The luxury EV market has rapidly transformed from almost empty to chock-full. Here are the main protagonists
Not all that long ago, a ‘luxury’ electric car wasn’t something one could merrily go out and buy.
They simply didn’t exist. But the Tesla Model S changed that, and in the years since the American saloon first demonstrated what was possible if you injected a combination of pace, comfort and elegance into the EV equation, numerous premium-branded luxury EVs have joined the fray. They now come from manufacturers everybody has heard of, not least Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
Indeed, today the luxury EV class is well furnished with options. There are cars that strive to maximise refinement and opulence, and some that place performance on a pedestal, while other throw a good dose of utility into the mix with SUV bodyshells. Competition is fierce and standards ever-increasing – as well they might, given that none of the fine cars listed below are what you’d call inexpensive.
So, if you’re looking for the some of the longest-legged and most usable electric cars in the world, this chart is where you’ll find them. This is where Teslas do battle with Mercedes EQs, BMW i cars, Audi E-trons, and even new-groove Porsches. If you’ve got a bigger budget to spend on an electrically powered family car to use and rely on for any kind of trip, then, with claimed ranges of up to 400 miles and beyond, these are your main contenders.
Best Luxury Electric Cars 2023
1. BMW i7
Pros Cabin opulence, potent electric powertrain, superb compromise of ride and handling
Cons Challenging aesthetics, real-world range is less than 300 miles, not especially affordable
It’s a measure of the increasing preeminence of EVs that the first version of BMW’s all-new 7 Series flagship to hit showrooms is the all-electric i7. Plug-in hybrids will follow in due course, but in terms of setting the tone for the future (certainly in Europe) and setting out your luxury car stand, then batteries take the lead. Yet perhaps even more significantly for the brand, the all-new seventh generation version of its range-topping saloon is the first to properly hit the luxury car bullseye and prove a real alternative to the otherwise dominant Mercedes S-Class.
One things for certain with this 7 Series – onlookers aren’t going to miss your arrival. This isn’t and elegant or even a particularly aesthetically appealing car, but there’s no doubt the monumentally proportioned i7 attracts attention. Bluff-fronted and slab-sided it visually dominates any slab of tarmac its sits on, but if you’re a plutocrat wanting to flaunt your success the car’s imposing presence will only be a positive. It’s even more impressive inside, although happily this is down to the beautifully crafted finish and jaw-dropping tech rather than any gaudy brashness in the design. Rich materials are used through out, while the slick screens sitting on top of the dash can be accessed using an iDrive rotary controller. For rear set passengers there’s the option of an incredible drop down 31.3-inch screen, which in combination with the Bowers & Wilkins sound system delivers a drive-on rather than drive-thru cinema experience.
Like previous 7 Series models, the i7 is pretty good to drive. At nearly 2800kg it’s no lightweight, while there are smaller cross channel ferries; but thanks to four-wheel steering and all-wheel drive the big BMW feels surprisingly biddable, with accurate steering, precise handling and strong grip. What’s new is the big saloon’s ability to waft and cosset with the best of them thanks to the engineers’ clear decision to focus as much energy into delivering the ultimate soothing machine as much as the ultimate driving machine. In this regard it’s helped by that twin motor set-up that provides 536bhp for ample performance, while a 102kWh battery promises 367 miles between plug sockets, at which point you can charge at up to 195kW for 106 miles of range in just 10 minutes.
We’ll have to wait until we really test its mettle on UK roads, but for now the i7 could just be the best luxury EV.
Read our BMW i7 review
2. BMW iX
Pros Exceptional rolling refinement, SUV-style versatility and space, inviting luxury interior
Cons Divisive exterior styling, regenerative-braking effect could be improved
“A BMW like no other,” is how our man Greg Kable described the iX, the firm’s new all-electric luxury SUV flagship model for its ‘i’ brand. Some critics have used other words to make their feelings plain about the way this car looks and the departure from classic BMW design type that it, and other recent BMW model debutants, represent. Feel free to make up your own if you’re so inclined: this is a car clearly intended to provoke a reaction.
Munich is no stranger to convention-defying exterior design, though; and it has stressed every sinew to make this a landmark electric car, as well as a watershed moment in its transformation from a maker of internal combustion cars to a brand that deals almost exclusively in zero-emissions models. The iX is roughly the size of an X5, but is based on a specialised platform adapted with lightweight composite materials and mixed metals, and is powered by one electric motor per axle.
The entry-level BMW iX xDrive40 version is priced from a whisker under £70,000, and gets 296bhp of power and 249 miles of WLTP-certified electric range. Upgrade to the £92k xDrive50 model, however, and those statistics take sizable jumps: up to 516bhp and 373 miles of range, delivered along with 200kW rapid charging potential. An iX xDriveM60 model is expected to offer even more power and performance in pretty short order: but, even allowing for the lightweight platform, no iX will weigh less than 2.5 tonnes.
It saw off the Mercedes-Benz EQS in a comparison test. The Mercedes is comfortable, but the isolation and sophistication of the iX’s ride is really very special indeed and makes it a particularly compelling luxury car. The BMW also counters the EQS’s wide-eyed futurism with a warmer, more idiosyncratic and less formal flavour, both inside and out.
The iX continued to impress when we put it through our full road test. The car’s combination of generous SUV-level cabin comfort and versatility, and of a genuinely relaxing and understated luxury ambience, with world-class rolling refinement and drivability, instant and effortless performance, and creditable real-world range is one unmatched by any of the market’s other zero-emission SUVs. Even if it doesn’t smash down barriers in terms of outright electric range in the way that some will expect of a top-level EV, the BMW iX has compelling fitness for purpose and a real completeness of appeal as a near-£100,000 luxury car.
Pros Sensational dynamic balance, broad range of powertrain, surprisingly practical
Cons Driving range no longer among the best, expensive in faster guises, modest rear legroom
Porsche has broadened out the range of its first all-electric model, the Taycan, quite a bit since the car first zapped onto the scene in 2020. You can now have one with one drive motor or two; with four-wheel drive or two-; with an indecent amount of power, or just a lot of it; and also in either four-door swoopy saloon form, or as pseudo-estate-style Cross Turismo instead. It’s the kind of breadth of choice that has transformed a breakthrough sporting EV into a luxury-segment contender with enough pull to have outsold every other Porsche model in the UK.
The Taycan is a world-class operator however you configure it, but the extended cargo space and ride-height-boosted extra versatility of the Cross Turismo version certainly don’t appear to have weakened the car’s dynamic powers. This car rides with an uncannily absorptive and poised sort of body control, but it retains chatty, communicative steering, fine handling response, ideal handling balance and security, and as much real-world pace as you could ever expect to deploy on the road. Electric range isn’t class-leading – but 250 miles is certainly possible from most versions of the car in mixed, real-world used.
Seats for up to five occupants, plus a boot within sight of that of a BMW 3-Series Touring for carrying capacity, seal the deal on one of the most accomplished electric cars that any budget might buy; and you can buy one, with options, for less than £90,000.
Read our Porsche Taycan review
4. Mercedes EQS
Pros Strong real-world range, Starship Enterprise persona, feels well-engineered
Cons Interior too tech-heavy for some, cabin lacks the light-and-airy feel of the i7
The oldest car-maker in the world isn’t taking any prisoners when it comes to the switch to electric mobility. Mercedes’ first dedicated EV, the EQC SUV, came along in 2019, and we’ve seen a few other smaller EQ models along since. But none matters more reputationally than the big one: Stuttgart’s all-electric, new-age limousine, the EQS.
Built on a brand-new model platform (and partly in response to the market share lost by the conventionally powered S-Class when Tesla’s Model S struck it big in the important North American market), the EQS is a luxury EV without compromise. It’s expensive: on sale in the UK now, it’s priced from £102,160 for the 325bhp, single-motor, rear-driven, EQS 450+ version, rising to well north of £150,000 for the Mercedes-AMG EQS 53. But it is a car engineered with true commitment, and packed with technology in a way few other passenger cars can even approach.
Read the headlines about the optional ‘Hyperscreen’, which turns the whole dashboard into a touch screen, and you could easily be fooled into thinking the EQS is all about the tech. It turns out that is the least impressive part of the car. Everything works, looks good and does what it’s supposed to, but it’s ultimately just three contiguous screens.
More notable is the way the EQS slips through the air, making the most of its massive 120kWh battery and helping it to achieve a real-world 400 miles. It drives well, too. Four-wheel steering helps this 5.2-metre long car to turn like a black cab, while air suspension ensures high standards for isolation, comfort and refinement.
The Mercedes EQS is a fantastically well-rounded car, one that shows that the car industry’s oldest power has found its feet in the electric car market, and finally returned the disruptor brands’ serve with interest.
Read our Mercedes EQS review
5. Lucid Air
Pros Promises game-changing range, cleverly packaged, striking exterior and cabin
Cons Not yet on sale in the UK, handling not quite as sharp as the looks suggest
Few cars have created quite such a stir, or kept us waiting quite so long, as the Lucid Air. Built in America and engineered by the man behind the Tesla Model S, the jaw-droppingly sleek saloon boasts some numbers that are sure to make it Top Trumps killer card. For instance, the range-topping Dream Edition packs 1111bhp (yes really) and 1025lb ft of torque and will explode from standstill to 60mph in a claimed 2.4 seconds. Then there’s the giant 118kWh battery that promises a range of 520 miles between charges. And when you do need to top up, 300kW rapid charging means you should be able to add 300 miles in just 20 minutes.
Unsurprisingly with so much poke on offer (there are less powerful options), it’s the performance that dominates. A little less impressive is the handling, which despite the car’s sharp steering feels slightly ponderous through quick direction changes and suffers from a lack of damping control even in the firmest suspension set-up. On larger wheel sizes the ride is also a mixed bag, lacking the supple and serene quality of the luxury car pace setters, though it improves dramatically if the 19in rims are fitted. Air suspension is also in development, which ought to improve matters further.
On the outside the Air is roughly the same size as a Mercedes E-Class, but clever packaging means the space inside is more S-Class in its generosity. It’s also neatly designed and lavishly equipped, while the fit and finish shames a Tesla Model S even if it can’t quite cut it against established European contenders. It’s not quite the finished article yet, but if Lucid can iron out the wrinkles by the time the car hits the UK, then its style, performance and range will likely win it many friends.
Read our Lucid Air review
6. Audi Q8 E-tron Quattro, Q8 E-tron Quattro Sportback & SQ8 E-tron Quattro
Pros Materials quality, easy driveability, fine performance
Cons Not especially sporty, ride can fidget more than rivals, cabin a touch soulless
Audi has distilled the various qualities for which its revered brand is known and given all of them a new future-proofed home in its first series-production electric car: the Q8 E-tron Quattro SUV.
Originally badged simply E-tron and slotting between the firm’s existing Q5 and Q7 models, a facelift late in 2022 brought refreshed looks and the new moniker of ‘Q8 E-tron’, aligning it with the similarly styled, sized and proportioned ICE car of the same name. The update also saw the addition of a larger 89kWh battery for the 50 model and a 106kWh unit for the 55 (and racy S). That means that the former now promises 281 miles on a charge, while the latter claims a respectable 330 miles.
Changes to the inside have been kept to a minimum, which is a good thing because it means the Q8 retains its predecessor’s classy and refined ambience, while its quiet cruising abilities and its Audi-typical apparent build quality also remain intact. The driving experience remains impressive, too, not least for its responsiveness and muscular feel up to motorway speeds, while precise and well-balanced handling completed the picture. Yet arguably its the Audi’s ride quality that helps it secure luxury car billing, the air suspension effortlessly and silently soaking away broken Tarmac and other topographical imperfections.
So the regular Q8 E-tron’s strong suits make it a superb luxury car, although it doesn’t have quite as much driver appeal as certain rivals. The solution is the 496bhp Audi SQ8 E-tron, whose sensationally versatile rear-axle drive unit (it gets three motors in total) gives it a degree of handling adjustability and involvement beyond the basic E-tron. At nearly £100,000, it’s pricey, but potentially worth it for pace, panache and the novelty factor of safely sending an electric SUV sideways on a whim.
Read our Audi Q8 E-Tron review
7. Jaguar I-Pace
Pros Innovative design, truly engaging handling, seamless performance
Cons Slow max-charge rate, underwhelming range and efficiency
The first luxury electric car from a mainstream manufacturer to directly challenge Tesla at the high end of the market, the I-Pace delivers on its brief with standout handling dynamics, first-rate interior quality and a striking design that’s slightly more SUV than saloon yet is both attractive and innovative. This car sets the standard for ride and handling among its all-electric crossover-SUV peers, delivers strong performance from its twin 197bhp motors, and feels like a premium-branded electric car should: an unshackled, clean-sheet design.
However, the I-Pace will rapid charge at only up to 100kW, and its slightly disappointing real-world range dents its potential as a long-distance tourer somewhat: 220 miles is not a result worth celebrating – and moreover the I-Pace’s slightly buggy charging software seems to trip it up more often than other EVs are when you’re out and about, trying to get plugged in.If you’re unlikely to rely on public rapid charging facilities or routinely to trouble the outer limits of the car’s electric autonomy potential, this a car we’d consider before most rivals. It’s that impressive to drive, as well as really interesting and appealing to behold. Yet there’s no escaping the fact the i-Pace is getting on a little now, and while rivals have been updated or replaced the battery-powered Brit remains largely as it was when it debuted in 2018.
Read our Jaguar I-Pace review
8. Mercedes-Benz EQE
Pros Rolling refinement, laid-back driving experience, strong cabin tech
Cons Cabin packaging, doesn’t feel as solid inside as a Mercedes should
The Mercedes EQE is to the EQS what the E-Class is to the S-Class. At least some things in the automotive world still make sense. It’s every inch the downsized EQS, for better and worse, from its teardrop-shape outline to its almost seamlessly smooth surfaces and its ever so gently arcing ‘one bow’ silhouette.
The EQE uses a shortened version of the EQS’s EVA2 platform, which means there isn’t quite room for the same mammoth batteries, but 90kWh of usable capacity is still an impressive number and means the EQE 350+ has a quoted range of 394 miles.
In the UK, we will get EQE 300, EQE 350+ and twin-motor, four-wheel-drive AMG EQE 53 versions of it (the uppermost and lowermost coming along slightly later than the mid-ranger), while other markets will get four-wheel drive EQE 500 and AMG EQE 43 versions as well.
In practice, it’s not quite as deeply impressive as the EQS and we’re still unconvinced about the EQE’s use of space and how the EQS’s looks translate to this shorter car. However, it’s still more than impressive enough to make it into this list.
On air springs, The EQE rides remarkably quietly and isolates its occupants from wind noise too, but remains wieldy enough in the bends. We’ve only driven it in Germany so far, so we look forward to finding out whether those qualities translate to UK roads and UK-spec cars with big wheels.
Read our Mercedes EQE review
9. Mercedes-Benz EQC
Pros No-nonsense performance, total ease of use, comfortable and versatile
Cons Modest driving range, unmemorable dynamics, bland exterior styling
An outright triumph in our electric SUV group test in September 2019 heralded the arrival of a new all-electric champion for people looking to combine practicality with performance, and luxury with sustainability, in their next big car purchase – while also securing a car that can easily be used on a daily basis on UK roads.
Back then, the Mercedes EQC 400 brushed aside challenges from key rivals en route to its big moment, overcoming all by virtue of its technology-laden and upmarket interior, its impressive blend of comfort and driver appeal, and its first-rate infotainment and navigation systems. You could say that an Audi E-tron Quattro is a better luxury car, and a Jaguar i-Pace a better driver’s car; but the EQC’s package is nonetheless complete and convincing.
Sharing its platform with the related GLC, the EQC has twin electric motors, torque-vectoring four-wheel drive and combined peak ouputs of 402bhp and 564lb ft. WLTP-verified battery range is 259 miles officially, with our tests suggesting that between 80% and 90% of that is reproducible in mixed real-world driving. That’s not quite as much cruising range as the most long-legged EVs, but it’s a competitive showing all the same.
The EQC has plenty of driving modes, and there’s much complexity to get to grips with in configuring its many battery regeneration settings and semi-autonomous driver assist systems to your liking. But negotiate that hurdle and you’ll find the car very drivable and rounded at its best, as well as every bit as classy and luxurious as you’d want a £70,000 family car to be.
Read our Mercedes EQC review
10. Genesis Electrified G80
Pros Beautifully made interior, slick infotainment, old-world charm
Cons Not the most spacious interior, lacks dynamic polish
It’s been barely a couple of years since Genesis landed in Europe spoiling for a fight with the premium brand establishment, yet in that time its gone from a virtually a single car marque to one that boasts six models, a number of which are EVs – including the Electrified G80.
As the name suggests, this is a battery-powered version of the brand’s large G80 a saloon. The ICE car is fairly distinctive and packs a luxurious and tech-heavy interior, but its powered by a limited choice of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, neither of which really match the car’s upmarket aspirations. However, there are no such issues with the Electrified model thanks to it packing some of the Korean firm’s E-GMP architecture, which means a pair electric motors for a healthy 365bhp and an 87.2 kWh battery that claims 323 miles of range. Crucially, the G80 uses 800V circuitry that both allows it to charge at up to 350kW and delivers Vehicle to Load functionality. This effectively means you can use the lithium ion pack to charge a variety of electrical items, from e-bikes to portable fridges.
The smooth and powerful delivery of the motors gives the Genesis strong performance, while the interior is as beautifully finished and comfortable as the best. Unfortunately, the Genesis is let down by a chassis that tries to meld sports saloon responsiveness with limousine comfort, and fails to achieve both. It’s a precise and poised device but not one that rewards driving hard, while the inconsistent ride stops it from being a truly sybaritic saloon. Still, a strong range and neat features such as a solar roof panel that helps boost range make a car to consider if you want something a little different.
Read our Genesis Electrified G80 review