Last updated on August 18th, 2021 at 11:50 pm
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) will be familiar to regular WhichEV readers as the organisation that publishes monthly car sales figures, which always seem to look very positive for electric vehicles. But the organisation also hosts regular events where journalists can spend the day driving brand new car releases. Last year, the SMMT held its first day entirely focused on EVs, Drive Zero. Last month’s Test Day also took place at the Millbrook Proving Ground, like Drive Zero, but involved all vehicle types, including petrol and diesel as well as electric. WhichEV went along to try out some of the latest EVs to arrive on the market.
The most exciting vehicle on show, from an EV website’s perspective anyway, was the IONIQ 5. Unfortunately, the car on the Hyundai stand was a prototype and they wouldn’t let us drive it, but we did get a full tour of this ground-breaking new vehicle. It’s the first car from the IONIQ brand, which was spun off by Hyundai to be the marque for all its electric-only offerings going forward.
Some humorous commentators have likened the IONIQ 5’s looks to the 1980s Austin Maestro, which in some of the pictures it does resemble. In person, however, it really doesn’t look like that much-maligned vehicle at all. It’s way more impressive. The car on show at the SMMT event was a “Project 45” launch edition. This is an homage to the Project 45 concept upon which IONIQ 5 is based and isn’t quite the top drivetrain option (which hasn’t been released yet) but is “fully loaded” with all the options.
The IONIQ 5 is the first car to arrive using the E-GMP platform that Hyundai has developed for itself and group sister brand Kia, which is launching its own EV6 on it, although Kia doesn’t seem to be quite so close to delivery in the UK as Hyundai. The Project 45 has the AWD option, which means motors on front and rear axles. The result is a significant 301hp and the ability to hit 62mph in 5.2 seconds.
The AWD IONIQ 5 comes equipped with 73kWh battery, giving it a WLTP range of 287 miles. This battery can also be installed in a rear-wheel-drive car with 214hp, a 0-60mph sprint of 7.4 seconds, and 300-mile range. There’s another rear-wheel-drive option with a 58kWh battery and 168hp, providing 8.4 seconds to 62mph and 240 miles of range. There is also rumoured to be an “N” version, which presumably will be similar in performance to the GT version of the Kia EV6 with 577hp and a 0-62mph sprint of 3.5 seconds, but you can’t buy either yet.
One of the IONIQ 5’s party tricks is that it supports 800V charging, so can make good use of 350kW chargers. All three versions of the IONIQ 5 drivetrain can replenish 80% capacity in under 18 minutes on a 350kW charger, such as one of IONITY’s. For the 73kWh batteries, this means a delivery of around 180kW, which is beyond most current cars outside the Tesla portfolio.
Although the IONIQ 5 looks futuristic (and not much like an Austin Maestro) in the flesh, the TARDIS-like interior is one of its most astonishing features. It may not officially be an SUV or estate car, but the boot starts off at 531 litres – only 12 less than a Volkswagen ID.4. Drop the rear seats down and you get 1,591 litres, which is even more than the VW SUV. There’s a frunk, too (under the bonnet), which adds 24 more litres of extra storage, and this is larger still on the rear-wheel-drive versions of the IONIQ 5.
Despite that large boot, the rear passenger space is considerable, with loads of legroom for tall people in the back seats. On the launch edition, the rear seats even have electric adjustment so they can be moved forward to increase the boot space without dropping the rear seats forward. Another novel feature is the ability to shift the central console section forward and backward, so there can be more legroom for a rear middle seat passenger, or space to slide across in the front.
One of the headline features of the IONIQ 5 (and Kia EV6) is its “Vehicle to Load” ability, where it can deliver power as well as receiving it. There is a regular 13-amp socket inside the car, into which any regular home device can be plugged – such as your laptop’s power brick. The conventional CCS plug on the outside of the car is also bidirectional, and an adapter is supplied so you can plug in a 13-amp UK plug there as well. For example, you could trickle charge another EV, power a projector to watch movies at night when you’re camping, or keep a bouncy castle inflated.
Prices for the IONIQ 5 start at £36,995 for the SE Connect 58kWh RWD, ranging to £48,145 for the Ultimate 73kWh AWD, which has a similar specification to the Project 45 version we explored. You can place a reservation here.
Audi Q4 e-tron
Audi had more than one exciting new EV on its SMMT stand. The most recent addition was the Q4 e-tron, which is a small SUV that slots in below the original e-tron. However, after a tour round its features and taking it for a test drive around the Millbrook Alpine Track, the Q4 e-tron seems like a much more viable option to take Audi’s electric offerings into the mainstream.
Whereas the original e-tron was clearly a first-generation EV, the Q4 e-tron is another car from the Volkswagen Group to take advantage of the all-electric MEB platform that underpins the VW ID.3, VW ID.4, and Skoda Enyaq iV. Audi has chosen to deliver the Q4 e-tron like the e-tron as both a regular SUV and Sportback with a more sloping rear.
The version we drove was the 40, which sits in the middle of the range. At the bottom is the 35, which has a rear 168hp motor and 52kWh battery, delivering a 9-second sprint to 62mph and 208 miles of WLTP range. The 40 is essentially the same as the 1st Edition VW ID.4 or Skoda Enyaq iV 80, with a rear 201hp motor and 77kWh battery, for 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds and 316 miles of range. The 50 is equivalent to the VW ID.4 GTX, so allies that same 77kWh battery with all-wheel-drive motors delivering 295hp. This allows it to reach 62mph in 6.2 seconds, with a range of 295 miles.
Of all the MEB-based cars so far, the Q4 e-tron has the most conventional-looking exterior and interior, which will please those who just want an Audi that happens to be electric. Matrix LED lights are an option, with their ability to switch off individual elements so as not to blind oncoming traffic. Apparently, this can also be purchased for single months at a time, as a subscription. The overall look of the Q4 is “Audi SUV”, so if you like the Q5 or Q7, you will like the Q4 e-tron.
It’s also the first Audi to have a head-up display as an option. However, otherwise the Q4 e-tron’s interior is reassuringly like other Audis. It doesn’t have the same sense as VW’s new electric cars that it is trying to break from tradition, although the steering wheel is almost hexagonal rather than round and there is nothing like a gearstick to switch between drive modes. The interior is comfortable and spacious, with plenty of room for rear passengers.
For most people, the Audi Q4 e-tron 40 we drove will be more than quick enough. It is an SUV, after all. We found that the immediate torque of electric and rear-wheel-drive delivered good dynamics as we piloted it round the Millbrook track. The 40 weighs 2,050g, whereas the 35 is a bit lighter at 1,890kg and the 50 a hefty 2,135kg. So this is not a light car in any of its guises, but the MEB platform does place the lion’s share of the mass in the batteries beneath the cabin floor so it handles quite well for a two-ton SUV. The balance is good and steering responsive.
Of the cars we have seen based on the MEB platform, the Q4 e-tron is the most expensive yet, which is what you would expect from an Audi. The 35 starts at £40,750 for the SUV and £42,250 for the Sportback, then the 40 is £46,960, and the 50 starts at £51,370. Not cheap, but these are very capable EVs. The 40 and 50 will have plenty of range for long journeys, and the 50 enough performance to shame a lot of ICE cars. You can start the process of placing an order here.
Audi e-tron GT
If you really want to demoralise owners of vehicles with conventional engines, however, the Audi e-tron GT is what you want. Where the Q4 e-tron uses the VW Group’s MEB platform, the GT uses the J1 Performance Platform, which is shared by no other car than the already legendary and popular Porsche Taycan. Currently, the GT comes in two main flavours – the quattro and the RS.
These are broadly equivalent in drivetrain to the Porsche Taycan 4S and Turbo respectively, with the Performance Battery option rather than the Performance Plus for the Taycan 4S. However, the Taycan Turbo is a little more powerful than the Audi RS e-tron GT. The “basic” Audi e-tron GT quattro delivers 523hp across all four wheels, enabling 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds. The battery is 93.4kWh in capacity of which 85kWh is usable, delivering a range of 298 WLTP miles. The more powerful RS e-tron GT delivers 637hp (or 590hp in some versions), making it capable of hitting 62mph in just 3.3 seconds, but the extra power means the range drops to 283 miles (the battery is the same).
The version we drove was the Audi e-tron GT quattro. Having tested a Taycan 4S just a week earlier, albeit on public roads rather than a test track, we found a fair amount of similarity in dynamics. However, the Porsche mildly errs on the side of sporty response, where the Audi feels a little bit more like a really fast GT car (hence the name, presumably). It’s subtle, though, and the Audi e-tron GT quattro is still an absolute blast to drive.
This remains a massive 2.3-ton car, though, so it weighs around the same as the heaviest Bentley Continental GTs, and fits in the same class for driving experience. However, the Audi sits low, and most of its weight is under the cabin floor, with an even distribution across the car. So handling is quite neutral and the Audi e-tron GT corners incredibly well for a car this heavy.
Whichever version of the e-tron GT you go for the looks are the same. The Porsche Taycan has a similar form factor to the Panamera but with a very distinct front. The Audi e-tron GT, like the Q4 e-tron, diverges less from the overall Audi look but is arguably more attractive. Both cars are four-door with proper rear seats, although you really wouldn’t want to spend much time in the middle rear seat of the e-tron GT. The outer rear seats are also a bit cramped. Headroom is decent but knee room merely adequate. In other words, there is definitely more space than a 2+2 sports car where the rear seats are “emergency only”, and your kids will be fine in the back. But company directors will prefer sitting in the back of a Range Rover.
Although the Audi e-tron GT’s performance is only a little behind the equivalent Porsche Taycan, the price is notably less. This is still an expensive car, but the Audi e-tron GT quattro starts at £81,200, whereas the Porsche Taycan 4S is £84,030. The RS e-tron GT is £112,250, compared to the Porsche Taycan Turbo’s £116,870. You can explore the options here.
Porsche Taycan RWD
The Porsche Taycan was originally released in 2020, and has sold tens of thousands already, with sales expected to surpass the 911 in 2021. The grudge match between the top-end Taycan Turbo S and the Tesla Model S has been fun to watch too, while they tussle for supremacy as the fastest production EV. That mantle has currently swung in Tesla’s favour with the Plaid, but the Taycan still has lots in its favour. It is a Porsche, after all, so benefits from the company’s decades of experience producing performance vehicles.
The Taycan on show at the SMMT event, however, was the new “cheaper” rear-wheel-drive version. It looks the same as the other models, but with just a rear motor, it has 402hp with the Performance Battery, and 469hp with the Performance Battery Plus. This provides a range of up to 268 miles and 301 miles respectively. Where the fastest Taycan Turbo S can reach 62mph in 2.8 seconds, the RWD-only version takes a more pedestrian 5.4 seconds – only slightly faster than a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus.
The Taycan’s interior space is almost the same as the Audi e-tron GT, because they are based on the same platform. You can option the car with either two or three rears seats, although as with the e-tron GT the middle rear seat will be more for use in emergencies than something anyone will want to sit in for long periods. The outer rear seats will be fine, with the same decent headroom but mediocre legroom as the Audi. Overall, though, this is a Porsche interior and is an absolutely fantastic place to be.
Unfortunately, the limited supply of Taycan RWDs at the SMMT event meant we weren’t able to give it a drive, but had been able to try out the more expensive all-wheel-drive 4S a week earlier courtesy Octopus EV. Dynamically, the Taycan is still a Porsche, and handles like a car weighing over two tons really shouldn’t. Compared to driving a Tesla Model S at speed around twisty roads, the Taycan is a much more involved and enjoyable experience.
The entry-level Porsche Taycan is still not cheap at £72,850, but that is over £11,000 less than the 4S. You are also getting a little more range compared to the 4S, because this car is 90kg lighter. It’s not exactly a bargain when the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus provides similar range and performance for £40,990. But the Taycan RWD is a Porsche, and lots of people think that’s worth paying extra for. If you do too, you can explore the options here.
Little Car Company Bugatti Baby II
For a bit of fun at the end of our day at Millbrook, we tried out the Little Car Company’s Bugatti Baby II. This is a replica of the Bugatti Type 35, but not quite full sized. It’s three quarters of the original, but that still means adults can sit in it and drive it, although it’s meant for kids. The Type 35 was a legendary racing car in the 1920s, averaging 14 race wins a week in its heyday. Variants of the car won Grand Prix from 1926 to 1932, and numerous Targa Florio endurance races.
The Baby II is, of course, electric, rather than having the petrol engine of the original Type 35. The Base version has a 4kW motor and 1.4kWh battery back, whereas the Vitesse and Pure Sang deliver up to 10kW with a 2.8kWh battery. The Little Car Company doesn’t talk about range, but there are various power modes. All cars have a 1kW Novice mode with a 20kph top speed, and a 4kW Expert mode with a 45kph top speed. But the Vitesse and Pur Sang also have a 10kW option with 60% more power than the base car and no specific speed limit.
Colour choices vary between the models. The Base just comes with a blue exterior and black interior, with a composite material bodywork. The other two have a wide range of exterior colour choices, but where the Vitesse uses carbon fibre, the Pur Sang is made from aluminium like the original Type 35, and each one is coach built by hand.
The Bugatti Baby II is not a car for making actual journeys unless they are from the mansion to the summer house down your own private lane. This is, obviously, an expensive toy. But it is a well put together and amusing plaything. The steering wheel comes off and there are bolsters supplied, with movable pedals, so people of varying size from small child to overweight adult can fit in and share the enjoyment.
We only got to drive the Baby II in low power mode, but it was still rather amusing. It has safety features like a remote kill switch so if you see your kid approaching danger you can turn off the power before they get into trouble. It’s as easy to drive as any EV, with just an accelerator, brake and steering to worry about.
Prices start at €30,000 for the base model, ranging to €43,500 for the Vitesse and €58,500 for the Pur Sang. This is not a cheap kid’s toy you purchase from Argos, it’s for rich people who probably have their own estate for their kids to drive about in. But it is a lot of fun. If you’re a minted member of the landed aristocracy, you can specify your Bugatti Baby II here.