Jaguar’s first electric SUV takes aim at Tesla
- Claimed range of up to 298 miles
- Claimed rapid charge times
- Impressive refinement and performance
- Battery beneath floor liberates extra cabin space
- Agile handling, comfortable ride
- Prices start at £63,495, so not cheap
- At 2.2 tonnes, it's a heavy car
- Jaguar's reliability record unfortunately isn’t the best
Welcome to a brave new world for a famous British brand: the electric Jaguar I-Pace SUV.
That it exists – and available to order for customer deliveries later in 2018 – is not in itself a surprise, as Jaguar has previewed the Austrian-built battery electric vehicle (BEV) with concept cars of the same name since 2016.
Make no mistake though, the I-Pace is a gamechanger for Jaguar – and for the car market generally. As such, it currently has no direct rivals, as the Tesla Model X is significantly larger.
What's the technical specification?
The I-Pace is 94% aluminium, and uses suspension familiar from Jaguar XE, XF and F-Pace models. But it’s the electric drivetrain that makes this a Jaguar unlike any other.
A 90kWH lithium-ion battery sits between the front and rear wheels. Twin electric motors provide power, with one at each axle to provide permanent all-wheel drive. A single-speed transmission means there’s no need to change gear. Jaguar claims 400hp with 695Nm of torque, figures comparable to a high-performance saloon.
The battery is covered by an eight-year warranty, and I-Pace requires a service every two years or 21,000 miles.
What's the 2018 Jaguar I-Pace like to drive?
Press the ‘D’ button on the centre console and the I-Pace glides from its parking space into urban traffic, apparently silently from inside the cabin, but with a low hum to warn pedestrians. Frontal visibility is good – though you can’t see the corners of the snub bonnet – rear visibility less so; the reversing camera is essential, although the mirrors give you all the information you need in normal driving.
Electric cars provide instant acceleration, and the I-Pace certainly feels very eager and responsive to throttle inputs, but it’s never excessively edgy during gentle manoeuvres. More intriguing is ‘one-pedal driving’ – simply releasing the throttle results in a relatively strong braking effort as the electric motors harvest electricity to replenish the battery.
You can tone down the strength of this via sub-menus in the touchscreen and rely more on the brake pedal, but while it takes a small amount of time to adjust to one-pedal driving, it soon feels natural.
Riding on our test car’s air suspension with 20-inch alloys – conventional coil springs are standard, while wheel sizes range from 18- to 22 inches – the I-Pace feels impeccably cushioned and controlled, even over the roughest surfaces. The steering weight is relatively heavy, but it’s pleasingly precise, responsive and accurate, and far from overbearingly meaty.
Accelerate up to motorway speed and the I-Pace surges forward with such relentless vigour that it makes most petrol or diesel cars feel decidedly sluggish, and can embarrass even high-performance cars – while the 0-62mph of 4.8 seconds is quite fast, the mid-range acceleration feels far stronger than that figure leads you to expect.
The smooth ride continues to define the driving experience at higher speeds, along with wind- and road-noise that’s impressively supressed, right up to high motorway cruising speeds – the quietness of an electric car tends to emphasize any shortcomings in this department, but the I-Pace’s cabin is hushed and relaxed.
There is noise, however, a kind of arcade-game jet engine soundtrack that captures both the alien driving experience and the increasing sense of drama as speeds rise – again, this can be dialled up or down via the touchscreen.
Perhaps most surprising is how enjoyable such a heavy electric SUV is to drive down a challenging mountain road – its balance of strong grip, instant performance and good body control conspire to make the I-Pace feel surprisingly agile when driven enthusiastically.
A contributory factor here is that the weighty battery and electric motors are concentrated so low down in the chassis, and the lower the weight, the better the handling of any car.
Jaguar even laid on an off-road route during the Portuguese press launch, which involved wading through water up to the I-Pace’s axles, cruising at speed over unmade roads, and raising the air suspension to navigate steep and dusty terrain – all of which the I-Pace simply shrugged off.
How long does it take to charge the Jaguar I-Pace?
Using a 50kW DC charge point – the kind typically found at motorway services and public car parks – requires 85 minutes to take the I-Pace’s 90kWh battery pack from flat to 80% capacity.
Currently the UK is in the early stages of seeing 100kW DC rapid chargers being rolled out: using one of these a 0-80% charge will take just 40 minutes.
Most electric car owners recharge their vehicles overnight using a dedicated wall box: for a 0-80% recharge using a 7kW AC supply requires 10 hours, which should suit most owners.
Jaguar doesn’t yet quote a time for charging the I-Pace using a conventional three-pin domestic plug. While this isn’t the most ideal way of replenishing its battery, it’s a useful fall-back facility if more appropriate connections are unavailable.
Smart charging can replenish the battery during low-tariff electricity hours, while pre-conditioning allows owners to cool or heat the car while it’s still on charge, saving battery.
Jaguar claims 298 miles of range. During a test route that took in urban driving, motorway and a long stint on some very challenging and twisty roads driven with a good dose of enthusiasm, we reduced 248 miles of predicted range to 93 miles in, coincidentally, 93 miles of driving, though we’d expect to achieve a better figure in normal commuting.
Buyers will receive two sets of charging cables – a three-pin charger, and one for rapid charging – though neither were in the test cars.
How big is the Jaguar I-Pace?
Even though it’s an SUV, the I-Pace has a lower, sportier look than the E-Pace and F-Pace crossovers and sits between the two ‘Pace’ models size-wise – at 4,682mm it’s 50mm shorter than an F-Pace, if 271mm longer than an E-Pace. The lack of a conventional engine and gearbox has allowed Jaguar designers to create an extremely futuristic shape, with a very short nose and the cabin pushed forward like a mid-engined supercar.
Combined with a distance between the front and rear wheels that’s some 130mm greater than the F-Pace, the I-Pace has an extremely spacious cabin, despite its relatively compact proportions. This is why a six-feet tall passenger sitting behind a similar-sized adult will find a couple of inches of knee- and head-room. The spacious rear accommodation is also helped by the almost entirely flat floor, where normally a bulky transmission tunnel would compromise space.
Jaguar quotes a 656-litre boot capacity with the rear seats up, 1,435 litres when they’re folded. There’s also a 10.5-litre storage cubby between the front seats, and a tiny front boot.
There is a more conventional centre console between the front seats, but it houses the ventilation system and it’s incorporated in such a way that it makes it easy to access the touchscreen infotainment system and various controls arranged neatly on it.
Jaguar I-Pace: bristling with connected technology
There’s little in the I-Pace’s cabin that screams Jaguar, save for a smattering of wood and leather, which will no doubt please brand traditionalists. That’s not to say it doesn’t look like an attractive dashboard, with a trio of screens where one might ordinarily expect to see traditional analogue dials and physical buttons. Those screens made their debut in the Range Rover Velar and proved to be easy to use, but prone to greasy fingerprints, disturbing the slick aesthetics.
Conspicuous by its absence is the rising rotary gear selector, although the push buttons for selecting the direction of travel reflect how easy to operate an electric car is.
Delve beneath the superficial appeal of the touchscreens for more advanced technology such as sat-nav settings optimised to electric car-friendly routes including recharging points, and access to Jaguar’s remote app via Amazon’s Alexa in addition to the more usual smartphone access.
Jaguar’s employed a similar trim level hierarchy to the E-Pace for its electric SUV, with S, SE and HSE grades topped by a special First Edition only available for a short time from launch. Equipment levels will be generous and, also like the Velar, a wool-blend textile upholstery from Danish supplier Kvadrat is available as an alternative to Windsor leather. Take-up has proved low on the Velar, but perhaps the eco-demographic will see the appeal.
Orders for the Jaguar I-Pace can be placed now with prices starting at £63,495 for an entry-level S EV400 AWD version before government incentives.
The Parkers Verdict
The early signs are good for Jaguar's entry into the electric car market. We'll have to get our hands on the I-Pace in the UK to make the final call regarding comfort, though.
It is an expensive proposition, but at time of writing is in a class of one.