A few years back, there was no shortage of Chinese start-up companies with grand dreams of making electric cars.
Although Nio is better known outside China, not least for its EP9 supercar, Guangzhou-based Xpeng is hot on its heels and already selling its G3 crossover in Norway. These companies are currently valued at $88 billion and $37bn respectively; General Motors is valued at $78bn, so there's heavy expectation on the success of these Chinese newcomers.
The P7 saloon driven here is Xpeng's second model, and it has already been on sale in China since June with a price starting at around the equivalent of £35,000. In February, it will be upgraded with Xpeng's Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP), a Tesla Autopilot-rivalling 'autonomous' driving function.
Compared with the Gallic-looking G3, the P7 has a far sleeker Italianate flair to its design, and is a sizeable but minimalistic sports saloon roughly the size of the BMW 5 Series. As such, although its has been billed as a Tesla Model 3 competitor, the P7 is closer in size to the Model S.
The interior has a futuristic feel, with both a digital instrument panel and 15in infotainment screen that blend into one another behind a swathe of glass.
Most of the functions of the car – including the climate control and infotainment – can be voice-activated via Xpeng’s virtual assistant, Xiao P. Our particular P7 didn’t support English, yet the system’s ability to understand your scribe's broken Chinese was impressive, and in theory the system needs only 2.5sec to execute any given command.
All touchpoints use good-quality materials, although, unsurprisingly, less frequently felt areas get harder plastics. In tune with the exterior’s minimalism, the dashboard looks satisfyingly clean, with the air vents hidden below your eyeline. Both driver and passenger also get comfy electrically adjustable leather seats.