If you’re going to make an entrance to a growing automotive sector– this is how you do it. Jaguar’s first foray into the all-electric car market is the I-PACE, a good-looking car, setting a new benchmark for EV handling and refinement, while giving the sector a swift kick in the pants.
Global EV sales rocketed by 58% last year alone. Couple that to our undying love for SUVs and you can begin to understand just how timely and important this car is for Jaguar. It is built by contract auto manufacturer Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria.
Any worthy rivals?
I’ve driven most battery-only electric cars that have come to market in recent times – from the Tesla Model 6 saloon, the Model X SUV and compact Model 3 hatchback along with the KIA Soul, Hyundai IONIQ Electric, MINI Electric and the more humble, work-a-day Nissan Leaf+ and MG ZS Electric. None, not one, comes anywhere near as good as this new breed of Jaguar. Its excellence makes it even harder to comprehend that it was conceived and on the road in just four years.
Inside, the I-PACE is smart and a welcome differentiation from the familiar but uninspiring Jaguar design seen in current models in the range. The range-entry S trim comes with plenty of standard equipment expected of a premium marque.
The I-PACE dashboard represents another modernisation of the design deployed in the existing Jaguar range, with the main digital instrument cluster taken from the sleek Range Rover Velar. It’s still a conventional layout and no aesthetic ‘jazz hands’ have been added to draw attention to the all-electric nature of the I-PACE, which is as it should be.
It feels bigger inside than you might expect looking at it from the outside and offers plenty of space for rear-seat passengers. The shape of the car results in plenty of headroom and the lack of a transmission tunnel makes sitting in the middle rear seat more comfortable than in a conventionally powered car. Seating three adults in the back shouldn’t be a problem, although some will find shoulder room to be a tad cosy.
The interior offers occupants a total of three 12V sockets and six USB ports, as well as handy storage trays under the rear seats for laptops and tablets.
At the rear you’ll find a generous 656 litres boot, which grows to 1,453 litres with row two folded down. When the split rear uprights are out of the way, the boot is totally flat, making it easy to slide in long, heavy items. As with most EVs, the I-PACE has a small cubby space under the bonnet which offers 27 litres of additional storage.
Trim grades and equipment
The Jaguar I-PACE is offered in three trim levels – S, SE and HSE. The range-entry S has 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, sports seats, a 10-inch touchscreen, navigation, DAB radio, cruise control and a rear camera.
The mid-spec SE gets larger 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with daytime running lights, a powered tailgate, auto-dimming power-folding wing mirrors and leather upholstery.
Step up to the range-topping HSE as tested and you’ll find an alternate 20-inch alloy wheel design, matrix LED headlights, gesture-controlled tailgate, Windsor leather upholstery and a surround-sound stereo.
Battery and recharging
A 90kWH lithium-ion battery is mounted underfloor between the front and rear wheels and is covered by an eight-year warranty and Jaguar claims 292 miles of range (WLTP).
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 zero to 80% capacity.
Currently, the UK is in the early stages of seeing 100kW DC rapid chargers being introduced and 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.
Drivetrain, performance and drive
The I-PACE delivers all-wheel drive performance and remarkable dynamism courtesy of two electric motors – one over each axle – that produce a combined 394hp and 695Nm of torque. That energy provides rapid and seamless acceleration with 62mph arriving a mere 4.8 seconds from the off, which is none too shabby considering the car’s kerb weight of 2,133kg.
Sure, a top-spec Tesla Model X is quicker than the I-PACE but the Jaguar is about so much more than straight-line speed. The sense of accuracy, refinement and composure, along with the car’s surprisingly nimble feel means the I-PACE sets a new class standard for the way electric cars drive.
The steering feels a little light on the dead ahead but it quickly weights up through the corners instilling confidence to drive enthusiastically thanks to its precision. You do however, feel the weight of the car through the twisties but coupled with the impressive lack of body roll, you have a luxury executive land yacht that feels more like a sports car when pressing on.
During cornering, the electric motors constantly distribute power between the wheels to generate the most amount of grip possible. The suspension is similarly engineered to that in the Jaguar F-Type, meaning the I-PACE stays flat and athletic during quick directional changes.
The only major weakness of the driving experience is the brakes – a recurring problem in electric cars that have brakes with a regenerative function; the brake pedal feels soft when you first press it and then firms up in an artificial way.
Fortunately, the regenerative braking of the electric motor means you don’t need to use the brake pedal much, because the car starts to slow down as soon as you come off the accelerator. This is very intuitive and, once you get more used to slowing the car in this way, it’s quite possible to drive the I-PACE with just the accelerator most of the time. Like me, you might appreciate the challenge!
While the I-PACE looks sporty and low-slung, Jaguar has used its Land Rover know-how to ensure it’s also surprisingly good off-road. Along with four-wheel drive, there’s All Surface Progress Control, which is similar to cruise control, but for treacherous conditions. It makes it easy to keep going in muddy fields or up the steepest slope anyone is likely to tackle, relying on clever software to juggle power and traction between each wheel.
Again, as you would expect of a premium marque, the I-PACE comes with plenty of safety equipment and, like all other current Jaguar models, has scored five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. It scored well across all four assessment categories, including 91% for adult occupant protection and 81% for both the child occupant protection and safety assist categories.
The car is offered with various safety systems as standard including traffic-sign recognition, lane-keeping assistance, driver condition monitor, emergency braking, a rear traffic monitor and clear exit monitor. SE spec and above gets the Drive Pack, comprising blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and high-speed emergency braking.
The Jaguar I-PACE is one of the very best electric cars on sale and interrupts EV innovation in favour of making the genre more desirable. With electric vehicles becoming more commonplace, the electron-fuelled Jaguar I-PACE adds some excitement to a largely sedate segment. Its alluring exterior makes a statement that rivals don’t, while its welcoming interior offers up an excellent mix of luxury and technology.