New Tesla Model 3 vs Jaguar I-Pace

After three years of hype, Tesla’s cheapest electric car, the Model 3, has finally arrived in the UK. Jaguar’s I-Pace will show whether it’s a damp squib or a spark of genius...

13 September 2019
Tesla Model 3, Jaguar I-Pace

The contenders

Jaguar I-Pace EV400 S

  • List price - £64,495 (*before £3500 government grant)
  • Target Price - £64,495 (*before £3500 government grant)

Having seen off the Audi E-tron, our premium electric champion appears here in entry-level form.


Tesla Model 3 Performance with Performance Upgrade

  • List price - £56,640 (*before £3500 government grant)
  • Target Price - £56,640 (*before £3500 government grant)

Hotly anticipated cheapest Tesla promises a huge range and monster performance.


If there’s an automotive equivalent to the launch hysteria generated by new Apple iPhones, Harry Potter books and whatever those Kanye West trainers are, this is it. Back in 2016, before we’d even glimpsed the Tesla Model 3 in the metal, 117,000 deposits had already been placed by people from around the world. Why?

Well, Tesla started life as a mysterious, cultish brand producing high-end, tech-filled, futuristic electric cars that were unattainable for anyone whose home had a number rather than a name. But the Model 3 is billed as the electric car for the masses. With a starting price well below those of its siblings, the Model S luxury hatchback and Model X seven-seat SUV, it has become 2019’s must-have gadget.

There have been many cheaper electric cars, of course, such as the Renault Zoe and Kia e-Niro, but none of them has promised the range, performance or sheer desirability of the Model 3.

Now, after some delay, it has finally reached these shores, and we’ve got our hands on the range-topping four-wheel-drive Model 3 Performance, fitted with the Performance Upgrade (£3700), which adds 20in wheels, lowered suspension and upgraded brakes while raising the car’s top speed from 145mph to 162mph. With no direct electric rival in its immediate price range, the fairest comparison is against our reigning premium electric car champion: the more expensive, SUV-shaped Jaguar I-Pace. So, let’s find out if the Model 3 lives up to the hype.

Grey Jaguar I-Pace front

Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Bury your right foot in the Model 3 and by the time your eyes have popped back into their sockets, you’ll be trying to work out how it delivers performance that’s usually the preserve of high-end sports cars. In absolutely torrential British summer rain, we managed 0-60mph in 3.7sec and 0-100mph in 9.3sec. In the dry, it should be quicker than a Porsche 911. 

The I-Pace may be slower, but you certainly wouldn’t call it slow, because it recorded a 0-60mph time of 4.6sec – just a few fractions behind Jaguar’s snarling petrol V8-engined F-Pace SVR.

Don’t think of the Model 3 as a one-trick pony, though; it really shines on twisty, bumpy B-roads, too. The Performance Upgrade’s lowered suspension helps the car stay incredibly flat through corners, with hardly any body lean. On its 20in wheels with sticky Michelin tyres, sideways grip is fierce and traction out of corners is such that you can deploy plenty of power through the four-wheel drive system with minimal drama.

The I-Pace, by comparison, doesn’t shift its weight with quite as much composure (understandable, since it’s higher-riding), so you’re flung around a bit more through corners. It still handles better than the vast majority of electric cars, though.

The Model 3 has better steering as well. This is a real strength compared with others in the class, even if it doesn’t quite match that of the best conventional executive saloons, such as the BMW 3 Series. It’s nicely weighted and precise, even if it doesn’t offer much feel through the rim. It’s much quicker than the I-Pace’s, too, helping the car to feel relatively agile. 

The I-Pace’s steering is also accurate, but it returns to centre quite aggressively, so you end up wrestling with it a bit more while navigating bends. Even so, it’s a lot better than that of contemporaries such as the Audi E-tron.

Tesla Model 3 Performance

At urban speeds, the firmness of the Model 3’s suspension means the I-Pace is more cosseting. Get into a steady motorway cruise, however, and the Tesla becomes pleasingly composed, riding smoothly and being disturbed only by larger imperfections. 

The I-Pace is a little less settled at higher cruising speeds and rocks you about more on bumpy B-roads. However, our test car had optional 20in wheels (£2000) and air suspension (£1100); wider experience tells us you’re better off sticking with the regular suspension and standard 18in wheels, as long as you can live with the more subdued looks.

The ride may not be perfect, but the worst thing about the driving experience of the I-Pace is the feel of its brakes. It’s no surprise that the lighter Model 3, with its upgraded brakes, stopped from 70mph in a shorter distance, but also the resistance in the I-Pace’s pedal is inconsistent, making it hard to slow down smoothly. This is because pressing the pedal increases the regeneration effect that harvests energy to feed back into the battery. It’s a problem faced by all electric cars, but the Model 3 does a much better job of responding consistently to inputs.

How far you can drive before running out of juice is of vital importance to potential buyers of electric cars, and in our Real Range test the I-Pace (on standard 18in wheels) did an impressive 253 miles. The Model 3 recorded a still respectable 239 miles, and we have no doubt it would have achieved an even greater distance if fitted with its smaller, drag-reducing standard wheels and regular tyres – although then it probably wouldn’t have handled as well.


Next: Behind the wheel >

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