From concept car to reality, the Jaguar I-Pace has arrived in Australia losing little of the original design’s wow factor. This is the first mainstream premium European electric vehicle (EV) to arrive in Australia, giving Jaguar a handy headstart against upcoming rivals. But more importantly this is a vehicle that begins a shift that could well pivot attention away from that other brand, Tesla. Will Elon lose some sleep at night as a result? After a 200km test drive I’m thinking at the very least he should sleep with one eye open.
What is it?
The Jaguar I-Pace is a full scale, mass produced electric SUV. In simple terms a large battery sits between the axles, with two electric motors sending power to all four wheels on demand. The underlying structure is one that Tesla has been using since its inception, think of a skateboard with a cabin on top.
There is nothing under the bonnet aside from a small 27-litre storage space, no exhaust and of course no engine note. The I-Pace represents a period of rapid change in the automotive world, in fact the whole EV concept is a revolution not seen in at least 50 years in the industry.
Until now we’ve only heard or read the international reporting surrounding this car. A vehicle that has racked up at least 30 accolades. Highlights in the I-Pace trophy cabinet so far include German Car of the Year, BBC Top Gear Magazine EV of the Year and Norway Car of the Year. The latter possibly the most important given the haven for EV cars Norway has become.
But what about Down Under, does some of the gloss and praise heaped upon this five-seat SUV wane a little. In short, absolutely not.
Behind The Wheel.
Jumping inside a Tesla Model X is tantamount to boarding some kind of futuristic space pod. Aside from the rear Falcon Wing doors, the entire interior requires a level of acceptance that car interior design has strayed a long way off the usual path. The I-Pace remains mostly conventional inside, offering a very high-end premium cabin minus the mind-bending design philosophy.
The I-Pace is no doubt striking and frankly beautiful to look at externally, but from behind the wheel it’s business as usual. Until you hit the start button. This is easily the leading EV car on sale right now, in all areas. There’s the explosive acceleration, top-notch craftsmanship and driving characteristics that would impress even the most pessimistic EV critic.
Our test drive took us on a 200km loop down the NSW South Coast from Sydney via the Royal National Park. While many of the roads are restricted to 60km/h and 80km/h zones, there were still plenty of twisty sections to convince me that the I-Pace is an epically well sorted car. In fact, the I-Pace may well be even more agile than many hot-hatches.
The battery gives the already squat SUV a fantastically low centre of gravity, while the all-wheel-drive system is capable of delivering seemingly impossible cornering prowess. If I had to nit-pick the steering does come across a tad too heavy at times.
But fanging a SUV in this manner, with such enormous thrust, the mild whine of electric motors, artificial engine base notes plus the sound of rushing wind and road noise is an intoxicating experience. Addictive as a matter of fact, similar to the feeling Tesla offer but with the ability to nail corners like a boss.
Depending on the variant you either score coil springs or adaptive air suspension. Either way the ride is sublime, soaking up road imperfections in an almost uncanny way. Electric cars tend to make you hypersensitive to any noise or intrusion from the road surface, the I-Pace is a freak in this area. I actually can’t pinpoint a direct comparison when it comes to ride comfort in the entire SUV segment.
The exterior is far from conventional, but still maintains some normality. There’s a typical yet non functional front grille. However, a slot just above it does send air cascading over the car, even to the point of clearing the rear window of water. Very clever indeed.
When you do the math and combine the figures produced by the electric motors, 294kW / 696Nm is the end result. That sends the I-Pace to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds, which is blistering by any measure. You need to dump at least $251,005 on a Tesla Model X P100D with ‘Ludicrous’ mode to better that kind of whack in the face pace.
EV cars measure their battery capacity in kilowatt hours, the I-Pace is fitted with a 90kWh Lithium-ion battery with a claimed 470km range. To really simplify things, think of 1kWh equalling 1-litre. So, I guess you’d expect a 90-litre tank of fuel to deliver close to 1000km of range.
But Jaguar estimate that based on off-peak rates, charging at home equates to around $15 per fill or $5.70 per 100km. The company also estimates around $1500 worth of fuel savings per year when compared to a similar SUV. But these kinds of figures are subject to all kinds of variables.
Charging will in the most part take part in the home via a $2289 Wall box installed by Jet Charge, Australia’s leading supplier of charging stations. That price includes typical off-street parking installation, such as a garage for example. But apartment blocks and strata rules will lead to a case by case basis in many instances.
There are currently 150 public and destination chargers nationwide, so some way off Tesla’s supercharge network. Jaguar and others are banking this will become the industry standard at some stage. Known as Combined Charging Solution (CCS) the actual end of the plug is a combo of both Type 2 AC and Type 2 DC connections.
DC charging times (100kW) sit at around 40 minutes or 10 hours via a 7kW wall box.
Jaguar has struggled to keep up with rivals when it comes to infotainment presentation. However, now the new Touch Pro Duo screen system mostly puts to bed any prior shortcomings. Unlike the new Audi interface, which I believe is still class leading, there’s a combination of capacitive touch functions and physical dials and buttons to operate menu systems and the air-conditioning system. Plus, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard.
The instrument cluster is showcased via a 12.5-inch colour display that includes navigation mapping. The main centre screen sits at 10-inches with a smaller display beneath dedicated to climate control systems.
Like Tesla, Jaguar will offer software updates wirelessly. This may include incremental improvements to the infotainment system, sensors, instrumentation and battery charging capability. All five occupants can have their own USB charging point and there’s also onboard 4G Wi-Fi.
Driver assist functions abound, with SE variants and above, also score a milder version of Tesla’s Autopilot system linked to adaptive cruise control. It does a good job on highways of guiding the 2.1-tonne I-Pace between clearly marked lines, although won’t allow for extended periods of blatant hands off the wheel driving, at least no longer than 30 seconds anyway. Just today it was announced the I-Pace has been awarded a five-star ANCAP Safety Rating.
The I-Pace is available in four models with prices kicking off at $119,000 for the S grade. That’s followed by the $130,200 SE, $140,800 HSE and $159,700 First Edition. As usual there are lengthy options, so expect to fork out more via the magical persuasive powers dealers possess. Jaguar offers a five-year 200,000km warranty and an eight-year 160,000km warranty on the battery.
I’m actually not overly surprised how polished the I-Pace is. But I’m also not a Tesla hater, without them I don’t think we’d be on the cusp of such an avalanche of EV cars so soon. There are two obvious drawbacks, range is a little down. If I was to do a genuine day trip I’d be getting nervous about anything over 350km. Also, the away from home charging network is minimal at this stage. But I have been hanging out for a prestige car brand attempting a genuine rival in this space. Jaguar has produced an absolute gem from scratch, we await what the others come up with. The Jaguar I-Pace is a 9 out of 10 for me.