For the EV world, the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace will be the main event of 2018. Jaguar’s first electric car is significant for a huge number of reasons, but what it demonstrates more than anything else is that Jaguar - a relative minnow in the premium car sector - is ahead of the curve. By bringing the I-Pace to market now, Jaguar has beaten the three German giants off the line. BMW, Mercedes and Audi will respond in due course, but for now, the only other premium car maker with a purpose-built EV on the market is Tesla.
‘Purpose-built’ is an important detail. The I-Pace isn’t a reengineered version of an existing Jaguar model, its combustion engine drivetrain unceremoniously ripped out to make way for a couple of motors and a stack of batteries. The I-Pace was designed from the ground up as an EV. Incidentally, there will be no hybrid or range extender version.
Being a clean-sheet design, Jaguar has been able to take full advantage of the packaging benefits of an electric drivetrain. There are two motors, one on each axle - the I-Pace is therefore four-wheel drive - and the batteries are laid out across the floor. This not only keeps the centre of gravity very close to the road; it also means that what appears to be a relatively compact body is actually fairly spacious inside. Despite its aluminium construction the I-Pace is no flyweight; it tips the scales at 2133kg, about the same as a full size SUV.
The two motors generate 395bhp and 513lb ft of torque, enough to propel the I-Pace to 62mph in 4.8 seconds. For the majority of I-Pace buyers, this will be far and away the fastest car they have ever owned. Jaguar quotes a range of 298 miles and says that a domestic wall box will charge the 90kWh battery to 80 percent capacity in 10 hours. That charge time drops to 85 minutes at a rapid public charging point, however. Importantly, the car is compatible with 100kWh charging, so when the technology is rolled out across the UK owners will be able to charge to 80 per cent capacity in just 40 minutes.
It isn’t merely good; in many ways, the I-Pace is exceptional. It should be noted right now that the I-Pace tested here is a First Edition, the top of the range model that costs £81,495 (before the £4500 government grant). That means it costs roughly the same as two mid-range Jaguar F-Pace SUVs. The entry-level I-Pace, by the way, just about slips under the £60,000 barrier after the government grant.
The First Edition, available for one year only, comes fully loaded with goodies like a full-length glass roof, bespoke interior trim and, crucially, air suspension. It therefore boasts the sort of plush, cushioned ride quality that you’d expect of a luxury saloon car, despite its enormous 22-inch wheels.
With good visibility and strong, silent acceleration, the I-Pace is as effortless in town as any car on sale today. It becomes less demanding still when you switch on the one pedal driving mode, which boosts regenerative braking and allows you to bring the car to a standstill just by lifting off the accelerator pedal. In stop-start traffic, that feels like a minor revelation. And away from town? Remarkably, the I-Pace is actually rather fun to drive thanks to sharp and very naturally-weighted steering, good body control and strong cornering grip. If you really fling it along a road you do become aware of its sheer mass, but with so much of that weight spread out across the floor, it never seems to trip the I-Pace up.
Somehow, the car feels even faster than its 4.8 second 0-62mph time suggests. It is no slower in a straight line than a 567bhp Range Rover Sport SVR, at least at speeds below 60mph or so, and it has enough instantly available torque to leap ahead of just about anything else on the road away from traffic lights. The cabin is a show-stopper, too, with a striking modernist design and good build quality.
The I-Pace is arguably the most impressive car Jaguar builds today. If your lifestyle and the type of driving you do suits an electric car - expect a real-world range of around 260 miles - and if the I-Pace is in budget, there’s no particular reason not to buy one.
This First Edition is eye-wateringly expensive, although some of the purchase price will be offset by fuel and road tax savings compared to a petrol or diesel car. Jaguar expects the vast majority of UK buyers to choose the entry-level S model, too. All things considered, the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace is a watershed moment.
|Engine/power unit||Twin electric motors|
|Transmission||Two single-speed transmissions, four-wheel drive|
|Electric range||298 miles|
|Price||£76,995 (after government grant)|