36 hours, which of these cars will prove itself to be the most practical, usable and all-round convincing electric luxury car in a newly metal-swollen niche of the market?
Today, we’re heading to the Severn Bridge to overnight, via some dependably good roads for photography and driving, as a test of real-world, mixed-route energy efficiency and range. Tomorrow, we’ll turn around and head back, testing the current reliability and scope of the UK’s rapid charging network, as well as the various respective capacities of our cars to access and navigate it. Much as it would make life simple to say, here and now, that the first car to return to the point from which we’re about to depart will be our winner, I suspect the truth won’t be quite so straightforward.
10:52am, A34, near Oxford: It’s a good car, this Mercedes - quicker and more engaging than I reckoned a few months ago after driving it abroad – and yet classy, comfortable, spacious, rich and quiet.
Right now, it’s wafting serenely around the Oxford bypass as part of a four-car convoy that few will hear coming, but that plenty will notice passing. Not that those onlookers will all have nice things to say about the sight of the Mercedes. Photographer Olgun Kordal had it about right when he described the EQC as looking like a GLC “that has been left in the oven too long”. Shame. The Audi is considerably smarter to my eyes, the Tesla marginally less so, with its bulbous proportions and its slightly incongruous sloping roofline.