A New Breed of Cat

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The I-Pace is the Feline’s first crack at the EV market and whilst it bares a familiar face, this new cat is far more than just a Jag with a drill motor and some duracells thrown in. In fact, it’s probably their most important model for decades. Jaguar has designed, engineered and built the I-Pace from the ground up and is taking aim at BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi & Porsche by being the first heritage manufacturer to introduce a ready to go EV that you’d actually want to buy.

And diving straight in, it looks truly fantastic. Carrying on with Jaguar’s current design language, the I-Pace isn’t a far stretch from its current fleet, managing to bring an element of Jag’s design heritage to life through the new medium of electric vehicle design. No longer bound by the shackles of an ungainly internal combustion engine upfront or the intrusive transmission tunnels, driveshaft housings or fuel tank chambers, the design can be refined to be as aesthetically powerful while remaining as functional and as opulent as you’d ever need from a flagship Jag.

Stripping the car back to its nethers, the I-Pace starts out in life as a bare skeleton with a floor of batteries connecting the front and rear subframes into a flat floor. Looking at the I-Pace completely naked it's easy to see that Jaguar have performance and handling in mind by keeping the centre of gravity as low down as possible, with the added benefit of being able to place the wheels on the very cusp of the vehicle’s footprint. This ensures that when the body is added, there are as little overhangs as possible, and the dynamics of the car are enhanced by the low COG and precise footprint.

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From here the I-Pace is given a sleek and slippery profile with every angle and vent directing the air to either pass over the EV with ease or sent through a series of channels to provide downforce or cooling to the brakes. Whilst directing as much air as possible, the I-Pace falls into a crossover category of SUV/Hatch profile with its slightly raised clearance a flowing rear hatch. When inside the I-Pace, the lack of combustion engine means the interior feels a lot more spacious and roomy. No transmission tunnel means the back seat is mounted lower making the I-Pace a practical people mover.  

Expecting the I-Pace to be like something out of Bladerunner, it is pleasantly surprising to find that Jaguar have designed the interior space to echo their heritage and aesthetics of their current fleet. Where Tesla’s interior comprises of four seats and a 32” flat screen, the I-Pace manages to offer the cutting edge of technology and design while still being as tactile and familiar as what we have come to expect from the last century of motoring. It translates a modern design language with a sense of Jag’s familiar British accent.

The climate control system for example is a blend of hybrid haptic touch displays and traditional switchgear. The knobs house their own screens for additional information output and a little futuristic touch. Jag could easily have made this a spaceage super-tablet centrepiece, but I like how a car as digital as this, still has the tactile and analogue feel in its controls as if you’re changing the time on a Tissot timepiece.

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Just because it has transferred over a few traditional systems, doesn't mean the I-Pace isn't littered with modern EV gimmicks. Between driver modes, phone connectivity, climate settings and navigation, the I-Pace is all about making the daily commute as painless as possible. But perhaps the coolest novelty of them all is Jaguar’s pre-conditioning.

When opening up this setting, it reveals a schedule for how you would like your Jaguar set for certain times of the day. For example, if you leave at 7am for work every morning and can’t stand the winter chill, you can pre-program the Jaguar to fire up the heating and heated seats 5 minutes before, so when you make the dash from front door to front seat, your hindquarters are treated with a toasty 28’c bucket.

Whilst we could continue to go on and on about the Jag’s trinkets and novelty luxuries, the real party piece of the I-Pace is the drive. Being my first drive in an all-electric vehicle that wasn’t a forklift or my grandma’s stair climber turbo 3000, I was walking into this test drive with little knowledge of what to expect.

When initially setting off in the I-Pace, as a driver you are immediately thrown by the silence. Engaging Drive and depressing the the accelerator pedal, the I-Pace spools up the 400hp motors and gives an ever so silent alien-ship like hum as you are wafted along in the almost completely noise-less cabin.

At normal sort of speed, the Jag is docile and soothing. It soaks up the bumps and imperfections in the road and drives with flow and elegance. Whilst I am not a Doctor in Engineering or Mechanics, I do know that in any combustion system, there is lag and loss of energy through the drivetrain, but thanks to the wizardry of electricity, whenever you press your right foot in an EV, you have access to 100% of the available torque at any moment. Or at least I thought I knew what that felt like.

When selecting ‘Dynamic’ the dash glows red and displays the word “Confirmed”. A subtle and confident inspiring feature that makes you feel like you’re about to straddle a rocket and press launch. Pressing the pedal and sinking it all the way to the floor, the Jaguar’s rear end squats and lunges forward. The AWD system and fat tyres mean there is no break in traction and the mighty motors propel you forward to 100km’h in under 5 seconds.

And before all you boffins kick and scream that this is a measly figure compared to a Ferrari or even a petrol powered F-Type, it’s the relentless linear delivery of torque that dislodges your insides. When limiter launching tuned supercars, you have a millisecond of relief as the engine reaches its rev range and the next gear is selected for another explosion of torque. Here however, the electric drivetrain doesn't need the waste of a gearbox, its as simple as engaging forward, press the pedal and be ready to have your lungs relocated to your colon.

It is not just the acceleration that bewilders, the way the car is able to redirect its weight through corners is like a go kart on new asphalt. Despite being classed as an SUV… (whatever that means these days) and having a floor lined with batteries, the I-Pace doesn’t understeer or oversteer, it hooks the inside line and torque vectors the wheels, slingshotting you around the corner faster than what the tendons in your face can support.

And when you’re done being childish and screaming to yourself in a completely silent cabin, the I-Pace settles into eco mode and the cruise returns to being docile and comforting. The range still reads a healthy +350km and you needn’t be worried about requiring new oil after a spirited drive because there is none!

Servicing for that matter is almost a myth spoken by ghosts of the old petrol era. When the Jaguar is needing work it'll either receive a software update much like your iPhone will or require a small check up every 5 or so years.

“But what about the range?” I hear you all asking, well coincidentally it's about the same as the 3-digit horsepower figure it holds. Depending on how you drive, the I-Pace will get an estimated 400km range and comes with a variety of charging solutions that will top it up between 1-8 hrs. Whilst this isn’t the complete solution to the current re-fueling model we are used to, for most days this would not be an issue for the average city SUV owner.

Like Jaguar have had to change the way they design a car, we (the population and consumers) will need to change the way we think about range and re-fueling (or charging in this instance). Not to mention this is the first crack at an EV from Jaguar. With Porsche, Audi, Mercedes and BMW all clambering to win the ‘Who is Best’ title, it’ll result in competition driving innovation and improvements.  

EVs are still in their infancy and are alien with their capability and design yet familiar as a concept of commuting. I don’t know if I see myself buying the I-Pace as a blast in the hills type of car, it's more of the perfect daily commuter that encourages enthusiasm and supports relaxed cruising when the occasion arises.

I love that Tesla broke the mould with electric cars, but Jaguar have refined it by making the I-Pace a tactile familiar car but with an experience that excites. It’s an intoxicating experience and easy to see why electric vehicles are not just the next stage in mass production motoring, it's a whole new breed of Cat...