New Audi E-tron vs Jaguar I-Pace
Competition in the electric car market is hotting up with the arrival of Audi’s E-tron luxury SUV. Let’s see if it’s good enough to beat our current favourite, the Jaguar I-Pace...
Audi E-tron 55 quattro
- List price - £71,520 (before £3500 government grant)
- Target Price - £71,520
Audi’s first pure electric model isn’t cheap, but it’s big and appears to be very clever.
Jaguar I-Pace EV400 SE
- List price - £69,995 (before £3500 government grant)
- Target Price - £69,995
Has already seen off the Tesla Model S, thanks to fine driving manners and a great range.
If you still doubt the desirability of electric cars, these two will surely change your mind. Both are plush SUVs built by long-established premium brands, both are packed with the latest technology and both are a lot faster than you might imagine.
The only major difference between these cars and regular SUVs is that they don’t burn any petrol or diesel as they’re travelling along. That means no tailpipe emissions (so they’re good for your conscience) and various tax perks (good for your bank balance). And as a bonus, there’s no messing around with mucky pumps at fuel stations.
There are, of course, much cheaper EVs to choose from, but these two have among the longest ranges between charges of any currently on sale, and they’re predicted to depreciate more slowly than the majority of the petrol and diesels cars you might otherwise be considering.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
The E-tron weighs in at more than two and a half tonnes, but thanks to its twin electric motors developing a mighty 402bhp, it can still bludgeon its way from 0-60mph in just 5.5sec. That’s quick by any standard, and all the more impressive given that our tests were conducted on a wet day.
But the 394bhp I-Pace is even quicker and, in the same slippery conditions, hit 60mph from rest in just 4.4sec. If that difference doesn’t sound all that dramatic, consider this: it’s roughly the disparity between a hot hatch – the Honda Civic Type R, for example – and a proper sports car such as the Porsche 718 Cayman S. The bigger kick in the back you get from the I-Pace is accompanied by a curious background warble that’s supposed to sound like a V8 petrol engine (it isn’t very convincing), whereas in the e-tron there’s only the faintest of whines.
True, that whine is vaguely reminiscent of a milk float and is more noticeable when you’re pottering around at low speeds, but that’s mainly because of how quiet everything else is; there’s barely any tyre or wind noise and the E-tron recorded among the lowest decibel readings we’ve ever seen. While the I-Pace is far from rowdy, there’s always more suspension noise around town and tyre roar on the motorway.
The I-Pace performed worse in our braking tests, too, needing 13 metres more road to pull up from 70mph. It’s no exaggeration to say that could be the difference between a big accident and getting away with sweaty palms. From our previous tests of the I-Pace, we know that stopping distances are much better in the dry, but the brakes don’t actually inspire much confidence in any conditions. The resistance in the pedal feels inconsistent and strange pulses and vibrations frequently pass through it, making it hard to slow your progress smoothly.
This is an issue that blights a number of electric cars and it’s because pressing the brake pedal increases the regeneration effect that harvests energy to feed back into the battery. Thankfully, the E-tron’s brake pedal responds much more consistently to pressure, no matter whether you’re doing an emergency stop or just gently slowing as you approach a roundabout.
In both cars, you can opt to have them slow down quite abruptly when you lift off the accelerator, meaning you don’t actually need to use the brake pedal much at all; the E-tron does this particularly cleverly, because it can read the road ahead using sensors and decide when to activate the regeneration and when to simply allow the car to coast.
Of course, when it comes to electric cars, a crucial aspect of its performance is how far you can get between charges. The official figures suggest the I-Pace has a sizeable edge here with a range of 292 miles, compared with the 241 miles promised by the e-tron. Those distances would be incredibly tough to achieve in normal road driving, though; in our Real Range tests, the I-Pace managed 253 miles and the e-tron a mildly disappointing 196 miles.
Our test I-Pace was fitted with optional air suspension (£1100), but prior experience of the car suggests this isn’t money well spent. Although it still deals with most bumps very well, the standard suspension actually does a better job of smoothing over jagged-edged imperfections and potholes. No I-Pace is as serenely comfortable as the E-tron, though; its laid-back nature means it soaks up most lumps and bumps as if they weren’t even there.
Just don’t expect to have much fun through corners. The heavy Audi e-tron doesn’t appreciate being asked to change direction at anything more than jogging speeds, and its slow, vague steering only compounds the issue; if the big Audi were a dog, it would probably be a St Bernard. The Jaguar I-Pace? Well, that’s more of a border collie: agile but always predictable, and that means you can have a surprising amount of fun. The meaty, precise steering helps, allowing you to place the car exactly where you want it in bends.
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