2018 Jaguar I-Pace quick drive review

The I-Pace is Jaguar's first go at an electric vehicle for the premium passenger market. Can it cut it? Paul Maric takes a quick first look.

SUV sales are booming, so an electric SUV was the next logical step for a brand like Jaguar that's rapidly expanding its product portfolio.

Arguably though, the best thing about the all-new 2018 Jaguar I-Pace is that it's almost identical to the concept car it's based off — a point that designer Ian Callum and his team are extremely proud about.

Arriving in Australia later this year (around October) with a starting price of $119,000 (plus on-road costs), the I-Pace is similarly priced to its nearest full-electric SUV rival, the Tesla Model X.

We need to preface this review by saying our first drive of the I-Pace was very, very brief. The drive involved a short 'smart cone' circuit with a static vehicle available for us to inspect. We're looking forward to having a proper on-road first drive later this year.

This isn't just another electric car, it's actually quite sophisticated in terms of the engineering and work that has gone into producing a type of vehicle this brand has never attempted before.

The chassis sits on an aluminium body that supports 90kWh of lithium ion batteries contained within 432 battery pouch cells, which use nickel manganese cobalt. The centre of gravity sits 130mm lower than an F-Pace, which is thanks to the mass of battery weight riding along the very bottom of the framework.

Two electric motors combine to produce 294kW of power (400PS) and a whopping 696Nm of torque. That allows the I-Pace to accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds with a top speed of 200km/h.

Driving range is 480km on the new and tougher WLTP (World harmonised Light vehicle Test Procedure). According to Jaguar, had it been tested on the outgoing NEDC test, the car would have a driving range of over 500km.

For those interested, the changes to the vehicle testing procedures from NEDC to WLTP include more dynamic driving (to be more representative of real world conditions), longer test cycles, a higher average speed and a higher maximum speed.

Sitting in between the E-Pace and F-Pace in terms of size, the I-Pace comes in at 4682mm long, 2139mm wide and 1565mm high. Cargo capacity measures 656 litres with the second row in place and expands to 1400 litres with the seats folded. There's also 27 litres of cargo space available in the front boot — or the froot as Jaguar calls it.

What's the car actually like in person? It's stunning. The pictures definitely don't do it justice. The lines are beautiful, the shape is eye catching and the design highlights functional. For example, the bonnet scoop acts as active aero to direct air up and across the roof. It's then used to push air across the rear window, which removes the need for a rear wiper.

It's the same story at the squared off rear, which has this shape to improve aerodynamics.

The cabin itself feels the most premium of any current Jaguar. The fit and finish of our pre-production cars was excellent, as was the level of detail on each surface. A new 10-inch infotainment system sits atop the dashboard, while a new secondary high definition secondary screen sits below it for other functions. This is Jaguar's first use of the dual-screen system employed by its Range Rover sibling brand.

It's support by two knobs (with a tyre pattern on the outer edge) that support both push and pull to activate functions. The climate control system can even detect the amount of passengers to reduce unnecessary heating and cooling loads.

Jaguar says the system is backed by one of the fastest processors in the industry, designed to speed up things like map pinch and zoom, voice recognition and command inputs. It also manages an Application Programming Interface (API) that allows the car to connect with external products like Amazon Alexa to check car charge status.

Further, there's an inbuilt AI interface that recognises your driving patterns, heating and cooling preferences and even your phone call history to predetermine the actions you're likely to take during your drive.

Other intelligent features include Bluetooth preference recognition for multiple keys, intelligent navigation that takes into account vehicle charge status, charge locations and management of battery power.

Leg and headroom in the rear is very good. 890mm of leg room allows even taller passengers to fit in the second row with the front seats pushed back. I found a lack of toe room, though, due to the position of the front seats. A centre armrest folds down and features two cup holders.

One of the vehicle's coolest features is the panoramic moonroof. While it's not as expansive as the Tesla Model X, it offers a surreal visual experience from the second row — something the kids will absolutely love.

What's it like to drive? Again, it was only a very short drive, but it gave us a good idea of what the I-Pace feels like on the move and when thrown around in tight spaces.

The Jaguar 'smart cone' course is a new way of doing a slalom. It rewards those that are patient and awards points based on the quickest time around the course, but also the shortest distance travelled along with accuracy. The cones feature LED lights on top and they change depending on the course you need to take.

Shooting out of the blocks, this thing feels quick. With almost 700Nm of torque on tap and two motors capable of torque vectoring, Jaguar has opted for a rear-wheel bias to offer a more rewarding driving experience.

The brakes are backed by a two-stage regeneration mode that can brake at up to .2g, increasing to .4g when transitioning to the brake pedal before the conventional brakes kick in.

Unlike some hybrid vehicles, brake pedal feel here is excellent. It's progressive and there's barely a perceptible change when switching between regeneration and actual braking.

The best part though is the steering. This tight course offered a mix of sweeping direction changes and sudden tight direction changes. There's a heap of feel through the wheel, but it doesn't feel overly heavy. The agility is also unlike any electric vehicle we've tested to date.

Tesla's Model X feels quite top heavy and nowhere near as agile. Even the Model S can feel a bit heavy in comparison, with the I-Pace weighing in at 2208kg, compared to 2447kg for a Model X with the slightly larger 100kWh battery pack.

And, while it's probably not a great idea to mix electricity with water, Jaguar has tested the I-Pace up to a wading depth of 500mm — pretty impressive stuff.

Beneath its skin is a pair of motors (one at the front axle and one at the rear). The motors were designed and patented by Jaguar, giving the manufacturer full control over their function and design. The battery cells are liquid-cooled with a thermal-scavenging system in place to pull energy from air entering the front of the car.

So, even in sub-zero conditions, the car is able to use around 1kW of energy to scavenge and then produce 2.5kW of thermal energy. The whole point of this is to keep the batteries in the sweet operating zone, which allows them to draw current efficiently. Jaguar claims the I-Pace's energy efficiency is some 95 per cent, which compares to between 91-93 for other EVs on the market.

How long does the I-Pace take to charge? That all depends on your charging mechanism. If you use a 100kW public charger it will charge to 80 per cent in 45 minutes. A 50kW charger takes that 80 per cent charger figure up to 1 hour and 25 minutes. A standard 7kW home charger will take 10 hours to charge from empty to 80 per cent.

With a starting price of $119,000 (plus on-road costs) when it lands in Australia in October this year, the Jaguar I-Pace will be an interesting addition to the Australian market.

On face value it offers an awesome array of equipment, technology and style. But, will it strike the right chord with Australian buyers? Only time will tell. One thing's for certain though, we can't wait to drive it in Australia, especially if this dynamic demonstration was anything to go by.

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