Jaguar’s new direction I-Pace is proof that a future without petrol can still be fun. Words Jonathan Burn.
This is the new face of Jaguar. Long bonnets and six-cylinder engines? No place for them in the new world order. Instead comes this bold vision, designed to tackle the likes of Tesla. And it’s the first in what will be a whole family of electric vehicles from Jaguar as the industry shifts away from internal combustion and towards a world of cars powered by electricity.
Of course, electric cars have featured very little in Jaguar’s 83-year history – before this, there had been only the E-type Zero, with which it shares no parts – yet it is the result of rather a tough brief: ‘To design the best electric car in the world.’ Those are the words of Dr Wolfgang Ziebart, JLR’s technical director, and the man whose job it was to attempt exactly that.
The I-Pace project began more than four years ago and has resulted in a completely new vehicle architecture – exclusive to the I-Pace so far, though it’ll go on to underpin every EV that Jaguar makes. Ziebart refers to it as the ‘skateboard’ platform: the battery is located as low as possible between the axles to give the best possible weight distribution and a low centre of gravity.
With a 90kWh rating, its battery has one of the largest capacities you’ll find in an EV and translates to a claimed 298-mile range. It feeds two electric motors, one on each axle, that between them generate 395bhp and 696Nm (513lb ft) of torque. That makes it good, Jaguar says, for a 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds and top speed of 124mph.
In action, it feels even quicker than the numbers suggest, such is the ferocity and immediacy of the power delivery. Plant your right foot and the I-Pace digs into the tarmac and slingshots you towards the horizon at an alarming rate, while the mechanical whine from the electric motors crescendos to a high-pitched wail.
That soundtrack is emphasised by being pumped through the car’s speakers; it adds to the sense of drama and overall speed yet can quickly become rather tiring. You can, happily, turn it off.
But what you’ll never tire of is the way the I-Pace devours tight and technical roads in a manner that defies its rather hefty (2.2-tonne) kerb-weight. As the majority of that mass is housed so low, the I-Pace remains remarkably flat through high-speed changes in direction, while the steering, which is positively feelsome for an EV, instils a real sense of agility in the car.
You pay for all that at slower speeds, however, at which the ride is noticeably firm.
In many ways, then, the I-Pace retains the athleticism and agility that modern Jaguars are known for – only it’s crafted from a very different set of ingredients. And it’s very forward-thinking. Drive the I-Pace with an open mind and you might just find yourself won over by it.
Left and below Think F-Pace and E-Pace rather than E-type or XJ6 for styling inspiration; it’s conventional ‘modern Jag’ inside, too.