Of all the 12 categories up for grabs in this year’s Canadian Car of the Year awards, I believe that Premium EV is the hardest one to predict outcomes for – or even to judge.
The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, which organizes this awards program, allows both battery electrics and plug-in hybrids to enter its EV categories. In my opinion, this is a good thing; it gives AJAC’s experts more latitude in deciding which electrified choices are the best fit for today’s Canadian lifestyles.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I’m also the president of AJAC as of last month, so I suppose it stands to reason that I’d agree with the association’s decision-making.)
As a result of this, though, within the defining characteristics of this category that are delineated only by electrified power and price, we’re left with three very different entrants: a German plug-in hybrid, a Swedish (-Chinese) plug-in wagon, and last year’s winner of this category and of Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year, the Jaguar I-Pace.
This makes it necessary to consider what attributes Canadians expect us to prioritize when we’re comparing Premium EVs. I consider the emphasis here to be less on price and more on the combination of luxury look and feel along with effective use of electrification.
With that in mind, here’s my prediction for how the Premium EV category will play out – which, given that I went back and forth multiple times before settling on an order myself, I won’t be surprised to find is entirely incorrect after the results are released.
Note: Official category results will be revealed at the Montreal Auto Show in January and final results for Canadian Car of the Year and Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year will be revealed at the Canadian International Auto Show in February. The following picks are our personal favourites.
Third Place: Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered
Base price: $84,315
As tested price: $84,315
For a start, it should be said that calling this car third place at anything doesn’t feel right. Without a word of a lie, a group of colleagues and I stood in a parking lot for an extended period of time fawning and drooling over how absolutely gorgeous it is in every detail. And once you get it out onto some good twisty roads, its power and handling manners live up to the hype. The total system output of 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque send it flying, and the Ohlins dampers keep it hanging on. So, what holds it back from being a winner? Just two things, really: an all-electric range of 35 km doesn’t get many people through a return-trip commute in a Canadian city and is lower than I feel buyers would expect in a car of this calibre, and the transitions between gas and electric power aren’t as smooth as they could be.
Second Place: Porsche Cayenne e-hybrid
Base price: $94,500
As tested price: $94,500
Porsche sells an awful lot of these, and rightfully so: the Cayenne e-hybrid hits the right marks for plenty of luxury buyers. Sure, its maximum 44-km range on electric power is not a whole lot more than in the Volvo – although it could make the difference between getting to work and back without burning gas for a lot of people – but it would be fair to say the Cayenne’s body style is more in line with what Canadians are looking for these days. It also doesn’t come with any sacrifice in power (a combined 455 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque) or even much in handling, while simultaneously being quiet and spacious. Frankly, it would be a better choice for a lot of eco-conscious buyers than the car that I predict will be the winner. In today’s world of developing infrastructure, it’s much easier to live with as a household’s single vehicle. But I predict it will finish in second place primarily because it doesn’t capitalize as well on electrification technology as the next car you’ll read about.
Winner: Jaguar I-Pace
Base price: $92,672
As tested price: $114,790
If we’re presuming that the people shopping in this category truly want to go all-in with electrification, then we can expect the Premium EV trophy to go once again to the only fully electric premium vehicle currently available in Canada that we were able to test, the Jaguar I-Pace. I tested an I-Pace earlier this year, and in doing so, some weak points arose that could only be detected over long-term testing, one of them being that it seems to use power more quickly than its declared 377 km of range suggests. But in terms of outright beauty, delivery of its 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque, and uniqueness and effectiveness in this space, the I-Pace remains the top choice. That said, with some new competition arriving over the next few months, it’s likely to have a much tougher run for its money next year. Watch this space.
(Note: all pricing includes destination charges.)