The XPeng P7 is the First Real Rival to the Tesla Model 3
Issuing time:2022-03-22 13:08
What is it?
Founded in 2015, XPeng is one of the many brands trying to make the most of China’s push towards electric vehicles and one the few to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s also one of the few who has actually managed to produce and sell a car. Two cars, in fact, first the G3 compact SUV, which was launched 2018, then the P7, which launched in April of last year. The subject of today’s review is the latter.
Not a right angle to be found
The design team behind the P7 clearly had something against sharp lines and creases, because there are almost none to be found on this vehicle. It’s like a river stone worn smooth by years of tumbling. Even the roofline makes a smooth, fastback transition to the rear-end. Those smooth shapes are necessity in electric vehicles, where drag is the mortal foe of range, and sure enough, the smooth lines give the P7 a drag coefficient of just 0.236.
Less practically, but somehow even more nerdy, is the front lighting. XPeng is very open about the fact that they took inspiration from Star Wars lightsabers.
Despite its sloping roofline, the P7 does not have a liftback rear opening, but a traditional trunk. That trunk offers a decent amount space at about 440 liters (15.5 cubic ft), but the P7 also has a frunk as well.
A little old, a little new
The interior design language of the P7 is elegant and simple. Touches like the brushed aluminum door handles and small speakers that pop up when you start the car help to lend it a premium feel. Material quality isn’t quite to the same standards as some luxury marks, but it’s more than acceptable for a car that ranges from 33,000-55,000 USD.
In terms of interior layout, the P7 falls somewhere between the Tesla Model 3 and its most direct domestic competitor, the BYD Han. The Han has a remarkably traditional interior design, with a few modern touches. That means a traditional instrument binnacle, but with an LED screen, as well as quilted leather seats.
The Tesla Model 3, on the other hand, takes more or less everything in the interior and crams it together on a big screen in the middle. The P7’s also has a big screen, in fact, it measures the same 15 inches as the one in the Model 3, but also retains a 10.25-inch instrument cluster.
The front seats of the P7 are among the most comfortable we’ve sat in for quite some time, both soft and supportive. Those pop-up speakers mentioned before are part of the optional Dynaudio package, which also includes speakers built into the headrests of those seats. Rear passengers aren’t so lucky, however, as the rear seating is far less comfortable. There was plenty of leg room, but the floor is quite high, and bottom cushions are too short.
More comfortable than a Model 3
There are three versions of the P7, all of which are built on its Smart Electric Platform Architecture, or SEPA. Despite its name, the Long-Range model is essential the standard range version, with a rear-mounted electric motor producing 196 kW and 390 Nm of torque (263 HP and 287 lb-ft).
The Super-Long Range model keeps the same rear mounted motor, but upgrades the liquid-cooled ternary lithium battery pack from 70.8 kWh to 80.9. The increased size, combined with weight reduction efforts and some aerodynamic modifications, means claimed NEDC range jumps from 586 km (364 miles) to 706 km (438 miles).
The all-wheel-drive High Performance model is the flagship, at least in terms of speed, and adds another 161 HP (120 kW) front-mounted motor. Claimed NEDC range is 562 km (349 miles). The official 0-100 km/h time for the single motor models is 6.7 seconds, while the dual motor High Performance model will do it in 4.3.
We spent time in both the Super Long-Range and Performance versions of the P7. Acceleration in the former is brisk, even at highway speeds, with the signature instant thrust of an electric vehicle. Add in a second motor in the Performance model, and brisk acceleration becomes the type of acceleration where you need to stow any loose items before hitting the go-pedal, lest they be turned into dangerous projectiles.
Our time with the P7 was spent on surface streets and highways, so we can’t speak to the performance or handling the limits of any of the different versions. What we can say is that they are all more compliant than a Model 3, especially over bumps and imperfections in the road. This is likely due in part to the extra 10cm (4 in) of wheelbase in the P7. Cabin NVH is also better than a Model 3, making this the obvious choice for anyone looking for an all-electric commuter.
That comfort doesn’t come at the cost of enjoyment, however, as the suspension, developed in cooperation with Porsche, is still taut, as is the steering. Less satisfying is the regenerative braking system, which is a bit on the mild side for our liking.
NGP or Navigation Guided Pilot, is XPeng’s semi-autonomous driving system and likely the most advanced system available from a Chinese manufacturer at this time. NGP is built on the XPILOT 3.0 advanced driver-assist system, which includes 12 ultrasonic wave sensors, 5 high-precision millimeter-wave radars, 14 autonomous driving cameras, and 1 in-car camera with HD mapping and high-precision positioning. The P7 is the first production vehicle to take advantage of the Nvidia Xavier computing platform.
Like Tesla’s FSD, one need only input a destination into the vehicle’s navigation system, and the NGP will take over some aspects of driving duties, including overtaking. Unlike Tesla’s FSD, the system can only be turned on when the vehicle is operating in approved areas, meaning highways and other larger roads where the system has a high-resolution map. In that sense, it is closer to Cadillac’s Super Cruise.
In real world use, we found the system to be more confidence inspiring than FSD, particularly when coming on and off the highway. The P7 does have a driver monitoring camera mounted on top of the steering column, but we were told by XPeng that is not yet activated. Considering the hijinks that we’ve seen users of other systems get up to, it would seem wise for them to utilize this camera to monitor driver eyeline and ensure their attention remains on the road, much the way Cadillac does with its Super Cruise system.
The P7 is not the fastest or most agile electric car, but it is comfortable, quick, and packed with tech. If you’re a buyer looking for a sleek, comfortable electric commuter, you would be smart to give it a look. The Performance version might be the choice for speed demons, but we found the Long-Range and Super Long-Range to offer very adequate speed for most people.
Article classification: Electric Vehicles