The first time I drove the new Jaguar I-Pace was in March this year on the sidelines of the Geneva Motor Show. And I had shared my views on how and why the car impressed in that brief encounter. I then got my hands on it again a month later in New York, and had the chance to further experience its character - this time on the road. But it was all too brief still. Ad so I grabbed the opportunity to be able to spend more time with JLR's first all-electric baby when I received the invitation to travel to Faro in Portugal's southern Algarve region to test the I-Pace. I am now used to being surprised (yes pleasantly for the most part!) by the global drive team at JLR - because they always plan great drive routes, and there's always one or more surprise to get you smiling. So yes I got to drive the I-Pace on some smooth fast motorways, some rough and bumpy country lanes, some twisting mountain roads, on one of the world's most fun circuits, on gravel roads, through some mud and ruts, and even through a stream bed. Does that qualify as a comprehensive test? I would think so. And yes I say this knowing fully well that it was all set up keeping the I-Pace's capabilities in mind.
Also Read: Jaguar I-Pace First Drive Review
The I-Pace builds on a new electric platform that uses Jaguar's 30-year Aluminium expertise. Expect future Jaguars and Land Rovers to use a similar architecture - the electric ones I mean. The layout is simple with the battery pack along a very flat floor pan. It is a 90 kWh battery pack made up of 432 lithium-ion pouches. At either end on each axle is an electric motor and transmission unit. Both units independently power the two axles and give the car all-wheel-drive as a result. They also provide independent torque control between front and rear. These are synchronous permanent magnet motors - which Jaguar says were chosen for being the most efficient and lightweight choice. The battery itself can be get an 80 per cent charge in 40 minutes, and every 15 minutes of charge gives it an additional 100 kilometres of range. Maximum range is 480 kilometres. The car gets its front suspension setup from the F-Type sports car, and the rear is borrowed from big sister F-Pace. But having an intrinsically sports car setup as its starting point helps give it a very dynamic feel. Oh and yes it also has 50:50 weight distribution to boot!
And that's where you have to question what the I-Pace really is. The claim is that of being an SUV. Styling suggests it is but you can easily argue its large slightly upright hatchback. And then there's the sporty setup, which gives it a different character. But I shall stick to the claim and so happily slot it as truly the newest member of the Pace family. The styling borrows from the production ready concept car of the same name, and uses a cab-forward stance. Jaguar designers were not held back by the usual constraints of car designing, since there was no engine up front, nor the need for a transmission tunnel. The face is classic Jaguar with the unmistakable grille and the typical headlamp with the 'double-J' motif in its DRL (daytime running light) signature.There is a huge scoop-like air duct on the hood that stands out, as do the muscular fenders the house the very large wheels. The standout design element for me is those big wheels that are almost exaggeratedly large. And they really help balance out what otherwise would have been an incongruously stubby design rather beautifully. The rear is the polarising bit, as aerodynamics have meant straight tailgate. The lights at the back are lovely though, and on the whole I have to say I rather like the design. Jaguar says the aerodynamics are such that even in rain the water would simply fall off the car's rear spoiler, thus doing away with the need for a rear wipe-wash system (weight saving even in mere grams helps an EV remember?).
Like the exterior, the I-Pace's cabin also uses a white sheet approach. While you do get the twin screen central console like the Velar, everything else is new. The dash is wide and also extends far frontwards. What I especially liked were the seats - very driver oriented and with excellent comfort and ergonomics. And this is where the packaging trickery comes alive. The wheels are further up front than they'd be in normal car. And so you do get a surprising amount of cabin space - especially when compared to what you expect when you see the car from outside. There's also no transmission tunnel and so you get a low, flat floor, and a 10-litre storage bin between the front seats! The car is also higher than you think, (hence helping the SUV claim) and you realise that when you step in or out. Of course the First Edition had an adaptive air suspension that could also be raised for off-road, and lowered for sporty driving or easy access - then the height is reduced! (-40 mm for access, + 50 mm for off road driving, including wading up to 500 mm) The instruments have a good interface and display, but JLR really needs to spruce up its infotainment and maps.
It's got decent knee and legroom at the back, but I'd have liked to see a bit more space being given to the rear. Headroom is also okay, but given the roofline isn't sloping - again I expected a tad more. The boot is surprisingly spacious (656 litres, extendable to 1453 litres with rear seats folded). And that's largely due to the fact that this car has a different layout and so offers more flexibility on space, and also because compared o many electrics and hybrids, the battery isn't in the boot floor. There's also 27 litres of storage in a small boot where the hood would be. Jaguar calls it the Fruit (or maybe it is Froot, really - for front boot!). It has also got six USB and three 12-volt charging slots.
The drive began from the Faro airport and I was in a Photo Red First Edition variant of the I-Pace. The roads in this region area good mix of smooth and rough, narrow and wide - making for an engaging drive. The I-Pace has EV navigation that dynamically calculates accurate driving range based on weather, topography, and your driving style. And the charge left on the battery of course. It also factors in use of climate control and entertainment system also in its calculations. So it will automatically include where you can charge on the way. You can also use the Jaguar app on you phone to monitor charging, and also preheat or cool the car. It will also use the direct electrical outlet power rather than the battery to do that if it's plugged in at the time. When driving, the climate control recognises how many people are in the car and will only heat or cool the relevant areas of the cabin. And lastly its artificial intelligence will learn your preferences over two weeks - and offer everything from seat position and radio station to optimal cabin temperature and battery management, when it recognises you through the Bluetooth key fob.
The First Edition has a lovely fixed tinted glass panoramic roof and larger wheels, but mechanically remains similar to the rest of the variants. You can opt for that air suspension on others too. I drove the First Edition on the highway and then on to a surprise off-road section. Now Jaguar had said the car is quick when it proclaimed 0-100 in 4.8 seconds. And I had driven the car before, see? Yes on the highway its incredible how the car will surprise you by accelerating like Thor's hammer. The car leaps ahead and it's all thanks to its electric nature - pun intended. The car will zip to triple digits, stay there without a fuss and is absolutely lovely on the handling side of things too. The power delivery and the fact that you're not fussed about rpm or gear selection makes for a fun drive And yet despite being an electric car the I-Pace is very engaging, and fun! It's a heavy car at over 2 tonnes, and yet that does not show up in its handling. Surprisingly so! Jaguar says this car is the stiffest its built and has a lower centre of gravity than the other Pace siblings.
So there is no understeer, and just a hint of roll, as the car will take you in and out corner with amazing precision. The car gets regenerative braking of course - in two modes - high and low What that means is that you can use like a conventional electric car - where braking gets power back to the battery; or high where lifting off the throttle provides braking force and charging - meaning single pedal use. Yes, you barely need to use the brakes then, and I quite enjoyed that. Jaguar says 98 per cent of braking requirements are taken care off by using the high regenerative braking, making it truly single pedal, and much nicer than similar systems in the Nissan Leaf or Hyundai Ioniq. The high mode also lends itself to offering a weighted feel when in a corner - again adding to the dynamics rather than taking away from them, as you don't have to waste precious seconds in applying the brakes. I stayed in Dynamic mode for the most part - though there are Dynamic and Eco modes too of course. And then there is the off-road mode.
This is an SUV and yet it's not born to stay off the road or anything. Yet you can do things with it, you'd never have expected. It has low grip and adaptive surface response modes that sense the terrain and provide ideal traction and braking inputs to climb, descend and tackle some rough surfaces. Torque is instant and so the car doesn't lose grip - as I discovered when we went on a gravel and dust track, crossed a shallow stream bed, climbed some fairly steep mud slopes, and went through some deep ruts. And here's the kicker - I knew the car's layout (batteries, motors, low floor, high ride-height) lends itself to great dynamics on road - but that it would also be good for off-road? Well that was a revelation! I also did use the S model on a gravel track on the second day of the drive, and even on steel springs it did just fine.
Next we got the car on the famed Autodromo do Algarve in Portimao and switched to a Caesium Blue I-Pace S - no sunroof for starters! It's a track that is known for elevation changes and blind corners and also a track I last experienced with the BMW M3/M4. So I had very low expectations from the I-Pace to be honest. And I was blown away. The sports car-like agility and acceleration are indeed a huge surprise - even knowing what I knew of electric cars, Teslas and yes the I-Pace too. The car is quick through corners and - yes you can discount some of my enthusiasm that's built on sheer surprise! It is no sports car. But it is not sluggish and boring electric either.
And it really challenges the erstwhile benchmark set by Tesla - be it the Model S on tarmac or the Model X too as an SUV. I say erstwhile because I do believe Jaguar has set a new benchmark - make that a high benchmark in the electric car space. That it is so car-like - compels me to compare it to other cars, and not other electric cars. That it looks good, and has a reasonably conventional premium car-like interior - are added assets to that claim. The car also lets you decide how loud you want its acoustics to be - yes the electric motors also do make a sound - though not quite the vroom! So you can turn it to high or calm and enjoy it - and I have to say the sound isn't the whine I had expected. It's quite nice!
Like I said on the second day I drove the Yulong White S variant, and my car's license plate got some action on social media since it had KKR in it - right after the IPL 2018 final! Jaguar has doubled its model range and tripled sales over the last ten year. The new Pace SUV family is the growth engine for the brand, that will likely see the next doubling of sales happen in half that time, if not sooner. The I-Pace also allows the Jaguar Land Rover family to take the electric learnings into other existing and new models, since Jaguar did take the lead on this development for the group (yes I am including Tata Motors here). Read more about that here. So yes the market response to the I-Pace will be something to watch for. It will be restricted by the lack of charging infrastructure, and so don't expect it to show up in India very soon, though it will at some point says the company. But it is a great start, and certainly does not feel like the first-ever electric product from a manufacturer. And that is the ultimate credit to it - credit it richly deserves.