2019 Jaguar I-Pace review

First Australian drive

Not only has Jaguar beaten its Euro rivals to the punch in launching the all-electric I-Pace, it's almost certainly bloodied Tesla's nose in the process.

Dear Tesla, be afraid. Be very afraid, because your monopoly on the high-end electric vehicle market is coming to an end. And leading the charge (ha!) to ending that monopoly is here, the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace. Yes, you will always have your ardent supporters, but for those buyers looking to get into a premium electric vehicle to satisfy not only their ‘green credentials’ but also their luxury car aspirations, the big guns from Europe are coming for you and coming for you hard.

The Jaguar I-Pace has enjoyed a rapid rise into production, just four years elapsing between initial design and hitting dealerships, according to Jaguar. Once Jaguar pushed the green light, development continued apace (ha!). By November 2016, the Ian Callum-designed electric SUV concept was first revealed to the public at the LA motor show. Then just 16 months later, the first production model showed its svelte face in Graz, Austria ahead of making its European showroom debut in the second half of 2018. And now, it’s here in Australia.

Jaguar is the first of the mainstream luxury carmakers to bring a full-electric SUV to market, beating its predominantly German rivals to the punch. However, the leaping cat will soon have Euro rivals to fend off, with Audi confirming its e-tron quattro will hit local dealers in the middle of 2019. Mercedes-Benz’s EQC should lob locally by the end of 2019 while BMW’s iX3 is expected Down Under some time in 2020 or 2021.

For now, Jaguar has the leap (ha!) on its Euro rivals, its four-model range on sale in Australia. The cheapest entrant into I-Pace ownership is the S, which starts at $119,000 before on-road costs. The SE asks for $130,200 while the de-facto top-of-the-range HSE will command $140,800. Why de-facto? Because for the first 12 months of on-sale, Jaguar is also offering a First Edition model which tips the bank manager’s scales at $159,700.

While that may sound like a lot of money (and let’s be honest, for most of us it is), consider the I-Pace’s only real rival in showrooms right now is Tesla’s Model X which starts the electric ball rolling at $159,478 for the 75d and tops out at a hefty $258,767 for the P100d. Sure, it has seven seats and those party-trick Falcon-wing doors, but suddenly, with the I-Pace, the luxury SUV electric dream is a whole lot more attractive.

All I-Paces, no matter the grade, are powered by two electric motors sending drive to all four wheels, one at the front axle and one at the rear. Combined, they produce 294kW of power and a generous 696Nm of torque which helps propel the 2133kg I-Pace from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds.

Now, while 2.1 tonnes might sound like the I-Pace is a hefty beast, bear in mind just over 600kg of that heft is made up of the battery, positioned low in the chassis to help reduce the centre of gravity by a significant margin. How much lower? Try 130mm lower than the similarly-sized Jaguar F-Pace. And bear in mind also, the F-Pace nudges the scales at over 1800kg.

Just on that dimensional similarity to the F-Pace: despite enjoying a longer wheelbase (2990mm against 2874mm), the I-Pace is marginally shorter in overall length (4682mm vs 4731mm). It’s also wider (2011mm against 1936mm) and much, much lower (1565mm vs 1667mm). That width and height, not to mention its shorter overhangs, lend the I-Pace the appearance of being much smaller than it actually is.

Those dimensions also lend the I-Pace a sporting stance which looks, from every angle, like it’s moving and moving rapidly. From the sculpted bonnet with its large scoop (that channels air over the car to aid aero efficiency) to its sloping and low roofline and its rakish rear, the I-Pace is, to this reviewer at least, a looker. Subjective yes, but it’s for my money, the best looking Jaguar in years. Head designer Ian Callum has knocked this one for six.

Of course, with starting prices well north of $100k, you’d expect the I-Pace to be loaded with standard features befitting a luxury SUV. And it is.

A quick rundown: the base S scores LED headlights, eight-way semi-powered sports seats finished in ‘Luxtec’ (faux leather) upholstery, 18-inch alloys, a Meridian sound system, the Touch Duo Pro dual-screen infotainment system with Navigation Pro and Connect Pro, the Park pack – parking sensors all ’round, rear cross-traffic alert, and park assistant. Standard safety tech includes autonomous emergency braking (at speeds up to 80km/h), driver fatigue monitoring, a rear-view camera, traffic sign recognition and lane-keep assist.

Next in the range, the SE, adds 20-inch alloys, premium LED headlights with daytime running lights, 10-way power adjustable sports seats finished in leather and with memory function, a powered tailgate and the Drive pack, which adds blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control with stop/go functionality and high speed autonomous emergency braking which works up to 160km/h.

The erstwhile top-of-the-range HSE adds 20-inch alloys with a diamond-turn finish, Matrix LED headlights, Windsor leather sports seats with 18-way power adjustment, a premium Meridian sound system and the Driver Assist pack which adds a 360-degree camera.

For those who like to be first, the Launch Edition scores a different design 20-inch alloy, more Windsor leather inside than could reasonably be extracted from a single cow, a head-up display, fixed panoramic roof, quad-zone climate control and configurable ambient interior lighting.

Let’s look at that interior. It would have been easy for Jaguar’s design team to borrow heavily from its SUV stable and incorporate features already seen in the E-Pace and F-Pace. But, to their credit, they haven’t and the result is a bespoke interior that is quite simply, stunning.

The choice of materials and the finish of the interior is excellent. There’s a light and airy feel to the cabin, especially with the optional panoramic roof fitted to the I-Pace at launch. The sports seats are comfortable and supportive and with plenty of adjustment, finding your ultimate driving position is a cinch. The steering wheel is adjustable for reach and tilt, too.

All the SUV's vital signs are displayed on an excellent and entirely configurable (think Audi’s Virtual Cockpit) 12.3-inch driver’s display. Functions such as navigation, instrument dials, and the I-Pace’s state of charge can be displayed in a myriad of ways. For the launch program, I chose a centrally mounted speedo with navigation to one side and battery information displayed prominently.

Anchoring the I-Pace’s infotainment is what Jaguar is calling the ‘flight deck’, central to which is a 10-inch InControl Touch Pro screen that is crystal clear and razor sharp in its responsiveness. As well as providing the entertainment with the usual array of options – AM/FM, DAB, Bluetooth streaming, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto – the system also serves as a base for many of the car’s functions as well as satellite navigation.

Underneath that 10-inch screen, sits a secondary screen that controls climate and seat functions, such as heating. But, handily, two large rotary dials are still the go-to for changing temperature and fan strength. Kudos. We love a good dial for simple functions.

Look for a gear lever, or even Jaguar’s oft-used rotary dial that acts as a gear selector, and you’ll be looking for a while. Instead, a row of four buttons located on the centre console within arm’s reach do the job – Drive, Neutral, Reverse and Park. Easy.

Storage options abound, including two decent-sized cupholders that easily gobbled up standard 600ml bottles of water while a centrally-located storage bin under the front armrest, holds up to ten litres of stuff. Charging your devices is taken care of via three 12V outlets sprinkled throughout the cabin and a generous six USB ports. Six! That’s one for each occupant plus a spare.

Thanks to lacking an engine out front, Jaguar has designed the interior to be what it calls ‘cabin forward’. Simply, that means the front row is located further forward than it would in a conventional internal combustion engine car. You don’t notice it in the front but that design comes into its own in the second row, which offers decent room for rear-seat occupants. The lack of a transmission tunnel only emphasises that space. Those back seats too, are comfortable, plush even. Amenities such as a 12V outlet and two USB points complete the back row.

That back row folds in a 60:40 fashion to liberate boot space, should you need it, a total of 1453 litres. With the back row in use, there’s still a reasonable 656 litres on offer. There’s also a ‘frunk’, but with a capacity of just 27 litres, Jaguar says it’s best reserved for housing the I-Pace’s charging cables.

Which brings me neatly to the nuts and bolts of the I-Pace. Powered by a Lithium-ion battery pack that consists of 432 individual cells – or pouches – that offer a combined 90kWh of charge, the I-Pace features a maximum range of 470km. And that’s a realistic number, according to Jaguar, the claim having been tested against Europe’s very stringent WLTP regime which demands claims are tested in a real world environment over different road conditions and running various juice-sucking ancillaries such as climate control.

Charging that juice is a big part of electric mobility and here Jaguar reckons that using a 7kWh home wall box adds 35km of range per hour, three times faster than a conventional domestic socket. We’d be stumping up the $2280 (plus GST) for the installed home fast-charger.

As a caveat, that price is for a standalone home with off-street parking. The installation fee for apartment dwellers will be higher, thanks to pesky strata managers and the need for chargers to be installed on common property.

Additionally, using the network of 150 compatible public rapid charging outlets will replenish the I-Pace's battery pack from 0-80 per cent in around 40 minutes.

With your I-Pace juiced up and ready to go, it’s time to hit the road and it’s immediately apparent this is a refined vehicle. With so much torque instantly on offer (696Nm) the I-Pace moved from standstill briskly and, unsurprisingly, quietly. There is, of course, a light humming permeating the cabin, but it’s quiet and unobtrusive.

For those who can’t quite let go of the sound of an ICE, Jaguar offers a gimmicky little feature that pipes an engine note into the cabin. It’s much quieter than a real ICE, but it is noticeable. For what it’s worth, it sounds like a quiet petrol V6. After a few short kays with it switched on, it was quickly dispatched to the ‘never-to-be-used’ again bin.

While around-town driving afforded the opportunity to see if the I-Pace behaves like a more conventional SUV (it does), it’s out on the highway where the benefits of its electric motivation can be truly felt. Accelerating onto a highway is effortless, as is overtaking. Simply plant your foot and the big cat leaps ahead with zero hesitation and piles on speed at a rate that is quite outstanding. And once up to speed, only the lightest throttle touch is need to maintain, say 100km/h, the benefit of course being the I-Pace is sipping only very lightly from its battery pack, something you can monitor via the various displays on offer, either on the central touchscreen or on the 12.3-inch digital instrument panel.

If blistering performance isn’t enough, the ride of the I-Pace is sublime. Even when riding on the standard coil-sprung passive dampers, the I-Pace ironed out bumps and lumps and other imperfections with barely a ripple. Road noise too, was at an acceptable level, if anything amplified a little by the lack of engine noise. Not unbearable, though.

Sampling a variant shod with the optional height-adjustable air suspension refined the on-road experience even further, the I-Pace gliding over roads like an ice-skater twirling on the smoothest rink.

That height adjustment can be controlled from a switch on the centre stack and can alter the ride height by 50mm. On a side note, the I-Pace has a wading depth of 500mm for those who are keen to take their electric luxury SUV off-road. Yeah, right.

Stick to some flowing and twisting country roads, and you will be rewarded with an engaging and refined driving experience. Despite its heft, the I-Pace is remarkably agile, flowing from corner to corner with composure and next to no body roll. Obviously, its low centre of gravity helps, but so too does the excellent suspension tune, whether the standard coils or the optional adaptive dampers. It really is a tonne of fun to hustle through some nice roads.

The steering feels about right and offers good feedback, while throttle response is, as already mentioned, instant. The brakes, too, are firm and responsive and do a great job pulling up the I-Pace. And if there’s a hint of understeer, we didn’t feel it.

Once you’re done with the fun, and head back to town, it’s time to regenerate, both mentally and electrically. The I-Pace offers two levels of power regeneration, using the vehicle's braking and coasting functions to replenish the battery. In normal mode, the I-Pace immediately begins to retard speed at what you and I would consider a normal level, all while adding juice to the battery pack. However, in high regenerative mode, selectable from the touchscreen, the car begins to brake automatically as soon as you lift off the throttle, thus adding more charge to the battery. It’s possible, once you get used to it, to drive the I-Pace using just the accelerator allowing the high regenerative mode do the braking work for you.

But does it work? More on that in a little bit. First, a look at the numbers. Hopping into the I-Pace at launch gave an indicated range reading of 440km. That immediately dropped to 404km thanks to a 34-degree Sydney day necessitating fairly heavy use of the I-Pace’s climate control functions. With a 138km first leg under its belt, the I-Pace range read 202km at completion. But again, the AC was cranking and cranking hard.

The return leg was a much shorter, but altogether more gruelling run in terms of traffic. And here, the SUV’s regenerative function came into its own. Starting out with an indicated range of 216km, and with the same sweltering conditions requiring the same liberal use of the I-Pace’s climate functions as before, we completed the 56km leg with an indicated range of 191km left in the juice bank, meaning we’d used a mere 25km of available range to cover that distance. And that’s largely thanks to spending much of that time in moderate to heavy traffic, conditions where regeneration comes into its own. Impressive, really.

It’s feasible then, that a fully-charged ‘tank’ could easily accommodate a week’s worth of daily driving, providing your daily driving needs are based on most cars travelling an average of 15,000km per year, or, around 288km a week. For most people, ‘range anxiety’ could well be a thing of the past.

Jaguar is backing its first foray into electrification with a five-year/200,000km warranty on the vehicle itself, while the battery receives its own surety at eight years/160,000km. Jaguar also offers five years’ of roadside assistance. And servicing? Try five years' of scheduled maintenance included in the purchase price. Nice one.

Safety? Just yesterday (5 December), it was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating.

There’s no question the Jaguar I-Pace has the credentials to make an impact on the electric vehicle market, offering a premium product that is not only stunning to look at, but also performs dynamically at a level that is breathtaking.

Jaguar should be applauded for taking the leap into electrification, and applauded louder still for beating its premium rivals to the punch. While it’s true Jaguar may not have the edgy cult-like status of the pioneering Tesla, what it has done is bring electrification into the mainstream of the premium segment.

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