Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, Porsche and Tesla are all rolling out luxury crossovers with electric drivetrains.
The electric car revolution is finally becoming a reality, and not just at the fringes of the car industry.
Tesla obviously got the jump on making EVs cool, and deserves some plaudits for it. But now the market's mature, luxury brands are making their moves, spending tens of billions of dollars in the process.
Reflecting market demand, the first swathe of zero-tailpipe-emissions product are all crossover SUVs, vehicles that more comfortably wear premium prices.
This week we've seen the reveal of Audi's e-tron, hot on the heels of the Mercedes-Benz EQC, both of which hit Australia next year. Of course, they'll be late, since the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X are already available.
Beyond this, the BMW iX3 appeared earlier this year in China as a concept, but we'll probably be seeing it on our roads in 2020. Ditto the Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo Concept which, while not confirmed for production, should join the Taycan in showrooms around 2021.
Audi e-tron quattro
Audi has promised 12 electric vehicles by 2025, and that's just the starting point. It sports an electric all-wheel drive (AWD) system promising a new take on the quattro philosophy, with the motor driving the front wheels kicking in on-call.
The system makes a strong 300kW of power and 660Nm of near-instant torque, and promises more than 400km of range, taking the harsher new WLTP test cycle into account.
The e-tron is about 150mm shorter than a Q7 but promises room for five and has an impressive 660L of cargo space. Design-wise it sports an octagonal grille, while the body-side crease and the exaggerated haunches add some muscle. Its aero rating is a slippery 0.28Cd.
There are high-end coasting and brake energy recuperation systems adding a claimed 30% to the range, with power stored in a 700kg, 95kWh lithium-ion battery unit the also comprises the housing pan and crash structures.
It can be charged at a rate of up to 150kW that'll get you to 80 per cent in 30 minutes, but can also be charged at 2.3kW through a 230V household outlet, or at 11kW using a three-phase 400V outlet, cutting the charging time to just over 8 hours.
Inside, the driver is faced with several displays, including the Audi Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster with additional content, and a dual-touchscreen centre console design (10.1-inch top, 8.6-inch bottom) that digitises the climate controls.
Vehicles optioned with 'virtual exterior mirrors' feature additional displays in the front doors, displaying a live camera feed in place of conventional wing mirrors.
Audi claims the near-silent drivetrain and well-insulated cabin make for "an almost perfect sense of calm", with some markets getting a loudspeaker in the front right-hand wheel arch to play sound designed to warn other roads users the vehicle is approaching.
Active safety tech includes adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, lane-assist, traffic sign recognition, a 360-degree camera system, rear cross-traffic assist, lane-change and exit warning, an automated park assistant, and all-round sensors.
Audi will build the e-tron quattro at its CO2-neutral manufacturing facility in Brussels, with a European market launch scheduled for the end of 2018, and pricing to start around €80,000 (~$130,000).
Australian launch: Hopefully in 2019, maybe 2020. More info here.
The company revealed this concept car at the Beijing motor show in April, reflecting the massive tactical importance of China to the world's EV rollout.
This spinoff of the X3 will be the second pure BMW EV after the super-niche i3, and will certainly lure a lot more buyers. it also goes a step further than its range of PHEVs including the X5 xDrive45e.
The concept sports BMW's scalable fifth-generation eDrive system, which pairs the electric motor, transmission and power electronics within a single drive component. There are also new, more powerful batteries in the floor.
The eDrive components for these vehicles are supplied by production facilities in Dingolfing (Germany), Shenyang (China) and Spartanburg in the US.
The iX3's motor makes 200kW of power, while the battery capacity is 70kWh, enough for a 400km WLTP-tested driving range between charges. Like the Audi it can handle a 150kW charge, but those public stations remain rare. For now.
Identifying features of the BMW Concept iX3 include a closed-off BMW kidney grille with familiar BMW i car graphic and blue accents. These styling cues provide a contrast against the Moonstone Silver matt exterior paint finish. The 'concept study' is also fitted with alloy wheels in an aerodynamically optimised design.
You can expect the Bimmer to sport whatever the latest iteration of its OS is by then (we're up to iDrive 7.0 now), with advanced gesture control, talkative voice control and level 2/3 partial autonomy.
Australian launch: Hopefully in 2020/21. More info here.
Jaguar has pulled off a coup, beating the Germans to the punch. Its I-Pace is already on sale here, kicking off at $119,000 before on-road costs. Four trim levels of the I-Pace will be available from launch – S, SE, HSE and First Edition.
All versions are offered with the same 294kW/696Nm two-motor AWD electric drivetrain hooked up to a high-density 90kWh lithium-ion battery pack, with a claimed range of up to 480km on the WLTP cycle, which is bloody impressive.
The I-Pace promises a 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds. A 7kW AC wall box at home will have the I-Pace charged to 80 per cent in 10 hours. Charging on 100kW DC public points will deliver around 80 per cent of a full charge in 40 minutes, but a 15-minute charge will return a 100km range, apparently.
It weighs a comparatively lithe 2133kg and uses a body consisting of 94 per cent aluminium. On top of that, structural rigidity comes in at an 36kNm per degree, offering a centre of gravity 130mm lower than the F-Pace.
In terms of size, the I-Pace sits between the E-Pace and F-Pace for length. It's 4682mm long with a wheelbase that’s a huge 2990mm. Height is 1565mm, compared to the 1667mm F-Pace, but the I-Pace is wider at 2011mm against the F-Pace's 1936mm.
The exterior coefficient of drag is 0.29. That hole at the front directs air through the bonnet, over the roof and down the back window, hitting the rear spoiler. This air even acts as a rear windscreen wiper, which reduces weight and additional powered components. A flat underbody also promotes airflow to the rear diffuser.
Ahead of the driver is a 12.3-inch TFT display showing critical vehicle functions, along with the state of charge. There’s an optional head-up display, too.
The ‘flight deck’, as Jaguar calls it, comprises a new 10-inch screen with more processing power than other Jags, and better graphics. It also now accommodates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with an additional 35 apps available to install with integration.
Safety features include high-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB), rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, lane departure assistant and radar cruise control including stop and go.
Australian launch: You can order one now, baby! More info here.
The EQC was revealed at a special event in Sweden, two years after it first appeared as a concept at the Paris motor show. As we said at the time, there's more than a little GLC about its styling, with 'electro-look' touches like those wheels and that frontal shape.
Showcased first in EQC400 form, the electric SUV will offer AMG levels of power and acceleration. Official numbers are 300kW and 765Nm of torque, delivered through an all-wheel-drive, dual-motor setup that sees a power unit positioned at each axle.
Energy for the EQC400 is provided by an 80kWh battery pack, and fast DC charging will be included as standard.
Despite weighing a hefty 2425 kilograms, Mercedes-Benz is claiming a 0-100km/h time of 5.1 seconds. Perhaps more importantly, the EQC claims an NEDC-cycle driving range of "more than" 450 kilometres off one charge – WLTP figures are still to come. Braked towing capacity is rated at 1800kg.
Charging the EQC can be done through regular AC mains power at home, working with an onboard 7.4kW charger, but the Mercedes-Benz Wallbox will triple that. Moving to a dedicated DC charger, accommodating outputs up to 110kW, will see the EQC charged from 10 to 80 per cent in around 40 minutes.
The EQC will use a CCS2 plug type in Europe, the US and Australia, aligning with the FCAI-proposed standard for our market.
The EQC rides on a 2873mm wheelbase, measuring 4761mm in overall length and 1884mm in width. By comparison, its more conventional cousin the GLC boasts an identical wheelbase, but is shorter in length (4656mm) and marginally wider (1890mm).
The EQC is built on Merc's new EVA platform – dedicated to electric vehicles – but core elements of its architecture are taken from the MRA system that underpins the GLC. This is largely so the EQC can be built on the same production line as other Mercedes-Benz models, but 85 per cent of the components are new.
Scrolling through the various modes eventually makes one-pedal driving possible (where the energy recuperation system's friction slows the car). The Eco Assist system uses traffic sign recognition, navigation, and the vehicle's forward-facing cameras to advise the driver when it's best to come off the throttle.
Inside, there's a louvred edge to the instrument panel intended to "resemble the cooling ribs of a hi-fi amplifier". Rose-gold accents also feature throughout, paired to glowing blue lighting and the usual silver/gloss black highlights. Infotainment is Benz's brilliant MBUX system.
Production will begin in the middle of 2019, built alongside regular Mercedes models – and the upcoming hydrogen-fuelled GLC F-Cell – at the company's plant in Bremen, Germany. Its battery will be produced by Daimler subsidiary Accumotive in Kamenz, near Dresden.
Australian launch: Before the end of 2019, priced between $100k and $150k. More info here.
Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo
This is the most concept-y car here, with the first Porsche EV to instead be the sleek Taycan. But if this crossover-type vehicle (Baja Porsche for the 2020s?) doesn't make production I'll eat all of my hats, and shoes.
The bulky cladding, overt skirting and bright blue wheels are sure to polarise, though the general styling borrows more than a few cues from the new Panamera wagon and the latest Cayenne SUV.
In all, the Mission E Cross Turismo looks more a jacked-up crossover in the vein of the Audi A6 Allroad, rather than a conventional SUV. As we wrote verbatim at the launch, the global market likes SUVs, Europe loves wagons, and 60 per cent of current Panamera sales are of the electrified models.
As for what drives the Mission E Cross Turismo, there are no surprises, given it is built on the familiar 'J1' electric platform. Porsche described an all-wheel drive setup with a pair of electric motors offering a combined output of "more than" 440kW of power and a 0-100km/h time of 3.5 seconds.
Driving range is claimed to be around 480 kilometres on a single charge. The concept featured an 800-volt fast-charging system, boasting a 0-to-80 per cent charging time of just 15 minutes.
Inside, the Cross Turismo's minimalist cabin reveals a sleeker and more refined design, suggesting this aspect of the concept is at least the most likely to make the leap to production with few changes. It's screens, screens and more screens.
For background, the Taycan (Porsche's Tesla Model S rival due in 2019/20) will be powered by two permanent synchronous motors, one for each axle, and each featuring a permanently magnetised rotor which spins thanks to a stator's magnetic field.
According to Porsche, these motors can "generate a permanent rotary motion that can be applied at any time without needing to be started", and are the "turbos of the electric motor milieu". Fancy.
Australian launch: Hmmm, 2021/22?. Fingers crossed. More info here.
Tesla Model X
Tesla's second model has been in Australia for a while now, and while the company doesn't offer sales figures, there are plenty of these US-made three-row crossovers getting about. Maybe it's the standard Falcon Doors (like gullwing doors, but fancier).
Credit where it's due: Elon Musk made EVs cool. We know this because people are buying it despite pricing starting at $140k and climbing to $245k. You can calculate your State's cash sum and loan payments on a Model X here.
There are three versions available right now, the 75kWh 75D, plus two 100D versions with 100kWh batteries. All have two-motor AWD systems. The driving range (NEDC) varies between 417km and 542km depending on your outlay.
Most remarkably, the flagship P100D can hit the 100km/h mark from standstill in a ludicrous 3.1 seconds. It's the quickest SUV ever.
Standard fare includes the world's biggest windshield, air suspension with GPS-based memory to auto raise and lower, over-the-air software updates, real-time maps and 400kWh of free annual Supercharger credits.
While the design outside is... polarising, the inside is a work of beauty (albeit with the odd quality gremlin). The seats can be shuffled about to offer spots for five, six or seven occupants, and the fascia is dominated by the enormous portrait screen.
All Model Xs in Australia get a four-year/80,000km warranty, plus an eight-year/no distance limit drive unit and battery warranty.
Australian launch: It's here now. More info and reviews here.
By the end of 2018 there will be nearly 200 of the latest high-power charging stations (150kW-plus) in Europe where all bar one of these cars hails from, and beyond the thousands of fast-charge ports already either in existence or being planned. Plans call for 400 locations at intervals of 120 kilometres along highways and main traffic routes by 2020.
The Volkswagen Group including Audi and Porsche, the BMW Group, Daimler AG and Ford Motor Company are jointly promoting and investing in the expansion of the HPC network. This complements Tesla's ever-expanding Supercharger network. The US and China also have advancing networks, obviously. Australia? We have stuff-all...
So, what do you think? Which of these electric SUVs from the big luxury players impresses you? Jump down to the comments section...
|Range||> 400km WLTP||> 400km WLTP||470km WLTP|
|0-100km/h||< 6 seconds||NA||4.8 seconds|
|Model||EQC||Cross Turismo||Model X|
|Range||>450km NEDC||>500km NEDC||417-542km NEDC|
|0-100km/h||5.1 seconds||<3.5 seconds||3.1-5.2 seconds|