Jaguar has beaten its German rivals to the punch, and brought a fully electric SUV to market. So, should Tesla be worried – have traditional carmakers finally caught up? We drive the I-Pace to find out.
At the launch of any new car, or at the start of the drive program for a new car, you expect the manufacturer to proclaim that it’s the ‘start of a new era!’ And it was no different as we assembled at the Jaguar briefing room at Faro airport, in the Algarve region of Portugal, for the drive of their brand new all-electric SUV – the I-Pace.
The Jaguar rep started by saying this was the “start of a new chapter… and that it pointed to a confident, forward-looking carmaker.” The only difference on this occasion was that the Jaguar Product manager who stood before us was absolutely on the money. This Indian-owned British automaker has beaten the Germans to the punch. They’ve become the first mainstream automaker to claw back some real ground against Tesla – the upstart American carmaker who’s turned the global automotive industry on its head. While the likes of VW, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW continue to showcase EV concept cars at motor shows across the world, Jaguar has beaten them to be punch by launching their very own brand new electric car. BMW’s electric, the i3, is very obviously a city car, while this is a fully usable, versatile and functional electric SUV.
Looks like a ‘Jaaag’
And what a pretty car it is. To start with, it’s instantly recognisable as a Jaguar. The ‘growler’ sits proudly on what is now a very familiar front grille. Why does an EV need a grille, you ask. Well, for starters, the I-Pace has three separate cooling systems – one for the air conditioning, one for the electrical motors and one for the battery pack. The designers have also worked very hard to ensure that, when it’s on the move, the air molecules around the car are disturbed as little as possible – giving the I-Pace a coefficient of drag of just 0.29. The air flows in through the front grille, out through a duct in the bonnet, over the steeply raked windshield and through a roof-mounted spoiler. The spoiler at the back is less for downforce and more to ensure that the air turbulence behind the car is minimised – thereby improving overall aero efficiency. Additional rear downforce simply isn’t necessary, since the weight distribution of the I-Pace is 50:50, and the centre of gravity is 130mm lower than the F-Pace – as a result of which, the I-Pace is inherently well balanced.
The body and chassis of the I-Pace are 94% aluminium, the floorboard holds a 90kWh battery pack (that consists of 432 lithium-ion pouch cells of nickel-manganese and cobalt and is enough to charge 9,000 iPhones), while two synchronous rare earth, permanent magnet motors sit between the front and rear axels. Of course, one motor for each axel ensures completely variable power delivery between the front and rear wheels. What all this results in on the road is a rather well-mannered machine!
And very fast too
Of course, like all electric cars, you get full torque at zero rpm – which means you have access to the equivalent of 400PS and almost 700Nm of torque virtually instantly. From a standstill, that equates to a 0 to 100km/h acceleration time of 4.8 seconds. At other end of the spectrum, thanks to regenerative braking, you can generate .2g of braking force without even touching the brake pedal. When filled to the brim with electricity, the I-Pace has a claimed range of 480 kilometres. A 15-minute charge (at a 100kW AC fast charger) will give you 100 kilometres of range. 40 minutes, meanwhile, will replenish 80% of the battery. But plugged into a 7kW AC wall box at home will take you twelve-and-a-half hours to get a full charge!
But, the I-Pace is quite clever, so you can pre-set charging times at home to take advantage of the best rates. You can even schedule your departure, so the car will be pre-heated or cooled while it’s still plugged in – so, it maximises range when you’re on the move. The I-Pace is so clever, in fact, that it even talks to Alexa – so, sitting in your kitchen, you can simply ask Alexa the state of charge of the battery! The on-board systems use various factors, including climate settings, weather, topography, driving style and traffic conditions to determine real-world range. Meanwhile, EV navigation will help you determine how far you can go on an existing charge, while also helping you to find charging stations on route. The only trouble is that, in our experience with EVs, typically, you should assume that real world range is about half of the claimed range. Suffice to say, the way we were driving our test car – which is to say pedal to the metal – wasn’t exactly with the intent of extending range. So, we would have to spend more time with the I-Pace to see if that holds true in this case as well.
A whole new level inside
Now, the cabin of the I-Pace is a very nice place to be indeed. The quality of materials and the fit-and-finish is at a whole new level. The cabin is clean and futuristic, and yet it’s also practical and usable at the same time. Jaguar’s version of JLR’s Touch Pro Duo twin-screen infotainment system not only looks great but also works exceedingly well. The boot has 656-litres to play with, and over 1,000 litres with the seats down. There’s even a small 27-litre compartment in front – in place of what would be the engine bay in a conventional car.
The I-Pace is so practical, in fact, that it has a 500mm wading depth. And Jaguar was kind enough to find some off-road trails in the Portuguese countryside where we could actually test this wading capability and off-road prowess. In some places, the trail was actually quite steep and tricky, but with All Terrain Progress Control turned on, the car simply drives itself up and down the steepest and slipperiest slopes – all the driver has to do is steer. Turn off ATPC, however, when the trail opens up and you can have a lot of fun in the dirt. Regardless of whether that’s it’s intended purpose, the inherent balance of the chassis means that the I-Pace is actually very chuckable and well behaved when you want to take liberties with it.
Poised & predictable
On the road as well, it’s incredibly poised and predictable – which makes it easy to put down its 400PS at will. And thanks to the regenerative braking, you hardly ever have to touch the brake pedal on the road. The I-Pace gives you the option of choosing between two modes – High and Low – for the regen braking. It also allows you to activate a creep function, which means that the car will creep forward when you take your foot off the brake pedal – just like a regular car with an automatic transmission. All this is an effort to get you more comfortable behind the wheel of an electric car.
What did it for me, however, was the instant speed. This is a tremendously fast car – and it’ll shove you into your seat-back at virtually any speed and race silently towards the horizon. And it’s so silent and refined while doing it that you end up approaching speeds of close to 200km/h before you know it. The steering is very well weighted – it has a nice heft to it actually – and the double wishbones in front and integral link at the rear mean that the I-Pace is very sharp indeed. This is the stiffest chassis ever produced by Jaguar, and you can certainly feel that from the driver’s seat. The entire machine feels like it’s moulded from a single piece of billet aluminium. As a result of which, and thanks to the all-wheel drive, you can fly into corners and race out of them at speeds that can only be matched by the very best traditional sports cars.
The best part of the I-Pace is just how refined and well engineered everything feels. Thermal management is very difficult on electric cars, and while driving the BMW i3s recently, we found that it was very easy to overheat the battery pack when pushing the i3 on some twisty mountain roads. After just a few minutes of spirited driving, the i3 would cut power to cool down the battery pack. Well, there are no such problems in this case. Jaguar is so confident about the I-Pace that it even let us take it onto a racetrack – and not just any racetrack, but the rather challenging Portimao circuit in the Algarve region. And despite the fact that the I-Pace weighs in excess of two tonnes, it was exceedingly well behaved, responsive, and actually tremendous fun on the track. I’m a die-hard petrolhead and it was very difficult for me to accept the fact that I enjoyed throwing the I-Pace around the track more than the four-cylinder F-Type sports car that was also on hand.
All is not well, however. While the I-Pace is a phenomenal engineering achievement, and while it’s incredibly capable – and actually quite a lot of fun to throw around – it just doesn’t get under your skin like a conventional car does. Naturally, there’s none of that crackle and pop from the exhaust that you get from traditional Jaguars. And it seems like it’ll be very difficult for engineers to differentiate electric cars in future, because they all have inherent similarities. Of course, design will take on even more importance. And the I-Pace scores very highly on that count – Ian Callum and his team have outdone themselves yet again. There’s also the slight issue of price. In the UK, the I-Pace – without State incentives – will be almost twice the price of a Jaguar F-Pace.
Of course, India plans haven’t been decided yet – since we’re still waiting on a long-term EV policy. Europe already has 100,000 charging stations, while China has 150,000. India, of course, has none so far – and none on the way either! So, usability is a definite concern in this neck of the woods. That notwithstanding, what Jaguar has done is create an EV that’s beautiful, desirable, usable, fun to drive and practical, and that deserves applause. No, it deserves a standing ovation! So, if you’ll get up off your seats for a moment and give them a hand as you finish reading this please… hopefully, we’ll see an I-Pace on our roads sooner rather than later.
Also read - Jaguar I-Pace: Experiential Review
Motors: Two synchronous permanent magnet motors
Battery: 90kWh Li-ion, liquid-cooled, pouch cells
Range: 480kms (claimed)
Transmission: Single-speed epicyclic transmission, concentric with motor / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 395bhp (combined)
Torque: 696Nm (combined)
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 4.8 seconds
X-factor: An EV with no compromises – a very fast and attractive one at that.
• Prettiest EV in town
• True no-compromise machine