► New Jaguar i-Pace driven
► It's Jag's first electric car
► Full review, specs and prices
Tesla got here first, but Jaguar is the first mainstream maker to launch a full-size premium electric car. It’s called the i-Pace, and it still looks like a concept car – a radical cab-forward design mixes traces of SUV with cues from the still-born CX-75 supercar, and design director Ian Callum says he’s proud that his latest design defies easy categorisation.
It’s priced from £63,495 in the UK, excluding government incentives and has rapidly become one of our favourite and best SUVs on sale today.
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What’s the tech?
The i-Pace is 94% aluminium, and uses the double-wishbone front and Integral Link rear suspension that’s familiar from the also-aluminium XE, XF and F-Pace. It’s said to be Jaguar’s most torsionally rigid structure at 36kn per degree, and has a 50:50 weight distribution. A 90kWH lithium-ion battery containing 432 pouch cells sits between the front and rear wheels – this gets an eight-year warranty, and i-Pace requires a service every two years or 21,000 miles.
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Twin synchronous permanent magnet electric motors provide power, with one at each axle for permanent all-wheel drive. The transmission is a single-speed epicyclic unit.
Jaguar claims 395bhp, 513lb ft, and zero to 62mph in 4.8sec. More crucially, it also claims a range of 298 miles, and charge times from 0-80% in 40 minutes at a rapid 100kW DC public charger, with AC wallbox charging (7kW, the kind of thing you’d do at home) taking ten hours. You can use smart charging to replenish the battery during low-tariff electricity hours, while pre-conditioning allows you to cool or heat the car while it’s still on charge, saving battery.
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What’s the Jaguar i-Pace interior like?
Climb in the i-Pace’s cabin and the floor initially feels a little higher than you perhaps expect – there’s a big battery beneath the floor, remember – and you might instinctively try to lower the seats a fraction more than they’ll actually go. If this is noticeable at first, it soon feels normal. The seats are good – either comfort-focussed standard chairs, or sexier looking F-type seats that are firmer on your lower back, but cup your body more securely. You can nit-pick over some of the plastics and there was a buzz on our F-type seat trim, but overall this is a nice-looking, well put together interior.
Despite the lack of a conventional powertrain, there’s still a large centre console lurking between the seats. It’s hard to see, but it actually floats above the floor, and it’s there, explains Callum, to house the HVAC – heating, ventilation, air-con – system. It also incorporates a twin-touchscreen system like the one first seen in the Range Rover Velar. The upper screen is for infotainment functions including sat-nav, music and telephone; the lower screen controls climate functions, and incorporates rotary dials for tactile feedback. Mostly, it’s quick and intuitive and works very well.
The centre console is raked aggressively towards the windscreen, and flows into a dash that stretches far out to the distance. The windscreen rakes equally aggressively in the opposite direction – forward visibility is good, but that short, low bonnetline means you don’t see the front corners of the i-Pace. The reversing camera is essential – the sloping roofline and thick D pillars mean rear visibility isn’t great in a car park, though the mirrors give you all the information you need on the road.
There’s ample space in the rear seats. I’m 6ft 1in, and found a good inch of kneeroom and headroom when sitting behind myself – i-Pace is 50mm shorter than Jag’s F-Pace SUV, but there’s 130mm more wheelbase here at almost three metres long, and the front occupants sit well forward, freeing up space in the rear. There’s a tiny froot (front boot), and a long if not particularly deep actual boot with 656 litres of lugging capacity. Apparently you get two sets of charging cables – a three-pin charger, and one for rapid charging, though neither were in the test cars.
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How does it feel on the road?
Press ‘D’ and capacitive switches on the relatively small diameter steering wheel illuminate, so too the digital dash. It sounds silent, but outside there’s a low hum like overhead power lines, and a soft beep like an electric heartbeat when you reverse. The throttle is sensitive but not overly aggressive, so smoothly moving away is easy. Other than the expected silence, three things quickly stand out on the road: the steering has quite a substantial feel – not too heavy, but there’s certainly a chunkiness to the way it moves.
On optional air suspension with adaptive dampers and 20-inch alloys – coil springs and passive dampers are optional in the UK, and you can choose from 18-inch to 22-inch alloys – the ride is superb, feeling cushioned, controlled and luxuriously relaxing. It’s also easy to adapt to the ‘one-pedal driving’ that Jaguar hypes – backing off the throttle helps to re-generate the batteries thanks to negative torque through the electric motors, so you can drive without using the brake if you plan ahead. The braking effect is strong, and you can reduce it by selecting the ‘low’ setting, but it’s calibrated so sweetly and it feels right to try to maximise driving range that I left it on.
On the motorway, tyre- and wind noise is impressively low even at quite high cruising speeds, and the i-Pace is comically quick – it just lunges away on a hit of instant torque, leaving other traffic as specs in the distance, and continues to accelerate up to an invisible wall of air at an indicated 130mph. In Comfort mode, there’s a kind of synthesized jet-engine whine that rises in line with the speed, but switch to Dynamic and it intensifies; it’s alien and odd, but does add a sense of drama that’s in proportion to the speed, risk and excitement playing out through the windscreen.
Does it work on the twisty stuff?
It’s actually very impressive. This is a heavy car at 2.2 tonnes, but it doesn’t feel it, partly because such a large portion of the weight is mounted low down. The steering is quick and accurate, the body nicely controlled, and there’s both high grip when you carve into a corner off-throttle, and huge traction when all 513lb ft pings you out, with just the occasional sense of the front tyres scrabbling to deliver the frantic forward momentum.
There’s sport in trying to drive quickly without touching the brake but using the re-gen effect instead. And when you do brake, the transition between regenerative braking and traditional discs and pads is again impressively calibrated.
Dynamic mode is accessed through a slightly fiddly interface. It makes the steering even meatier and keeps the body under tighter control, but the serene ride still impresses, even over particularly poor surfaces. You can induce understeer if you accelerate hard and early in a tighter corner, but that’s more clumsiness on the driver’s part than a particular dynamic flaw. With a passenger on-board and an empty mountain road ahead, the limitation becomes how sympathetic you’re feeling to your co-pilot’s stomach rather than how capable the i-Pace is – the speed, lateral g and traction can be pretty stomach-churning if you exploit it all.
Don’t suppose you drove the Jag i-Pace off-road or on track?
Both actually, so props to Jaguar given most customers won’t do either. The i-Pace proved a lot of fun at Portimao race circuit, particularly its instant speed out of tighter turns, the way such a heavy car can stop so well with only relatively modest brakes – that re-gen effect again comes into play – and even an adjustable balance that allows you to induce just a little off-throttle oversteer and tuck you into the apex. Instant torque out of tight turns can feel a little binary and clumsy, but for an eco warrior with no ambitions for lap times, the i-Pace proves mischievous good fun on a circuit.
Jag also put together an off-road route that included wading along a rocky stream (a 500mm wading depth is claimed), a crawl up a steep, dusty hillside, and some tricky descents. Helped by the optional air suspension that can raise as well as lower its ride height and All-Terrain Progress Control that maintains a constant speed without the driver touching the pedals, the electric Jag just wafted over it all. And on unsealed roads, the i-Pace’s calm ride made for ridiculously serene and rapid progress. Impressive.
Jaguar i-Pace verdict
The Jag i-Pace represents a huge achievement, from its avant-garde design to its cutting-edge engineering to its rewarding dynamics and high levels of interior refinement and space. It could well merit the full five stars, but it seems sensible to wait until we’ve lived with one in the UK, charged it overnight at home and in quick bursts at service stations and simply got our heads round it in daily use to commit to that. For now, on the basis of how it looks and drives and feels, it scores an extremely solid four.
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