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Used test: Jaguar I-Pace vs Tesla Model 3
You can save more than £20,000 on these desirable electric cars if you buy them at three years old, but which is the better option?...
Jaguar I-Pace EV400 S
List price when new £64,495
Price today £38,000*
Available from 2018-present
The I-Pace wraps the British brand's prestige in a zero-emissions package
Tesla Model 3 Performance with Performance Upgrade
List price when new £56,640
Price today £36,000*
Available from 2019-present
A popular and profusely quick car, but is the Model 3 a one trick pony?
*Price today is based on a 2019 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Let's take a moment to appreciate the scale of electric power in mobility. It can do a lot, from assisting you on your bicycle to accelerating your car at blistering speeds. And few brands have specialised in doing the latter as successfully and famously as Tesla.
One of its most affordable products is the Tesla Model 3, an executive car that's available with some astonishing performance. In fact, the test car we have here prominently features that last word in its very name.
However, once you get used to its turn of speed, you'll likely think to yourself: what else is new? At that point, perhaps you're better off with a rival, such as the Jaguar I-Pace. After all, this electric SUV is very classy and, at three years old, is available for similar money to the Model 3.
So, which enticing electric car should you opt for? Read on and find out.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Our four-wheel-drive Model 3 Performance test car was fitted with the Performance Upgrade kit that was optional from new. This added 20in wheels, lowered suspension and upgraded brakes while raising the car’s top speed from 145mph to 162mph. So it’s not surprising that, if you put your foot down, the Model 3 really shifts. You’ll be trying to work out how it delivers performance that’s usually the preserve of high-end sports cars. In torrential rain, for example, we managed 0-60mph in 3.7sec and 0-100mph in 9.3sec.
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 the snarling petrol V8-engined Jaguar F-Pace SVR from the same brand.
The Model 3 isn't just good for straight-line speed, 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, grip is fierce and traction out of corners is such that you can deploy plenty of power with minimal drama.
The I-Pace, by comparison, struggles to keep its considerable weight in check at times (understandable, since it’s higher riding), so it feels less composed in corners. It still handles better than most 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 negotiating bends. Even so, it’s a lot better than that of contemporaries such as the Audi E-tron.
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 Model 3 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 did come on the optional-from-new 20in wheels and air suspension; wider experience tells us you’re not missing out if the car you find has the standard suspension and standard 18in wheels, because cars thus equipped ride much better.
The ride on our test car 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 tricky to slow down smoothly. This is because pressing the pedal increases the effect of its regenerative braking system, which harvests energy and feeds it 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 brake pedal 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) managed 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.
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