2019 Jaguar I-Pace Quick Drive Review


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The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is the first car to challenge Tesla’s hegemony in the premium electric vehicle segment. This all-wheel-drive crossover has the style, the features, and—most important—the performance and range to make it a legitimate alternative to the Tesla Model S hatchback and Model X SUV. The future just got real. And we’ve driven it.

Our stint behind the wheel was brief, but it was enough to give some insight into the character of this radical new Jaguar. It’s quiet and quick, which is what you’d expect of a vehicle without an internal combustion engine and maximum torque on tap the moment you wriggle the big toe on your right foot. But what was also noticeable was a lovely fluidity to the chassis, steering, and powertrain. Some electric cars we’ve driven have a determinately digital demeanor; the refined and composed I-Pace feels organic and natural.

Arriving exactly 50 years after the original Jaguar XJ sedan established the template for the modern luxury sedan with its combination of performance and comfort, the I-Pace is a bold reimagining of a brand with a storied tradition. The I-Pace has grace, pace, and space, just like Jaguars of old, but the way in which it delivers those defining characteristics is cutting-edge 21st century stuff. This is a Jaguar that’s emphatically forward looking, not furtively glancing over its shoulder.

Jaguar design chief Ian Callum describes the I-Pace as “one of the most exciting cars of ever worked on.” Coming from the man responsible for some of the most beautiful sports cars of the modern era, that’s a big statement, but Callum says he reveled in the design freedom afforded by the BEV powertrain. With no need to package a big six-cylinder or V-8 internal combustion engine up front, the design team extended the cabin toward the front of the car, moving the front passenger seating point forward to create a truly spacious interior.

Yes, the I-Pace is cab-forward, but in terms of stance and gesture it’s more a four-door supercar than a 21st century take on an LH Chrysler. Callum says the hybrid-electric Jaguar C-X75 concept provided the inspiration for the I-Pace’s profile, and you can see it, especially in the voluptuous line over the front wheels. Up front is the now familiar Jaguar grille. “So much of this car is different we wanted to have something by which people would know it’s a Jaguar,” Callum says. The rear of the car is high and squared off for maximum aero efficiency, but it’s so deftly executed you’re scarcely aware this is unusual for a Jaguar. Its claimed drag coefficient is just 0.29.

Although you sit high in the I-Pace, the driving position is quite carlike because of the high floor over the battery pack. The interior ambience is sleek and high-tech, no whiff of cigars and old brandy here. The center console arches up to the dash and then folds back on itself; two flying buttresses house buttons to select drive, park, or reverse and other vehicle functions supporting a high-def screen for the climate control with two haptic-response rotary controllers, a variation on the layout that made its debut in the Range Rover Velar. Above that, in the dash, is a 10.0-inch screen for controlling information and entertainment functions, and in front of the driver is a full TFT-screen instrument panel.

As befits a truly 21st century Jaguar, the I-Pace is connected. A Bluetooth key recognizes the driver on approach and automatically switches settings—seats, air conditioning, entertainment, etc.—to suit. What’s more, the I-Pace will learn for itself what those preferences are, to the point where if you regularly listen to a different radio station on your homeward commute, that station will be selected. The climate control knows how many passengers are in the car, and it will only cool or heat the relevant areas to save energy. You can use an Alexa-enabled device to remotely check on charge level, range, and vehicle status, and an app will automatically open the garage door and turn on the lights and heating when you arrive home.

As BEV platforms go, the I-Pace’s skateboard layout is relatively conventional. There’s an e-motor at each end, one driving the front wheels, the other the rear, and in between is a liquid-cooled 90-kW-hr battery pack with 432 lithium-ion cells. It also provides structural integrity for the chassis.

The devil is in the detail, however. The e-motors, which were developed in-house at Jaguar, are synchronous permanent magnet units with concentric transmissions that align the motors with the axles. Total system output is 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque. Jaguar engineers say the I-Pace’s driveline is more efficient than the induction motor and step-gear setup used by Tesla and that it gets the weight even lower in the car. I-Pace vehicle line director Ian Hoban claims the I-Pace’s center of gravity is 5.1 inches lower than that of an F-Type coupe.

The multilink front suspension is from the F-Type, but at the rear is an evolution of the integral-link suspension that’s used in the F-Pace and E-Pace. Height-adjustable air suspension drops the I-Pace 1.6 inches from the standard setting at a stop for easy passenger entry and exit, lowers by 0.4 inch at speeds above 65 mph to further reduce drag, and can raise it 2.0 inches for off-road work. Hoban says the I-Pace can wade through water almost 20 inches deep. “Our BEV has a real depth of character,” he says. “It’s a real SUV with sports car characteristics.”

About 94 percent of the I-Pace’s body is made of aluminum, more than any production Jaguar to date. Batteries are heavy, however, so even with all that aluminum, a base I-Pace weighs about 4,800 pounds, according to JLR’s own figures. For perspective, that makes the I-Pace almost 400 pounds lighter than a dual-motor Tesla Model X and about 100 pounds lighter than a dual-motor Tesla Model S.

 

Both Tesla’s big sedan and its SUV must be referenced in any discussion of the I-Pace because they are—by default—the segment benchmarks. Although it has a commanding road presence in the metal, the I-Pace is an astonishing 14 inches shorter than a Model X and almost a foot shorter than a Model S, yet it rolls on a wheelbase that’s at least an inch longer: 117.7 inches versus the Model X’s 116.7 inches and the Model S’ 116.5 inches.

Jaguar claims the I-Pace will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and has a range of about 240 miles. The Tesla Model X 100D and Model S 100D hit 60 in 4.8 seconds and 4.2 seconds and have ranges of 295 miles and 335 miles, respectively. But both are also considerably more expensive than the Jaguar, whose pricing starts at $70,495 including destination. The entry-level Model S 75D (0–60 in 4.2 seconds, 259-mile range) and Model X 75D (0–60 in 4.9 seconds, 237-mile range) are, in price terms, more logical rivals.

From left to right: The Jaguar I-Pace, E-Pace, and F-Pace.

The I-Pace will go on sale in the U.S. in the second half of this year. Three trim levels will be offered: S, SE, and HSE, with a specially equipped First Edition model available for the first year only. As powertrains and other mechanical hardware items identical, the differences between them are down to detailed equipment, features, and technology. Standard wheels on the S models are 18-inch alloys, and SE and HSE models come equipped with 20s. But all cars can be ordered with optional 20s or even 22s, so it won’t be easy for others to tell you’re driving the S if you spend a few bucks in the right places.

SUVs and BEVs are the auto industry’s two hottest growth segments right now. Analysts predict global SUV sales will hit 24.3 million vehicles by 2020, and global BEV sales grew 58 percent last year (off a small base, admittedly, but with China investing massively in electric vehicle infrastructure, the trend line is obvious). The I-Pace puts Jaguar right where those two segments intersect, offering a real electric crossover to customers while its German rivals are still a year or two away from launching theirs. A half century after the XJ sedan, Jaguar is moving the needle, again.