The XPeng G6 Is Good Enough To Take On The Model Y
Issuing time:2023-06-23 20:00
What is it?
Over the course of the last two years, XPeng has gone from one of the brightest stars in China’s electric vehicle segment, to a company with a somewhat questionable future. Credit that to a series of disappointing product launches and a growing price war in the Chinese car market. With their latest model, however, the company is finally entering a segment they should have been in for years, mid-size SUVs.
As of publication, XPeng had yet to announce specific pricing for the G6, but did release pre-sale pricing for the rear-motor variant, which starts at about 31,000 USD. We expect prices for the dual motor variant to be around 40,000 USD. For context, a Model Y is priced at about 37-51,000 here in China.
A high-tech orange slice
Many bold proclamations will be made regarding the fact that the G6 is aimed squarely at the Tesla Model Y, and the numbers will back up those claims. The G6 is within a few millimeters of the Model Y in pretty much every dimension, including height, length, width, and wheelbase. In fact, it has the exact same wheelbase as the Model Y. Some would even say that the styling is also a little bit reminiscent of the Tesla, particularly the rear three-quarter.
I remain more convinced by the numbers than the subjective matter of styling. Perhaps I was misled by the bright orange color of our G6 test car, but I don’t see much resemblance between the XPeng and the Tesla beyond the obvious fact that both are slopy-roofed SUVs. This is particularly true of the front-end, which features XPengs “Robot Face” design language. An accurate, if not particularly elegant terminology. Overall, the G6 might be the missing link in XPeng’s often confusing family of designs, finally bridging the gap between the P7, P5, and G3.
The circle of life
XPeng refers to the design concept on the interior of the G6 as the Circle of Life. The designers behind that concept must prefer a rather barren lifestyle, as the G6’s interior is exceedingly simple, with almost no ornamentation or decoration to be found outside of a cloth-like material on certain panels. The quality of those and other materials was somewhat lower than I expected, and not on par with their updated P7i sedan.
But while it’s interior may be lacking color, the G6 lacks almost nothing in terms of features. It has dual wireless charging pads on the center console, a 15-inch center screen, and 10.2-inch instrument cluster screen. it also features a chubby two-spoke steering wheel design. That center screen uses the XMART operating system backed by the venerable Qualcomm Snapdragon 8155 processor. XPeng has always had some of the best UI and UX in the business, and the G6 is no exception.
The G6 has quite a bit of space in the backseat, including head, leg, and shoulder room. It’s rear seats also have adjustable rake. Our test car came with a heated and cooled front row, but unlike the Model Y, there were no heated second row seats. No official measurements for the cargo area under that sloped roof quite yet, but it certainly looked to be in line with the rest of its category.
Tracking electric SUVs is dumb
Taking electric SUVs on a race track doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but that didn’t stop XPeng from having us lap a circuit just outside of Guangzhou. To add a bit of stakes to event, they also brought along a Tesla Model Y Performance so we could drive them back-to-back.
I was only able to drive each car for one out-and-in lap, so I couldn’t explore the subtle nuances that separate the two. But it was enough to realize, much to my surprise, that the differences weren’t that great. Both the G6 and the Model Y use a double wishbone front suspension and a five-link rear, but the G6 boasts a 50/50 weight distribution. The XPeng felt well-balanced, but was tuned a bit softer than the Model Y, and felt a little less eager to be thrown into a corner due to its lighter, less direct steering.
The G6 will be available with a single, rear-motor variant making 218 kW and 440 Nm of torque (296 hp/325 pound-feet), but we were only able to drive the dual motor, performance version, which makes 358 kW and 660 Nm of torque (487 hp/488 pound-feet). That’s 1 more kW and 1 more Nm than the Model Y Performance. Coincidence? I highly doubt it.
Despite that tiny advantage, the official 0-100 km/h time of 3.9 seconds is .2 seconds behind the Model Y. No wonder the Y felt ever so slightly faster off the line than the G6. But a slight difference is all I could discern in pretty much every area of performance. The G6 held its own against the Model Y, even if neither of them really belongs on the track.
Driving a car like the G6 on the racetrack only has so much value when you're simply trying to assess its viability as an EV commuter car. Thankfully, we had plenty of time to drive it on the road as well. As it turns out, some of the very characteristics that made the G6 slightly less fun to drive on the track than the Model Y, also serve to make it slightly more comfortable commuter.
The suspension, for example, was noticeably softer than the Model Y, and certainly too soft for race track work. But out on public roads, that resulted in a soft, but well-controlled ride. I still preferred the heavier, more direct steering of the Tesla Model Y, and I suspect that there are certain buyers who will also prefer its firmer suspension, but that doesn’t change the fact that the G6 makes it easy to absorb your daily commute.
The acceleration of the Y was slightly more aggressive on the track, but the difference is negligible on the street, where you rarely use more than 30% of the accelerator pedal. The G6 comes with true one-pedal driving, which means that it will bring the car completely to a halt without having to touch the brake pedal. Some will disagree, but I think having the option of a one-pedal driving system is ideal for an EV.
XNGP is't great, but it is safe
Our time with the G6 included a stint on the highway, so we checked out the latest version of XNGP, XPeng’s ADAS with onramp to offramp navigation and automatic overtaking. XNGP features 31 sensors, including dual, bumper-mounted lidar units and dual high precision positioning units. Those get their smarts from dual Nvidia Orin X chips with up to 508 TOPS computing power.
There’s plenty to complain about when it came to XNGP’s performance, but there was one area where it easily outshined its domestic competition: safety. Not only does the G6 require you to apply torque to the steering wheel at regular intervals, it also uses the camera built into the A-pillar to monitor your eyeline. That means it’s more difficult to trick the system into thinking you are paying attention when you are not. If the driver looks away, even for a few seconds, the system will remind them to monitor the road situation ahead. Apart from Cadillac SuperCruise, other systems rely solely on the steering wheel torque sensor.
XNGP proved to be very reliable during our highway journey, even once we got closer to the city and traffic picked up considerably. It maintained good following distances, and unlike earlier iterations, it wasn’t paralyzed by fear when trying to change lanes in nearly bumper to bumper traffic.
But things took a turn for the worse when we reached urban areas proper, and activated XNGP City, the company’s latest generation of urban driver assistance system. I tried the beta version of this system last summer when it was called CNGP. It was impressive, but not quite ready for prime time, with sudden, uncomfortable braking inputs, and slow, conservative lane changes.
I was keen to see how the system compared to its only real rival, Huawei Inside (HI). The HI system is available on both the Avatr 11 and the ARC Fox Alpha S, and I found both applications to be smoother and more comfortable to use than CNGP. However, it was also more likely to demand that I take over when conditions weren’t perfect.
XNGP proved to be better than CNGP in certain ways, but far worse in others. I immediately began to notice that the XNGP had better braking behavior than the first generation; much closer to an experienced driver than a scared teenager. XNGP was also more assertive than CNGP, making lane changes much more quickly and reliably, even in heavy traffic. However, I also found the system somewhat unpredictable in its behavior, making it far less confidence-inspiring than HI or even CNGP. In addition, the car would frequently exit XNGP, but for an entirely different reason than the HI system. Whereas HI would announce that it couldn’t handle the current road situation and advice that you should take over, the G6 seemed to simply exit XNGP in the middle of lane changes.
After driving the G6 for most of the day, I was able to diagnose a potential source of the problem. The XNGP system requires you apply a certain amount of pressure to the wheel in order to satisfy that particular safety protocol. Failure to do so will result in a loud beeping noise, and eventually XNGP will be turned off. However, apply too much resistance, such as by resting the weight of your arms on the wheel the way you would in any other vehicle, and the G6 will be unable to turn the wheel with enough force to make a lane change. It will then exit the system entirely, because it interprets the force applied by the weight of your arms as an effort to resist the lane change.
This is an issue I have never experienced in any other driver assistance system, so it was surprising to see XPeng make such an error in tuning. Overall, XNGP is a step in the right direction. There are plenty of issues to sort out, and I personally wouldn’t feel that comfortable using it in anything apart from the most boring bumper-to-bumper traffic, but it seems to prioritize safety in a way that I haven’t seen in similar systems. That should give the company time to iron out the wrinkles, while also protecting everyone on the road.
XPeng’s last two model launches the P5 and the G9 were, let's be honest, not particularly successful. That former was too boring and the latter was too expensive. That's why I think that this car is coming at just the right time, returning the company to a price point where they have been very successful. Combine that with a spec sheet and looks that rival any other product on the market, and I think XPeng has a potential volume seller on their hands.
XPeng G6 Performance
Motor: Front + Rear-mounted
Power: 358 kW, 660 Nm
0-100 km/h: 3.9 seconds
Wheelbase: 2890 mm
CDM Price Range: 31-42,000 USD
Article classification: Electric Vehicles