We drove an $87,000 Jaguar I-PACE to see how it compares with a $57,500 Tesla Model 3 and a $150,000 Model X — here's the result

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderThe Jaguar I-PACE.

This is going to be a slightly unusual comparison, but it isn’t my fault.

As I’ve noted before, Tesla has a segmentation problem. Here at Business Insider, when we want to match up compact crossover SUVs, we can find two similar vehicles from different brands. But when it comes to all-electric cars, it’s a different story.

The Tesla Model 3, for example, could take on the Chevy Bolt – and I have compared the vehicles. But the Bolt is more of a mass-market long-range EV, while the Model 3’s only arrived in a sub-$US40,000 form earlier this year (the cheapest version you can now order is the $US39,000 standard-range-plus trim, with rear-wheel-drive). So you have to point out that the available Model 3 leans toward being a premium car.

A larger issue is that because Tesla is selling only three vehicles and has to tweak them in various ways – amenities, self-driving system, total range – to serve buyers at different economic levels, it’s challenging to manage good direct comparisons with anybody else’s cars.

Making matters even trickier is the arrival of a bunch of EVs from luxury automakers over the next few years: the Porsche Taycan, the Audi E-Tron, the Mercedes EQC, and so on. Everybody is kind of doing their own thing.

The Jaguar I-PACE, which we sampled last year, is a case in point. The Tesla vehicle it should match up against is the forthcoming Model Y crossover, but that isn’t yet being produced. Still, the I-PACE is on sale, so if you’re shopping electric, chances are you’ll give it a look.

So here’s the idea: I’ll compare the Jag with the Model 3, which is cheaper, and the Model X, which is pricier. I know which vehicle I like best, but I’ll try to set it up so you can make the best choice for your needs.

First up: the 2019 Jaguar I-PACE EV400 HSE in “Corris grey.” The 2019 Jaguar I-PACE starts at $US69,500, while the top-spec HSE variant starts at $US80,500. With options and fees, our test car came to $US86,720.

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Read the review.

Jaguars are supposed to be beautiful cars. The I-PACE looks nice. But beautiful? Not in my book. However, it is poised, powerful, and sleek.

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“The I-PACE utilises a design principle called cab forward, which pushes the cabin towards the front of the car while moving the wheels to the far corners,” Ben Zhang said when he reviewed the vehicle.

The leaping cat is front and center.

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“Unlike most EVs, the I-PACE retains a traditional front grille,” Zhang said in his review. “However, it’s not merely for show.” The grille has radiators to cool components like the battery pack, he said.

Aerodynamics, to a large degree, dictated the I-PACE’s shape. Designer Ian Callum has certainly created a crisp flow with this vehicle, which, after all, is a versatile hatchback, not a sports car.

Hollis Johnson

The “chiselled look” is “to help optimise aerodynamics,” Zhang wrote in his review.

The cargo area, however, could be better. And while there is a front trunk, or “frunk,” it’s so small that it isn’t terribly useful.

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“Open up the rear hatch and you’ll find 25 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats,” Zhang wrote, adding that “cargo capacity expands to 51 cubic feet if you fold the rear seats down.”

“Cargo space is only adequate and puts the compact I-PACE on par with sub-compact crossovers like the Honda HR-V and Nissan Rogue Sport/Qashqai,” he said.

We’ll see why this matter when we get to the Teslas.

Jaguar says the I-PACE can charge from dead to 80% using a 100-kilowatt DC fast charger in 40 minutes. You use this Mode 2 universal charger cable.

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“The I-PACE is powered by a pair of permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors located on each of the car’s axles,” Zhang wrote, adding: “They draw power from a 90-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Together, they produce 394 horsepower and 512 pound-feet of torque. According to Jaguar, the I-PACE can sprint from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 124 mph.”

He wasn’t impressed with the charging options.

“Jaguar, like the rest of the mainstream auto industry, depends on third-party firms to provide charging infrastructure,” he said. “In this case, it’s ChargePoint. While ChargePoint does have a fair number of charging locations, few of them are Tesla Supercharger-style fast chargers.” He added that the ChargePoint app was “unintuitive with poor functionality.”

The interior is where the I-PACE shines. As we’ll see, the Teslas are nice. But the I-PACE — our test car came in glorious ivory — is simply stunning, the best we’ve experienced in an electric vehicle.

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The instruments are not an essay in minimalism, but they are smartly laid out and accented beautifully with brushed metal, carbon fibre, and wood.

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The weak spot here is Jaguar Land Rover’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment system, which has never been one of our favourites.

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“We find the user interface to be a bit too complex and not nearly as easy to use as we’d like,” Zhang wrote, though “it’s very crisply rendered and attractively designed.”

It does get done all the jobs it needs to get done, from navigation to audio to Bluetooth device pairing, alongside USB/AUX inputs.

On to the Tesla Model 3, in brilliant “red multi-coat.” We’ve sampled the car in two versions: the $US57,500 Model 3 Long Range in Premium trim with rear-wheel drive, and the $US78,000 Performance trim with all-wheel drive.

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Read the review of the long-range RWD Model 3.

The Model 3 is a sharp set of wheels, designed by Tesla’s Franz von Holzhausen to embody forward thinking without taking any wild and crazy chances.

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Unlike the I-PACE, the Model 3 has no grille — just a smooth nose cone.

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The Tesla logo is among the auto world’s newest. It has a ways to go before it can challenge the leaping cat.

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The roof is a continuous curve of glass, with a fastback rear hatch/trunk culminating in a crisp spoiler. The recessed door handles and the window trim are the only significant chrome on the Model 3.

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If you combine the rear cargo area …

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… and the Model 3’s frunk, you get 15 cubic feet of space. Not grand, but fairly good for a sedan.

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The Model 3 stores its juice in a 75-kWh battery pack and has access to Tesla’s Supercharger DC fast-charging network. A full recharge takes about an hour, and the long-range Model 3 is good for 310 miles.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The Model 3 also has regenerative braking, which can be customised to be heavy or light. Heavy acts almost like an engine brake and permits the driver to actively brake much less frequently than with a gas vehicle while recharging the battery. Light mitigates the sense that the Model 3 is tugging when coasting.

For what it’s worth, the Model 3 I tested lacked a Ludicrous or Insane mode – the default is quick acceleration. But you can switch that to Chill Mode, which dials it back. And I did. Chill is considerably easier to live with.

But if you must step on it, the 0-60 dash happens in about five seconds.

You have to be a minimalist to love the Model 3’s interior. The leatherette upholstery is animal-free, and the flash is … well, there isn’t any …

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… unless you opt for the white interior, which I sampled on the Performance version of the Model 3. It’s impressive.

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Almost all Model 3 functions are controlled with this central touchscreen and a pair of trackballs on the steering wheel. This takes some getting used to, but once you do, the Model 3, with no instrument panel, provides a serene driving experience.

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The Model 3 is also equipped to provide the latest version of Autopilot, Tesla’s semi-self-driving technology. Autopilot is superb – its only real challenger for consumer autonomy is Cadillac’s superior highway-only hands-free system, Super Cruise. But I must admit I like driving Teslas so much that I underuse Autopilot.

For what it’s worth, Tesla’s in-house audio system is marvellous.

Finally, the Model X, in a glossy black. Our fully loaded loaner was a P100D version — with the largest battery pack, all-wheel drive, and a third row of seats. It tipped the cost scales at about $US150,000.

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We’ve taken the Model X on two road trips.

The showstopper with the Model X is, of course, those falcon-wing doors.

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The Model X, designwise, is my least favourite Tesla. That said, it’s also Tesla’s most futuristic vehicle. It looks like a spacecraft for the road.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

“P100D” signifies a Performance variant of the Model X with a 100-kWh battery pack and a dual-motor all-wheel-drive setup. In Ludicrous Mode, the 0-60 time is supposed to be about three blistering seconds.

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Overall, the Model X has almost 90 cubic feet of available cargo space.

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The frunk is big — the Model X swallowed up everything five people and a dog needed for a weekend on the road.

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The 100-kWh battery pack is Tesla’s largest. It serves up 290 miles of range, and like the Model 3, the Model X can use the Supercharger network.

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According to Tesla, some owners of the Model S or Model X received 400 kWh of complimentary Supercharger credits every year, which equates to roughly 1,000 miles of driving (they had to order their vehicles last year). If the owner uses up the free allotment, they can purchase additional credits.

Model 3 owners do not receive free Supercharger credits and must pay to use the network. Prices for Supercharger use are set based on the station’s state or country.

The huge central touchscreen doesn’t control as much as the Model 3’s screen, but it is the Model X’s nerve center.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The navigation system integrates with the charging algorithms, so you can sort of hop from Supercharger to Supercharger and let the Model X tell you how long to recharge.

Verdict? For me, the best of the three is … the Model 3! But it can’t be all things to all people.

Matthew DeBord/BI

I have to give it to the Jaguar I-PACE, which is my runner-up – and a better vehicle in many respects: more luxurious, more suave, lots of fun to drive.

The Model X is kind of sui generis. On paper, it’s the winner. But on paper, it also costs much more.

As for the Model 3, “there is no better vehicle of this type at this price that I believe I could currently buy,” I said in my review.

“What’s really so hypnotically and addictively compelling about the Model 3 is how many great ideas have been crammed into one automobile,” I said. “This is a car that’s absolutely bursting with thought, about the present and the future – and the distant future. Those ideas are overwhelmingly optimistic.”

The Jag has ideas, but there aren’t as many as in the Model 3 (even though the Jag, in the end, drives better). And while the Model X has plenty of ideas, they aren’t as good as the Model 3’s.

If you need space for a family, the Model X is a better choice – though clearly you have to be prepared to take out a second mortgage.

The I-PACE is far more traditionally luxurious than then Model 3, and it’s a proper crossover. If a premium vibe matters to you, the Jag is absolutely worth it.

But for me, the best of these all-electric trendsetters is the Model 3.

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