► We drive the Jaguar i-Pace SUV
► It's the first all-electric Jag EV
► Prototype review of the concept
When the Jaguar i-Pace production car arrives in 2018, it will be the first ever all-electric Jag. It will be hugely fast, genuinely spacious, potentially capable of putting 300 miles under its tyres between every charge, and a car eminently of the moment.
And it will look very much like this, the original concept car, first shown at the LA auto show at the end of 2016, and now given a fresh lick of day-glo paint for its European debut at the 2017 Geneva show.
On a closed stretch of London’s Olympic Park, we were the first magazine to drive the i-Pace on a real road. If this concept is the foreword to Jaguar’s electric production car future, it’s off to a compelling start.
A new kind of Jaguar: same face, different silhouette
Approaching the concept, partially obscured by a life-support crew of technicians poring over it, the first thing you notice is the paint (more on which in a moment), then the wheels – they are as shiny as they are huge, a gigantic 23 inches in diameter.
Top-trim production cars will get 22s, and with taller sidewalls than the concept’s bespoke Pirellis, the overall rolling diameter won’t be far off that of the show car, Jaguar design chief Ian Callum tells us. They’ll be narrower, however, for decreased rolling resistance – crucial in the range-critical EV market.
Jaguar’s first electric car could have been a sports car, it could have been a saloon (and its next one might be), but it’s no surprise it’s an SUV. Crossovers are still commercial gold, for the time being at least, and it’s a term that applies more accurately to this car than most.
‘One of the really exciting things about this project is that it was a blank sheet of paper,’ vehicle engineering manager Dave Shaw tells me. ‘The question we continually asked ourselves was, “What should a Jaguar be?”
‘We see this as a unique car,’ says Jag's chief designer for exteriors, Matt Beaven. ‘It has a cab-forward look, more like a mid-engined supercar than an SUV, and its pronounced haunches were influenced by the C-X75 concept [the dramatic supercar that didn’t make production, but did make it to the silver screen in James Bond film Spectre].’
‘You see the proportions first, going down the road. It’s very different. But as you move closer, you see the familiar touchpoints [of the current Jaguar headlight and grille family face].’
How close will the production i-Pace stick to the concept?
Callum tells us the i-Pace concept’s styling is closer to the production car than the C-X17 concept was to the F-Pace – which bodes well: ‘I saw the confirmation model [a fibreglass-bodied full-scale mock-up to confirm the surfaces and proportions for production] the other day, and thought it was the show car. I had to do a double-take.’
‘We didn’t want to over- or under-promise with the concept’s exterior design,’ says Beaven. ‘If you look at the F-type and F-Pace, they stayed true to the concept cars.’
This is the first time Jaguar’s designers have seen the car outside on the road. Although Jaguar’s design centre has an outside ‘viewing garden’ where they can see models and prototypes in daylight, there’s no substitute for viewing the car in situ amid road furniture and, crucially, other cars for the first time. They’re as excited to see the car as I am, if not more so.
Matt Beaven and interior design chief Sandy Boyes tell me how secretly excited they’d felt to see rainwater tracks left by the specially-designed tread on the bespoke tyres, which incorporate the Jaguar script into their design.
Rain, incidentally, is the enemy of a show car. Concept cars can’t be weather-proofed in the same way as a production car, and had we been here a day earlier when the weather wasn't so kind, our drive would have been constrained to a covered car park. Happily, it’s bright sunshine today, and we can head out onto the road, albeit a closed one.
What can you learn about the production car from sitting in the concept?
The driving position will change slightly from the concept car's, but vehicle engineering manager Dave Shaw tells me it’s not hugely different from the production vehicle's. It strikes a balance between a high eye line and a low-ish H-point for a relatively sporty feel. ‘You need to be sitting in it, not on it,’ says Shaw. ‘The driving position should be sporty,’ agrees Beaven. ‘It’s what we are, we are a sports car company.’
The short nose disappears from view abruptly ahead, and the windscreen’s shallow rake makes it feel somewhat like a supercar's. You can see the C-X75-like front haunches ahead, and use them to help place the front wheels on the road.
There’s a huge amount of space inside. The fully flat floor afforded by the BEV powertrain (which might not be quite so flat in the production car) is combined with a floating design for the centre console, with fresh air and foot waggling room beneath it. The three-screen layout – with a TFT instrument panel, central touchscreen and a separate display five inches below that – is shared with the recently revealed Range Rover Velar. Alongside the touchscreen controls, there are rotary controllers for the climate control system – ‘you need that haptic feedback,’ Boyes says.
‘The package has given us the complete freedom to celebrate the amount of room it allows,’ Jaguar’s chief interiors designer Sandy Boyes explains. ‘The interior is the same size as the class above.’
‘Moving the occupants forward makes the whole footprint more efficient,’ adds Beaven.
Interior design highlights
‘It had to feel like a true Jaguar; this is our vision of EV luxury,’ Boyes explains. ‘Everything has to be authentic when you’re doing a Jaguar – you know it’s real wood, and we’ve used an open-pore finish to encourage people to touch it. The brightwork is cold to touch, so you know it’s real metal.
The lazer-cut lozenges cut into the seats are echoed by the pattern on the glass roof, which casts shadows across the interior and its occupants in the bright sunlight, all the more emphasised by the deliberately light colour palette. Those seats have carbon frames and a ‘floating’ design with a central mount under each front seat enabling rear passengers to put their feet either side. Don’t necessarily expect them to reach production in quite the same form.
There are some lovely tongue-in cheek details too, like the ‘glove box’ – actually a pull-out tray for tablets and the like, but with the outline of a suitably posh-looking driving glove upon it.
I don’t remember the i-Pace concept looking quite so… bright?
It was originally silver when it first appeared at the 2016 LA auto show, but it’s had a fresh coat of bright, almost fluorescent ‘Photon Red’ paint for the 2017 Geneva show.
‘You wouldn’t believe the debate this colour has caused over the last few weeks,’ says Jaguar’s design chief Callum, part wryly, part wearily.
There’s certainly no missing it; when I next see the car it’s on the Geneva show stand, and you can pick the i-Pace out from the other side of the hall.
In fact, our drive took place the day before it was transferred to Geneva for the show, so there was no small amount of faith and trust on Jaguar’s part in letting us drive it. I was sat on a layer of foam to protect the seats’ laser-cut lozenge design, and my shoes on a blanket under the attractively crafted pedals so as not to risk scuffing the cabin’s carefully curated neutral colour palette. I’ve never wiped my shoes so thoroughly before climbing into a car, not so careful not to lean on its door when clambering out.
There’s an arcane procedure to start the car – hold a button on the wheel and count to ten, then flick a series of switches on a control panel neatly concealed under the centre armrest. It makes you appreciate all the engineering work behind the scenes to make production EVs start and drive away at the touch of a switch.
So what’s the concept like to drive?
Concept cars are essentially 1:1-scale models, of course. Many of them can’t move, and those that can rarely do more than drive onto a stage, or slow-speed photography.
The i-Pace, though, is surprisingly well-resolved for a show car – it has road-car suspension (but not the production road car set-up), and shrugs off speed bumps with surprising ease.
Slightly alarmingly, there are quite a few of these on the Olympic Park road we’re using in east London, and I’m more than a little worried about hitting a sleeping policeman a little too hard and causing expensive hand-made bits to fall off this one-of-a-kind car. JLR’s chaperone alongside me encourages me to go quicker, however; as show cars go, this is a robust one.
The production i-Pace in 2018 will be 4wd, with one motor per axle thought to develop the equivalent of 400bhp in total, and a 90kW lithium-ion battery developed in-house.
The concept car is 2wd, and can reach about 20-25mph tops – but there are no seatbelts, so that’s no bad thing. Naturally, you can’t adjust the driving position, and the power steering makes a similarly odd whirring noise to the un-soundproofed drivetrain – it makes you realise just how many sounds are damped down and ironed out by the time a car reaches production.
The turning circle is entirely usable; despite the gargantuan wheels there’s no hint of those bespoke tyres rubbing the concept’s arches. That said, many battery-electric vehicles can turn tighter still.
Jaguar i-Pace prices, specs, release date
In broad strokes, most concept cars cost a mainstream car manufacturer around a £1 million a go; the i-Pace was insured earlier this year for a television shoot to the value of £2m...
Fear not, however. The roadgoing Jaguar i-Pace crossover is set to cost nearer £60,000, CAR understands.
Full pricing and details will be available closer to its 2018 launch date.
In concept form, at least, the Jaguar i-Pace is a very compelling car, and crucially, one that does feel authentically Jaguar-y.
The snub-nose, cab-forward silhouette is unique for an SUV yet still very much recognisable as a Jag, there really is a surprising amount of space inside, and some beautiful details in the cabin. Many of the more expressive bits of the interior will be toned down, but hopefully not quite to the same extent as the CX-17 cabin was for the F-Pace.
We’ll judge the production car on its own merits, but on first acquaintance the i-Pace recipe feels a promising, and desirable, enough one to give leading-edge users second thoughts about that Tesla Model X order – and to sway future customers from Audi’s upcoming Q6 e-tron and Mercedes’ EQC. Let’s wait and see.
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