We see how far Chinese car makers have come in the quest to tackle Tesla.
The P5 is the all-important third model from Chinese firm Xpeng and is aimed squarely at young families seeking a highly connected electric sedan. Already on sale in Norway, Xpeng is poised for major expansion across Europe over the next year and the P5 will be one of the models spearheading that push.
There is no mention about Xpeng producing the car in right-hand drive for Australia, but at under $25k for what is a serious Tesla Model 3 rival, we just had to find out what it is like.
As the first production car in the world to feature built-in lidar, it expands on the autonomous features of the sportier P7 model and, when the software is ready, will offer an inner-city self-driving capability that’s likely to rival Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ function. The two lidar units are positioned some way back in the front spoiler so as not to risk having what would be a potentially very expensive ‘fender-bender’ accident.
Sitting on the same platform as Xpeng’s first model, the G3, the P5 has quite a high stance for a sedan. Perhaps that’s what makes it look awkward in the photos, although it looks more elegant in the metal.
However, there is little mistaking that the P5 is electric. Xpeng has eked out as much space as possible for occupants. Despite having a considerably shorter wheelbase than the P7, the P5 actually beats its bigger sibling on internal space gene, especially when it comes to rear leg room.
Tesla’s Model 3 is the obvious competitor and, unlike its American rival, the P5 has a dedicated digital instrument panel featuring essential driving information such as speed and navigation prompts. There’s also a 15.6-inch central infotainment screen with one of the best voice control systems we’ve yet experienced.
Perceived material quality is also of a high standard throughout, as is the level of finishing, although the ergonomics could be better. Both driver and passenger get electrically adjustable seats but only the driver’s is adjustable for height and this reviewer couldn’t get comfortable on a short trip in the passenger seat. Equipment levels are generous, at least, and our range-topping test car has taken a leaf out of Mercedes’ book with a fragrance dispenser.
Elsewhere, Xpeng has managed to load the P5 with every bit of optional paraphernalia the brand offers. The front seats fold flat to meet the rear bench and create a ‘sleep mode’ and Xpeng can even supply an air mattress, complete with pump. There’s also a film mode, where you have an optional projector mounted on the parcel shelf and powered from the 12V outlet located behind the middle headrest. The film projects onto a fold-down screen that attaches over the front dashboard. All the headrests are also the wide, airline-style type.
Although the P5 is not as dynamically capable as its bigger P7 sibling, roadholding proves fine on twisting country roads and the car’s ride on passive suspension is generally soft. The steering is well geared and seems more precise than that of previous Xpeng cars. Regeneratvie braking force appears to have been increased, too, although true one-pedal driving is still not possible because the car won’t come to a complete stop without using the physical brakes.
Like most Chinese EVs, the P5 does not have Tesla performance levels as it musters a relatively modest 153kW and 310Nm in front-wheel-drive form. Four-wheel drive is technically possible, but given that the G3 crossover upon which the P5 is based remains only front driven, there’s no guarantee that a rear rear axle will arrive for Xpeng’s new mid-size sedan. As it stands, the sprint to 100km/h takes 7.5sec, which puts the P5 roughly on par with BMW’s 320i.
As for driving range, the P5 line-up will contain several options, with battery sizes from 55.9kWh to 71.4kWh. NEDC range spans 460km to 600km, and all versions can fast-charge their batteries from 30 per cent capacity to 80 per cent in 40 minutes.
The final judgement on this car will be weighted by how good the self-driving function is, something that’s unavailable at launch. However, as it stands, the P5 offers a spacious interior together with a smart operating system that really supports the driver. On the road, while not class-leading, it provides a reasonably engaging drive coupled with a respectable range, and more than adequate performance for the role of a family saloon.
Sales in Europe are likely to begin in 2022, but its availability in Australia is as yet unconfirmed.