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Developing a new car from nothing to first customer delivery in just four years is no mean feat, let alone doing this with a brand-new platform and brand-new technology.
That’s exactly how it went down, though, with the all-new Jaguar I-Pace. So, you can imagine why I was a bit sceptical about Jaguar pulling off what normally takes car companies more like six-to-eight years to achieve.
Let’s start with the basics: the new I-Pace range will kick off in Australia from $119,000 (plus on-road costs), launching with availability of four models – the S, SE, HSE and First Edition in October. They’re priced at $130,200, $140,800 and $159,700 (plus on-road costs, respectively).
Jaguar has also announced that it will roll out 150 public chargers in Australia to support the brand's launch into the EV (and PHEV) space. This includes three years of free charging for I-Pace customers.
Beneath its skin, the I-Pace uses two electric motors (one on the front and one on the rear axle) to produce a combined 294kW of power and 696Nm of torque, which makes it good for a 0-100km/h dash of just 4.8 seconds (we checked).
It weighs just 2133kg and uses a body that consists of 94 per cent aluminium construction. On top of that, structural rigidity comes in at an impressive 36kNm per degree, offering a centre of gravity that sits 130mm lower than the bigger F-Pace.
In terms of size, the I-Pace sits between the E-Pace and F-Pace for length. It measures in at 4682mm long with a wheelbase that’s a huge 2990mm. Height is 1565mm, compared to the 1667mm F-Pace, but the I-Pace is wider at 2011mm against the F-Pace's 1936mm.
Driving range is claimed at 480 kilometres, measured under the newer and tougher WLTP emissions testing standards. These new standards require the car to be driven harder and for longer in a variety of conditions, which means range is reduced. If it were to be measured under the older standard, Jaguar says it’d come in with a figure closer to 600km.
Powering the I-Pace is a battery pack that offer a combined 90kWh of juice, and they consist of 432 Lithium-Ion battery pouch cells cooled with a liquid coolant. Charging on a 150kW fast charger, from empty to 80 per cent, takes around 40 minutes. The same charge process at home on a conventional charger, on the other hand, will take up to 10 hours.
Standing here watching the I-Pace in front of me as I write this, I can’t help but feel the car has its own presence and demands attention. It looks nothing like a ‘conventional’ car and strikes a great balance between design and practicality.
The exterior surfaces all tell their own story and combine to offer a coefficient of drag of just .29. That hole at the front directs air through the bonnet, over the roof and down the back window, hitting the rear spoiler. This air even acts as a rear windscreen wiper, which reduces weight and additional power requirements.
A flat underbody also promotes airflow to the rear diffuser, further reducing drag and optimising handling. And, just like the new Range Rover Velar, the door handles disappear when the car is locked or when it’s driven away.
One other interesting feature of the exterior is a speaker built into the car that emits a light, but noticeable, beeping sound as the car reverses. It’s there to prevent pedestrians from being hit if they don’t hear the car coming.
The interior is the part I most like about this car. The boot is flat and offers 656 litres of capacity. If you drop the second row (which folds in a 60/40 split-folding configuration), that space jumps up to 1453 litres. There’s also a small boot at the front that caters for 27 litres of capacity. Strangely, it’s damn small compared to the Tesla Model S and Model X, which doesn’t make much sense given the lack of a bulky internal combustion engine up front.
Passengers in the second row won’t hate you if you’re heading out for a long drive. I was able to comfortably fit in the second row behind my normal driving position (which has the chair quite far back). I had plenty of knee and head room, but toe room was compromised, making the seating position a little uncomfortable if you’re wearing big shoes.
A clever system built into the door handles warns you if there’s a vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist approaching as you try to open the door. This helps to eliminate the type of serious injury you can expect to inflict if you open the door without looking.
The seats are incredibly comfortable and helped by the fact a centre armrest drops down to offer two cup holders. There are also two ISOFIX points on the outboard seats. Around the cabin there is a total of three 12V outlets, plus six USB ports with the second row offering up a 12V outlet and two high-current USB ports, along with a 4G WiFi hotspot.
An optional moonroof adds an awesome level of ambience to the cabin. The roof stretches back beyond the second-row passengers’ heads and delivers panoramic views of the world outside. There’s no blind on it though, so it will be interesting to see how hot it gets inside the cabin on a hot Australian summer day.
The front row is where Jaguar’s tech team has taken the biggest leap forward. Ahead of the driver is a 12.3-inch TFT display that shows critical vehicle functions along with the ongoing state of charge. There’s also an optional heads-up display available, which we’d recommend getting: the speedometer is a bit too tucked away and requires a short hunt each time you want to check your speed. The heads-up display eliminates any confusion around speed.
Central to the cabin is the ‘flight deck’, as Jaguar calls it. It consists of a new 10-inch InControl Touch Pro screen that debuts more processing power and even better graphics. It also now accommodates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with an additional 35 applications available to install with integration. These include services like Spotify and even a home management application that allows you to control lights and heating/cooling at home from the car.
It’s a super-fast system with navigation between menus quick and simple. It’s backed by an intuitive voice recognition system and an excellent 360-degree camera with high resolution graphics. But, we did notice the screen glitching on a few occasions when the navigation was running and while reversing.
Safety features include high-speed Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), rear-cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, lane departure assistant and radar cruise control including stop and go. The car is yet to be crash tested, which is why it has scored a maximum 7/10 on our safety rating scale.
The good news here is that Jaguar has implemented an over-the-air update system that removes the need to visit a dealer for firmware updates. These can all be sent over the air while the car is parked, similar to the system employed in Tesla vehicles.
Beneath the 10-inch display is a smaller high-resolution screen for occasional-use features like climate and seat functions. The screen is flanked by two rotary dials that feature in-built haptic feedback for comments sent to the car.
Gone is the conventional gear lever or even the rising lever of yesteryear and instead four simple buttons that transition between Drive, Neutral, Reverse and Park. Storage is everywhere within the cabin. The centre console offers a big 10 litres, while there’s also room behind the infotainment screen and ample storage within the doors.
The cabin feels very premium, incredibly sturdy and unlike other Jaguars we’ve sampled. It’s also a few big steps ahead of any Tesla product in terms of build quality and fit and finish.
But, how does it drive?
Starting the I-Pace is straightforward. Push the brake pedal, hit the starter button and a ‘Ready’ icon appears on the instrument cluster. One push of the ‘D’ button then puts the car into drive and you’re on your way.
Drivers can configure the car to operate with or without a creep function – that’s a mode that simulates a car with an internal combustion engine and allows the vehicle to move forward slowly when the brake pedal is released.
From a low-speed driving perspective, the I-Pace feels like any other electric vehicle. There’s a heap of torque available all the time, and it never hesitates when you hit the throttle.
Steering is a bit on the heavy side, even in the comfort driving mode, at low speeds. While it’s no dealbreaker, it means there’s a touch more effort required for parking and getting into tight spaces.
The reverse-view camera and 360 cameras are both fantastic. The vision is super high resolution and the driver can switch between the cameras to select their preferred view – including a junction camera for intersections with poor vision.
As speed picks up, so does the sporty feel behind the wheel. Accelerating onto freeway on-ramps is a doddle, as is overtaking. The I-Pace is offered with coil sprung suspension as standard with passive dampers, or drivers can option an air suspension setup with adaptive dampers.
At the launch we only had the opportunity to drive First Edition and S variants, both with the same air suspension setup. The height adjustable air suspension can vary ride height to an access height, normal height or off-road height, adding an additional 50mm as required.
The ride is nothing short of amazing. Even on heavily potholed country roads, the I-Pace glides over bumps and delivers a very compliant feel behind the wheel. Sharp edges are rounded off and the body sits flat through corners.
A dynamic mode adds extra weight to the steering and firms up the ride to deliver a sporty feel. But we were just as happy cruising in the normal mode, even when having a crack on a winding road.
Other drive modes include Eco and AdSR. Eco dulls throttle response and retards air conditioning output to deliver extra efficiency, while the AdSR mode offers adaptive surface response on gravel roads or low friction surfaces.
A figure that blew me away was the wading depth. There’s 500mm on offer, which funnily enough matches the outgoing Land Rover Defender, so Jaguar decided to send us off the beaten track to test it out.
It started with a water wade of around 500mm (convenient!) and proceeded to an incredibly steep hill climb on loose gravel. In the vehicle’s AdSR mode, the computers independently distributed torque to each wheel to assist with climbing. Throttle response was also varied to prevent sudden bursts of torque being sent to the wheels.
As somebody that enjoys driving off-road, it simply didn’t feel right doing what we were doing, but it was so easy for the I-Pace that I’d hate to see how harsh the conditions would need to be before it would need to give up.
In reality, nobody is going to take these off-road. Nevertheless, it’s cool to see that it’s capable of some mild off-road driving and a bit of a dip when required.
Find a set of corners and the I-Pace turns into another animal all together. Dual motors offer the advantage of torque vectoring, which maximises traction when punching the throttle out of corners.
Roll out of the throttle and two levels of regenerative brake offer up to 0.4g of deceleration before the brakes are required. Even on a tight and winding section of mountain road, it was hard work to unsettle the I-Pace. It has what feels like an endless amount of traction on offer, with any understeer settled with a bite of the throttle.
The brakes happily withstand punishment and the heavier steering gives the car a sporting feel when you really get stuck into it. But, the experience is ruined with an artificial noise that’s pumped into the cabin as speed and throttle input increases.
It’s an odd thing to offer, given nobody is under the illusion there’s an internal combustion engine under the bonnet, so adding noise feels entirely redundant. Thankfully, it’s easy to switch this off.
The ultimate performance test would be three laps of Portimao race track in Portugal. For perspective, think of Portimao as a Bathurst analog, offering a set of stomach churning undulations and sweeping bends designed to unsettle even the most serious of road cars.
Let’s talk about straight line performance first. Using our VBox, we verified Jaguar’s 0-100km/h, 0-160km/h and also verified the 200km/h Vmax. With an official acceleration time of 4.8 seconds from 0-100km/h, we were surprised to get figures of 2.6 seconds from 0-60km/h, 4.7 seconds from 0-100km/h and 10.99 seconds from 0-160km/h.
Before we hit the track in the I-Pace, we did some familiarisation laps in the four-cylinder F-Type coupe. It’s a fairly serious sports car and set the benchmark for what we were looking at achieving.
Next up, we went out in the I-Pace and after a sighting lap, buried the throttle on to the front straight. The surge of acceleration was seemingly endless as we neared the 200km/h limiter. Just after grabbing 200km/h, it was hard on to the brakes into the first corner.
Compliance understeer is there at higher speeds to remind you of the mass you’re dealing with, but it immediately disappears when you hit the throttle, with the torque vectoring system virtually straightening out the car.
Higher-speed sweeping up-hill bends were attacked at north of 150km/h while speed was still being piled on. Even after three full speed laps, the brakes felt confident enough to keep going. More importantly, though, there was absolutely no drop off in torque delivery – it was still coming on just as hard after each lap.
In fact, for our performance testing, we used the same car that went out for a total of 20 laps and it achieved its claimed time twice, one after the other. This is hard work to achieve, given the temperature batteries need to run at for maximum efficiency.
Again, a race track is a place unlikely to ever host a Jaguar I-Pace club meeting, but it further solidifies Jaguar’s messaging that this is a no-compromises electric vehicle.
This may seem like a glowing review…and that’s because this car has absolutely surprised us. There’s room inside for a growing family, enough range for most people and the most modern of safety and entertainment technology.
Plus, it’s incredibly fun to drive and doesn’t feel or look like a science project. The only real downsides worth mentioning are tyre noise and infotainment, but Jaguar's approach to optional extras also deserves a ping.
Firstly, tyre noise at highway speeds is a little intrusive. This is partly due to the lack of engine noise, but it still could be a little quieter.
There was also some glitching with the infotainment system, which Jaguar will hopefully fix in due course with a software update.
And, finally, one that hits every Jaguar or Land Rover purchase, and that’s options pricing. While it starts at $119,000 (plus on-road costs), it’s not hard for it to shoot well north of that in a heartbeat.
All of this aside, this is an electric car I would actually want to own. It feels premium, looks premium and delivers a full circle experience unlike any other electric car before it.
The I-Pace goes on sale in Australia from October.