The XPeng G9 is one of the best EV models available in China, but the emphasis on many features of limited significance has instead overshadowed its core competencies.
(Image credit: CnEVPost)
The G9 is XPeng Motors' highly anticipated SUV, but it doesn't seem to be generating a lot of enthusiasm in its initial launch, and we hope to find out why that is.
Over the weekend, I borrowed a G9 from XPeng and my two-day experience gave me a better understanding of the SUV.
I got the G9 650 Max, which starts at RMB 419,900 ($57,900), the second most expensive version of the model behind the memorial edition, which costs RMB 469,900. The lowest-priced version of the G9, the 570 Plus, starts at RMB 309,900.
How is the driving experience?
The XPeng G9 offers the same great driving experience as my Tesla Model 3, although this experience did not surprise me as I have been driving the Model 3 for two years. My car is a long-range version that is no longer sold in China and was purchased for about RMB 320,000.
For people who are used to driving cars with internal combustion engines, if they had a personal experience with the G9, they would be amazed at how much better it feels -- smooth acceleration, no noise and vibration from the engine, and a better center screen in the car.
The XPeng G9 650 Max is a performance beast that can sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, and despite its weight of 2,800 kg, the driver can handle the car very easily.
The first impression of the model is that it's light -- everything is light, whether it's the steering wheel or the accelerator pedal.
After I drove the car home on Friday afternoon, I moved my Model 3 into the vacant parking space next to it. For a moment, while driving the Model 3, I suspected that my car's steering assist was broken.
The Model 3 is a sporty sedan that has more drag on the accelerator pedal and a steering wheel that is heavier than anything I've ever driven, even with it set at the lightest option.
There are no good or bad for these settings in the XPeng G9 and the Model 3; after you become familiar with the vehicle, you'll completely forget what the other vehicles offer in terms of feel.
But overall, the settings on the XPeng G9 make it easier for drivers in low-speed scenarios, especially when parking.
The XPeng G9's performance allows drivers to overtake with confidence, even when I set the driving mode to the least powerful "comfort" mode.
The XPeng G9 650 Max is equipped with air suspension, which helps make the model a very comfortable ride.
The interior is very roomy and the backrest angle of the rear seats can be adjusted to provide additional comfort. Although not as large as Li Auto's Li L9, the interior space is perfectly adequate for the average Chinese person.
The car offers an excellent sound insulation setup, which allows wind and tire noise to be minimized.
As a comparison, my Model 3 has a noticeable sound of wind leaking in at speeds above 100 km/h.
Another impressive feature is that the XPeng G9's navigation voice comes out of the driver's headrest, like someone whispering in the ear, helping the driver navigate while avoiding disturbance to the car's passengers.
Is it worth the money?
Chinese consumers generally prefer more spacious SUVs over sedans, which is one of the key reasons why the Model Y has become the best-selling SUV in China.
The XPeng G9 is a great additional option for an all-electric SUV in the Chinese market. Although XPeng has said that the company will launch a model next year that will directly compete with the Model Y, consumers will actually definitely compare the Model Y when considering the G9.
The Tesla Model Y is currently offered in three versions in China, with the entry version priced at RMB 288,900 after subsidies and the other two versions, which are not eligible for national purchase subsidies, priced at RMB 357,900 and 397,900 respectively.
XPeng encountered a lot of criticism for its complicated configurations after making the G9 officially available on September 21. The company adjusted the G9's product naming logic and price configuration two days later.
Now, there are eight versions of the model with starting prices of RMB 309,900, RMB 329,900, RMB 349,900, RMB 369,900, RMB 399,900, RMB 419,900 and RMB 469,900 respectively.
This means that the XPeng G9 and Model Y have a lot of overlap in price and therefore compete with each other to a large extent.
So? Does the XPeng G9 have an advantage over the Model Y? This is actually a complex question.
When any innovation arrives, there are always early adopters who take the risk of being a taster of the new product. This was the case for Tesla owners several years ago.
But at a time when electric car penetration is rapidly increasing in China, potential Tesla consumers have moved from early adopters to ordinary people who consider brand recognition more than the feeling they get from a careful test drive when deciding to buy a car.
For XPeng, even though it has delivered 236,506 vehicles as of the end of September, many of those who choose its models are still early adopters for whom the brand is not the most important thing, but more importantly the value and experience the vehicle brings.
The XPeng G9 offers these early adopters features that satisfy their curiosity and a good enough driving and riding experience that it is sure to gain traction with its target group.
Looking at the pricing of the XPeng G9 itself, at slightly over RMB 300,000 for an electric vehicle based on the 800V SiC platform that looks great and has excellent assisted driving capabilities, it is good value for money.
What is the problem?
As a great product, what factors might deter a potential consumer from deciding to buy the XPeng G9? The answer might be too many features.
You may say, isn't it good to have more features? For consumers, of course, it is good, but for car companies, this may not actually be the case.
In addition to the lowest priced version, the XPeng G9 comes standard with the so-called 5D music cockpit, a feature that the company has invested a lot of effort in marketing.
Despite XPeng's many explanations of the feature, I was confused about it until after actually experiencing it.
Essentially, the feature makes the experience of listening to music in the car more multi-dimensional, for example, the seats vibrate in rhythm when music is played.
I experienced the feature on my first drive in the car and immediately wanted to turn off this distraction to my driving attention.
The second feature that I found unnecessary was the seat massage, which does provide something extra for the driver and passengers during breaks, but owners may be concerned that too much use will accelerate the breakage of the seat leather.
In addition, the XPeng G9 has two spots for a phone below the center console, but only the left side can charge the phone wirelessly. This raises the question of why the right side does not support wireless charging.
The settings screen on the car's center console is complex and confusing to me, with some pages offering too many options that would leave me at a loss.
These issues don't detract from the fact that the XPeng G9 is one of the best electric SUVs available to consumers in China, but as some have complained previously, they exemplify the company's lack of consideration for user needs.
More importantly, the fancy features have instead allowed features including ultra-fast charging, an excellent driving experience, and powerful voice assistant features to be overlooked.
Thankfully, XPeng, while simplifying the naming logic of the G9, said it would increase communication with users to provide them with truly practical features.
The word of mouth that the G9 has encountered since its launch, which does not match the competitiveness of the product, has prompted the company to make organizational changes.
Last week, local media Jiemian reported that XPeng would shift to a business unit-based management structure to improve overall efficiency, reduce communication costs, and get closer to users to understand their real needs.
Our review is more about the importance of a product to a company's business. If you want to know more about the G9 in terms of the product itself and the driving experience, you can check out the review by ChinaDriven below.
XPeng G9 review: A sporty SUV with loads of space, only thing left is pricing