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Tesla, obviously, though they are more in the news these days for problems with Model 3 production and Elon Musk’s rants than anything else. The Volkswagen Group is talking a big, big EV game – the full-electric ID sub-brand for VW, Audi’s range of e-trons and electrification of other Group brands including Porsche’s Tesla-busting Mission-E concept. Mercedes has the EQ full-electric sub-brand on its way. Volvo are ditching diesels and their Polestar performance sub-brand will be full electric. The common thread? These are all plans, all concepts, all on the way. Meanwhile JLR are already here with their first all-electric vehicle, the Jaguar I-Pace, joining BMW’s i cars as the only Battery Electric Vehicle from a premium manufacturer. Underpinned by an all-new aluminium platform the Jaguar I-Pace has stolen a march over the mighty Germans – a massive, massive achievement for the plucky British manufacturer who has neither the volumes nor the budgets of its rivals. So before we get to the review, a doff of the hat is in order.
That’s the first question we ask ourselves. The I-Pace is low, the roofline is the lowest of any SUV I’ve encountered. With nothing under the hood (expect a small boot, the frunk) the bonnet line is very low. The rear glasshouse is as narrow as sports cars’. The I-Pace blurs lines, but its ground clearance does qualify it as an SUV – important because SUVs not only continue to maintain strong sales growth but it allows a premium pricing without raising an eyebrow.
As for the styling this is stunning, unmistakably a Jaguar with the wide grille and double J-blade headlights, but suitably futuristic with the low stance and even lower bonnet line. It draws inspiration from 2010’s C-X75 concept car, an EV developed with the Williams F1 team where the batteries were charged by gas turbines. The strong haunches are reminiscent of that concept as is the distinct dip in the bonnet with a scoop at the back. The latter is for aerodynamics, something that has been worked on extensively on the Jaguar I-Pace to achieve the Cd of just 0.29. The bluff rear and the channel in the rear wing allow uninterrupted airflow to the rear without any separation. There are vents where the tailpipes would be to channel air from the rear wheel arches to reduce drag while the squared off edges also aid aero.
With there being no engine ahead of the firewall the cab-forward stance liberates in-cabin space of a class or two above. Dimensionally the I-Pace is actually smaller than the F-Pace but with the wheelbase being 116mm longer (at 2990mm) it liberates considerably more cabin space. This also allows the wheels to be pushed out to the corners, and they measure a massive 22 inches on the First Edition cars.
The cabin benefits from the dual touchscreens first seen on the Range Rover Velar (as does the exterior incorporating the Velar’s flush-fitting door handles) while the lack of a transmission tunnel means there’s more space for passengers as well as space all over for cubby holes.
The 90kWh battery sits in the floor between the wheels and there are two motors, on the front and rear axle, to give it all-wheel-drive. The architecture, for we cannot call it a platform anymore, is all-aluminium with the highest percentage of aluminium on any Jaguar to date. The suspension is via double wishbones at the front and Jaguar’s integral link at the rear.
“Electric motors go to max torque immediately and with 696Nm available in an instant, no wait, no lag, the I-Pace goes like a rocket”
The claimed range on a full charge is 480km and it takes 12.9 hours for a full charge on a 7kWh AC socket. 80 per cent charge takes 10 hours on the 7kWh socket or 40 minutes on a 100kWh DC outlet. Performance figures are something else! With a combined power of 396 horses and 696Nm of torque 0-100kmph takes just 4.8 seconds while top speed is limited to 200kmph. Jaguar calls the I-Pace a performance SUV and we head to the Autodromo Algarve in Portimao, Portugal to put those claims to the test.
Our sighting laps of the notoriously tricky Algarve circuit is in the 2-litre F-Type. This is a fantastic circuit – very fast with serious elevation changes and some fantastic blind corners. It is not a tight, twisty circuit to play into the traditional stop-and-go strengths of a typical EV.
And guess what, the I-Pace makes the F-Type (albeit the 4-cylinder, not the V8) seem slow. Electric motors go to max torque immediately and with 696Nm available in an instant, no wait, no lag, the I-Pace goes like a rocket. Responses are immediate and instant. Before you blink you have max go and max twist. Step on it at the exit and there’s startling acceleration. This is bloody quick! Max power is rated at 396bhp and it gets the I-Pace to max speed down the main straight without a problem and without let off. I’ll explain – in a conventional car, no matter how quick the gearbox or lag free the turbos, there is a gap on upshift, a build up of boost and power as you climb up the revs in the next gear. In the I-Pace everything is instant and relentless, there are no gears to shift, no drop in peak torque, no nothing, just a headlong rush till you hit the top speed cut off. It’s quite something! The batteries, the heaviest component of the car, are mounted low in the chassis and between the two axles and that gives it a low centre of gravity. Together with the suspension that is tuned and setup for sportiness the I-Pace goes round the circuit with mad enthusiasm, the mad grip levels aided by the fat 22-inch rubber.
Since this is all electric and computer controlled the ESP doesn’t need to work by cutting the spark to the ICE and so the activation and intrusion is absolutely minimal. If you look at the display you will see the yellow triangle flashing away but on the throttle you can barely make out the intervention since it feeds and meters the power so smoothly and accurately basis available grip. Over the three laps on the circuit I also figure out the best way to drive the I-Pace is on the nose, trail braking heavily into corners to load up the front and lighten the rear so it turns better. And because the two electric motors on each axle are independent of each other you also get torque vectoring. You cannot switch off ESP completely though there is a track DSC mode that allows a bit of slip at the rear before intervention.
You wouldn’t expect an electric car to be any fun round a racetrack but (keeping aside the lack of noise) the I-Pace is startlingly quick and good fun. And the best part is the engineering integrity of the I-Pace is so good it doesn’t overheat or go into limp-home mode even after being driven like a hooligan for extended periods of time – a problem that we have encountered with other BEV’s.
Okay, there’s no noise and there’s two ways of looking at that. Sure it robs you of emotion especially when you’re hustling the Jaguar I-Pace round a race track or a twisty road. But then when you’re just cruising down the highway or bumbling around in the city the silence is fantastic.
Jaguar also offer a sound generator that you can slide from Calm to Dynamic, the latter pumping growly notes through the speakers in sync with speeds and throttle position. It is neatly done though after ten minutes we switched it back to Calm – why’d you want your futuristic EV to sound like an ancient ICE?
Back on the empty desolate roads in the Algarve region we had time to play around with the settings, especially the regen brakes. The recommended mode is heavy regeneration where the instant you get off the brakes the regen kicks in and it feels as if the brakes have been applied. With full regen you can drive the I-Pace in one-pedal mode, basically squeeze the accelerator for power and let off so it brakes automatically, and once you get used to it you barely touch the brakes in all kinds of driving. But unless you’re sensitive to the throttle the constant braking every time you let off the throttle does make passengers feel sick. We tried it with the less intrusive regen and it works better that way.
Electric motors do not creep but the I-Pace does have a (switchable) creep mode so it drives away like a normal automatic when you get off the brakes. This is just one of the ways Jaguar has tried to make the I-Pace feel normal so that user acceptance does come in quickly.
What? Why would you take your electric car off-road? Well, the Jaguar I-Pace does look like an SUV doesn’t it so our test route also had a bit of off-road trails thrown in for good measure. And with All Surface Progress Control you can adjust the speed using the cruise control switches and the I-Pace will clamber up dusty tracks with you only having to steer. We also forded a small stream and tried some flat rally-style gravel tracks and the I-Pace went through it all with ease (though you cannot oversteer it like a rally car since ESP can never be fully switched off). What we didn’t try was axle articulation tests because the I-Pace does not have that kind of wheel travel – it’s something that will have to be engineered into the platform for the (eventual) electric Range Rover.
The ASPC is the only little bit of autonomy on the I-Pace. Unlike the Tesla’s the I-Pace does not drive itself – it does have active lane keeping and cruise assist with emergency braking for pedestrians and lane-departure and blind-spot assistance. But it does not have any autonomous driving functionality.
Unlikely because we do not have the infrastructure nor do we have any incentives for electrics. In the UK the I-Pace qualifies for a GBP 4500 government grant for plug-in vehicles on its list price of 63,495 Pounds. But that’s still a fair premium over the F-Pace’s list price of 35,000 pounds. The question then is would you pay twice the cost of an F-Pace for an I-Pace?
There’s no question that electric cars are the future and the Jaguar I-Pace does prove, without a question, that there’s no need to get our pants in a knot over an EV future. It is great to drive, no question. It is bloody quick and hammers round corners with mega enthusiasm. It is also remarkably easy, relaxing and effortless to drive. That said it is also a bit one-dimensional. It lays out all its cards from the word go and there’s no mystery, no duality to dig into later on. No emotion too. And I wonder how different will a Jaguar EV be to a Range Rover EV to any of its rivals for that matter – after all there is no noise nor any differences in motor characteristics to talk about or dig into. For petrol heads to enjoy motoring as we know it today you will still need an SVR for the weekend drive.
Not that this will matter for 95 per cent of the car buying public. With a really cool design, spacious cabin, solid and safe dynamics, great performance and cool cachet the Jaguar I-Pace is signals the start of a really cool electric future.