If a new battleground exists in the automotive world, it’s that of the electric SUV. Prestige brands, perhaps once renowned for their old-world luxury, are taking a tech-first approach as they look to supply the growing zero-tailpipe-emissions market.
With Audi most recently revealing the details of its new e-tron quattro SUV range for Australia, the CarAdvice office is keen to see, on paper at least, how the new crossover stacks up against the already available competition.
Keen to distance itself from its more traditional path, Jaguar was the first of this trio to bring an EV SUV to market when it launched the I-Pace in Australia in December 2018. Hardly hot on its heels, Mercedes-Benz was next to follow with the EQC launching in May 2019.
Audi hasn’t launched the e-tron in the traditional sense just yet, but the details are out, so before we can line this trio up shoulder-to-shoulder, let's take a look at key stats and specifications.
For the sake of comparison, we’ll compare the entry level of each range. In Mercedes’s case this is simple, the EQC400 is the only variant available with no options for body style, power output, battery capacity or trim level.
Jaguar sticks with a single body, power, and capacity format, but offers three different equipment levels with the familiar S, SE and HSE badging seen elsewhere in the Jaguar Land Rover range.
For now, Audi offers the most comprehensive range with two body styles (regular SUV and sleeker Sportback), and two engine outputs (labelled 50 and 55) linked to two battery capacities – more on that further down.
To establish this spec comparison, we’ve selected the most accessible variant of each model, lowest price, and simplest configuration. Where opting for a different option or model may cause a significant change, or level the playing field, we’ll highlight those differences, too (in fact, it's hard to avoid with Audi's range straddling its competitors).
Motor outputs, driveline, performance
All three provide all-wheel-drive traction via dual-motor systems. Unlike your typical combustion-engine car, which usually puts a single engine up front and mechanically sends power to both ends of the vehicle, the compact motors of EVs mean they can be placed directly on their driven axle without the need to be physically connected to each other.
It also means the outputs are referred to as ‘combined’ figures; that is, the maximum output is derived from the output of both motors. In this instance, all three use a matching front and rear motor, but in cases where outputs differ front to rear (as you may find in some hybrid cars), the combined figure isn’t always as simple as adding the two outputs together.
This threesome are also referred to as automatics, though not in the traditional sense, with fixed-ratio single-speed gear sets instead of the multiple or variable ratios of more traditional autos.
Audi starts the podium off in this trio, with 230kW and 540Nm from the e-tron 50 quattro. Jaguar takes second place with 249kW and 696Nm in the I-Pace EV400, while Mercedes-Benz boasts the highest peak outputs with 300kW and 700Nm.
It is possible to bump the Audi’s outputs with the more powerful 55 quattro model, and this raises power to 265kW and 561Nm. In what Audi calls ‘boost mode’, peak outputs of 300Nm and 664Nm are available in eight-second bursts.
According to manufacturer claims, if you were to line the three up on a dragstrip, the I-Pace would be first to reach 100km/h taking just 4.8 seconds, and the EQC would be hot on its heels with a 5.1-second 0–100km/h time.
Given the lower outputs, it should come as no surprise that the e-tron 50 quattro requires 6.8 seconds on the same run. The 55 quattro lists two times, 6.6 seconds under normal circumstances or 5.7 seconds in boost mode, and not enough to lift it from third place.
Battery capacity and driving range
One of the biggest EV questions of the moment is ‘how far can I get on a single charge?’. While that’s less of an issue for day-to-day commuting, it’s certainly useful to know how far you can go – especially in regions where charging infrastructure is less commonplace.
Using the newest world-harmonised light-duty vehicle test procedure (or WLTP) consumption standard, designed to more accurately reflect real-world usage of fuel – be it petrol, diesel or electricity – each vehicle has a maximum theoretical driving range.
As with any standardised fuel-efficiency test, WLTP provides a comparative basis only, as individual factors like driving style and conditions, weather, and the use of vehicle ancillaries can all impact actual results.
In broad terms, the bigger the battery capacity, the more range an electric car can achieve. That’s no different to a combustion engine with a bigger fuel tank giving you the potential to go further.
Like a conventional car, there’s more to range than simply comparing the battery capacity. Efficiency still factors in, along with weight, resistance and more.
In this instance, Jaguar boasts the biggest standard battery with a 90 kilowatt hour (kWh) capacity and the longest claimed range of 470km under WTLP conditions, Mercedes-Benz uses a 80kWh battery and a 417km WLTP range, while Audi runs a 71kWh battery and 336km range.
Of course, Audi provides an option. The more powerful e-tron also comes with a larger battery of 95kWh capacity. Surprisingly, despite higher motor outputs, efficiency is rated the same yet range only grows to 436km, (in a like-for-like situation this should be theoretically closer to 450km) keeping it behind the I-Pace.
In each case, these estimates are based on best-case range using the vehicle's standard specification. Add options or equipment and the effective range may also change.
For instance, using Jaguar’s interactive range calculator, we can see that 470km of range is a ‘best of the best’ figure driving on the urban cycle with the greatest chance of using regenerative braking to top up the battery.
Your 470km range is delivered with the air-conditioning off on a 20ºC day in a car rolling on 18-inch wheels. Switch to highway driving and range plummets to an estimated 317km. If you ticked the box for the sexier-looking 22-inch wheels, you’ll get 290km of highway driving on a single charge.
If the temperature were to drop to 10ºC, your range would drop to 276km, and if you were to run the heater to combat the ambient conditions, the expected range shortens to 267km. Each use case is slightly different, but it pays to keep in mind any claimed range will be highly dependent on a number of factors.
Charging times and capability
Range is one thing, charging is another entirely. Standard-measure charge times are usually reflected from zero per cent charge to 100 per cent, or 80 per cent, to provide comparative figures. But just like range, charge rate can depend on ambient temperatures, other factors affecting vehicle condition, and the charger’s capacity that may be less than its claimed maximum.
Figures depicted here are best-case scenarios for comparative purposes. Figures and times are provided by charging hardware provider and installer, JetCharge.
A typical home or office set-up would comprise a 7.2kW 32A charger fed by single-phase power, available to most residences without too much cost, complexity, or modification to your electrical supply. We’ll use this as a baseline.
In this instance, JetCharge provides data only for the higher-capacity 95kWh battery pack of the e-tron 55 quattro, so it will form the basis of this data set.
Plugged into the above equipment, the EQC400 would be the first to reach a full charge from flat at 11h 6m, the I-Pace EV400 would be the next to finish after 12h 30m, and the e-tron 55 would reach full capacity after 13h 12m, which neatly reflects the respective 80kWh, 90kWh and 95kWh capacities.
If you weren't at home and found yourself visiting an out-of-town friend or relative with access to nothing more than a 10A wall plug, you’d be looking at 34h 46m for the Mercedes, 39h 8m for the Jaguar and 41h 18m for the Audi. That’s one-and-a-half to two days connected to the wall, but represents an absolute worst-case scenario.
According to JetCharge, the Audi is the only vehicle of the three capable of being connected to a three-phase 16A wall charger, in which case charge time drops to 8h 36m. Some limitations and restrictions may apply to connecting three-phase power to your property.
Fast-charging via a DC (or direct current) connection is also available, usually through public charging infrastructure. At a 50kW charge rate, the EQC can be charged in approximately 1h 36m, the I-Pace in 1h 48m and the e-tron in 1h 54m.
Where available, the maximum charge rate for the e-tron is up to 150kW DC, the EQC can accept up to 110kW DC, and the I-Pace is rated to 100kW DC. Audi doesn’t yet provide a claim for what 15 minutes of fast charging will get you, but Mercedes and Jaguar can potentially add 150km and 100km of range respectively in just 15 minutes.
At its maximum 150kW charge rate, both Audis can be topped up to 80 per cent in 30 minutes. Despite a lower battery capacity and lower maximum charge rate, the Mercedes-Benz also lays claim to an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes. Jaguar’s 80 per cent mark at 100kW would take an estimated 45 minutes.
At the end of each charge session (from flat, which isn’t entirely realistic), you would have gained a hypothetical range of 265km in the e-tron 50 or 345km in the e-tron 55, the EQC should be good for 330km, and the I-Pace for around 375km give or take a few kilometres.
As for charging hardware, all three are equipped with a CCS2 charge port, which is a two-part plug system capable of accepting AC and DC charging so you needn't worry about plugging into the 'wrong' type of charger.
Dimensions and weight
The prize for most compact prestige medium SUV goes to the Jaguar I-Pace at just 4682mm nose to tail and 1895mm wide. The EQC400 isn’t far off that mark with a 4771mm length and 1890mm width.
The e-tron goes large at 4901mm long and 1935mm wide. In terms of height, the hatchback-styled I-Pace is 1558mm tall, the more traditional SUV stance of the EQC gives it a 1622mm height and the e-tron sits 1629mm tall.
The order of wheelbase length mixes things up a little with Mercedes at 2873mm between the axles, Audi at 2928mm, and Jaguar at 2990mm with shorter overhangs giving it more dramatic proportions overall.
None is what you’d consider particularly light with a 2133kg kerb weight for the Jag, 2425kg for the Benz and 2565kg for the Audi.
As for carrying cargo, the e-tron SUV will play host to 660L of it behind the rear seats, the I-Pace can take up to 656L, while the EQC can only manage 500L. It’s worth pointing out, though, Jaguar uses the more generous SAE standard of measuring cargo volume, while Audi and Mercedes use the VDA standard.
Because these are electric cars and aren’t bound by the packaging restrictions of an internal combustion engine, they can also pack in additional luggage up front. Well, the Benz can’t actually, but there’s an extra 60L under the bonnet of the e-tron and 27L for odds and ends under the bonnet of the I-Pace.
Price and equipment
In an effort to keep things simple, we’ll revert back to the entry level of each respective range as a starting point. That means the I-Pace EV400 S starts off with the lowest price of entry at $124,100 before on-road costs.
Audi and Mercedes-Benz sit almost neck-and-neck with the e-tron 50 quattro priced from $137,700 and the EQC400 at $137,900.
Mercedes has the simplest range with just one model, although an Art Line edition with additional options included is also available from $143,800. Jaguar’s model walk-through EV400 SE moves things to $135,400, while the EV400 HSE asks for $146,000.
Audi’s is the most complicated model range. The more powerful e-tron SUV 55 quattro is priced from $146,700, or if you’d like it in pre-optioned First Edition guise it steps up to $159,600. If a regular SUV body isn't your cup of tea, the sleeker e-tron Sportback 50 quattro opens from $148,700, the e-tron Sportback 55 quattro from $157,700 or the First Edition version asks for $169,950.
Standard equipment for all three base variants includes keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, digital instrument cluster, and remote services via smartphone connection to check charge rate, charging status and cabin temperature and adjust if necessary.
Power-adjustable seats are included universally, though front seat heating is an option on the I-Pace and standard for the EQC and e-tron where you’ll also find leather trim. The I-Pace instead uses a leather look stand-in.
Self-dimming interior mirrors, LED headlights with auto operation, and rain-sensing wipers are included on each, as well. Mercedes includes Multibeam adaptive high-beam assist as standard, but getting similar Matrix technology is an option on the Audi and Jaguar.
You’ll find wireless phone charging and digital radio in the Benz and Audi, but not the Jaguar (strangely DAB is a no-cost option), though smartphone mirroring for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is common to all three, with Audi alone in offering wireless CarPlay.
If you’re tracking screen sizes, all three huddle close together, but Mercedes’s infotainment leads ever so slightly with a 10.25-inch screen, Audi comes second with a 10.1-inch infotainment display, and Jaguar crosses the line at an even 10.0 inches.
The EQC sticks with traditional physical controls for things like climate control and drive modes, though some functions can be controlled via ‘hey Mercedes’ conversational voice commands. Audi and Jaguar instead use secondary screens of 8.6 inches and 5.0 inches respectively.
If you’re watching speaker count, the EQC leads with a 13-speaker Burmester-branded sound system, the I-Pace runs an 11-speaker Meridian system with the option of 15-speaker surround sound, and Audi delivers a 10-speaker unbranded system with an optional 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen upgrade available.
Mercedes includes a head-up display as standard, it’s optional on the I-Pace and e-tron. Same goes for a sunroof; Benz includes a small opening glass section for front seat occupants, the other two make you option up to a fixed panoramic glass roof in the I-Pace or an openable panoramic roof in the e-tron.
Adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera are standard for the EQC and e-tron, but both are optional on the I-Pace.
Adaptive suspension is also an option on the I-Pace, as is air suspension, each listed separately but both need to be ordered in tandem. Audi includes adaptive air suspension as standard in Australia, but Mercedes runs a passive damper system with steep springs up front and self-levelling air suspension at the rear.
If you like a little theatre on approach, the I-Pace is the only car here to come with pop-out door handles that rest flush with the bodywork when locked or on the go. Conversely, the e-tron will be the first car on sale in Australia with the option to replace traditional exterior mirrors with virtual mirrors that run a camera feed from door-mounted pods to 7.0-inch OLED screens on each door.
There are options aplenty here, too, but as standard you’ll get 18-inch alloy wheels under the I-Pace, or 20-inch wheels under the e-tron and EQC. Metallic paint is included on the EQC (though cost-option premium finishes are also available), while only solid white and black for the I-Pace or solid black for the e-tron are free from additional charges.
Warranty and service
Mercedes-Benz covers the EQC with its standard five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty; however, the high-voltage battery features its own eight-year/160,000km warranty term. Five years' roadside assist is also included.
At the time of writing, Mercedes-Benz Australia also includes five years' free servicing on the EQC.
Jaguar’s usual warranty term covers three years or 100,000km (special offers aside), but the I-Pace is covered by a longer five-year/200,000km warranty term and the high-voltage battery carries a separate eight-year/160,000km warranty.
Jaguar also includes five years' scheduled maintenance with annual visits, or as directed by the vehicle’s onboard condition monitoring.
Audi is a little off the pace with its carryover warranty of three years/unlimited kilometres, though once again the EV battery carries a longer eight-year/160,000km warranty. To counter that, servicing and roadside assist are covered for six years.
Audi also includes a six-year subscription to the ChargeFox public charter network, while Mercedes-Benz includes five years' access to the same.
Other electric vehicle options
Certainly, the EQC400, I-Pace and e-tron aren't alone in the electric vehicle market.
Buyers with an SUV-esque vehicle in mind are sure to check in on the Tesla Model X, though with a starting price of close to $158,500 for the Long Range AWD, it looks like a more expensive option alongside the entry price of this particular trio.
By the time you add options or step up the range of these midsize models, the Model X comes into play, though it is a larger car and may not suit urbanites as a result. The brand claims a 580km range, though cites the older NEDC method to calculate range.
Acceleration to 100km/h takes a claimed 4.6 seconds, and equipment highlights don't get much better than the massive 17.0-inch central infotainment screen and roof-hinged, multi-fold Falcon Wing rear doors – as long as you don't mind the approximate panel fit that comes with them.
A smaller Model Y crossover is also on the way.
From there, the floodgates are soon to open with similar vehicles, like the BMW iX3 on the way, and electric version of the smaller Mercedes-Benz A-Class called the EQA.
Audi also has a smaller Q4 e-tron in development, not to mention a more sportily styled e-tron GT, if an SUV isn’t your cup of tea.
That also brings sedans like the Tesla Model 3 and Model S into play. Before the end of the year, Volvo is expected to add its Polestar 2 to Australian showrooms, but before it lands expect an EV version of the XC40 called the Recharge P8 to beat it to the punch.
If an electric SUV appeals but a premium price tag doesn't, Hyundai has an all-electric version of the Kona available, and MG is preparing to introduce the ZS EV small SUV. Both are more compact than the three cars compared here, but also come with starting prices less than half that of the premium players.
Without first getting our hands on these three, it's too hard to say for sure which comes out on top. Time behind the wheel can have a big impact, and real-life assessment of fit, finish, features and functionality plays a big part in deciding a winner.
The brands that build these three cars have long histories of turning out impressive prestige vehicles, and certainly that legacy carries on from what we’ve seen of the EQC and I-Pace. It’s hard to conceive that Audi will stray too far from what it does well.
Be sure to keep an eye on CarAdvice for a full comparison as soon as we can get up close and personal with the Mercedes-Benz EQC400, Jaguar I-Pace EV400 and Audi e-tron quattro.