A Premium Brand Bursts into the EV Market
The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is the prestigious British marque’s first step into the electric motoring future. As a crossover, the new vehicle is perfectly positioned to compete in the premium EV realm.
The obvious competition here is Tesla, an all-electric premium vehicle manufacturer. But other European brands, notably Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are jumping in, too. The i-Pace just won Germany’s Car of the Year award, so it has a head start.
I got to spend three days with a pre-production vehicle, and it was not only a pleasure to drive, but attracted a lot of attention, too. While driving the car with a colleague on beautiful and winding Skyline Boulevard in the San Francisco Peninsula hills, a Mercedes-Benz driver began to follow us. When we stopped for a scenic photo-op, he ran over, very excited. He was surprised to find out that the beautiful car was an EV. Later that day, a man waved at me at a stoplight. I rolled down the window and he said, “That’s an electric vehicle, isn’t it?” I said “yes,” and he said, “I thought so.”
In a brilliant Yulong White, the i-Pace is truly a crossover, not an old-fashioned boxy SUV. Its proportions are dramatic, with a short hood appropriate to an EV’s smaller space requirements but also dramatically styled with a classic Jaguar grill and intensely staring headlamp pods.
The grill is solid black plastic—for show only. Perhaps the designers felt the car wouldn’t look enough like a Jaguar without it. Also black on my car were exterior styling accents and bold 20-inch alloy wheels.
The sides and window greenhouse look car-like, but the high roof means a generous rear cargo capacity. Fold the seats down and remove the cargo area cover and you can handle a big load.
The i-Pace employs two electric motors, one at each axle, which generate 394 horsepower and a mighty 512 pounds-feet of torque. Power comes from a 90-killowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery that gives the I-Pace a very usable 234 miles of range, per the EPA. After charging, however, I saw larger numbers than that. At Level 2, 240-volt charging, it takes about 13 hours to fill the big battery, but quick charging to 80 percent cuts that down to 45-90 minutes, depending on whether it’s 50 or 100 kW.
Other EPA figures include MPGe ratings of 80 city/72 highway/76 combined. Compare these numbers to other EVs.
All-Wheel Drive Standard
All-wheel drive is part of the action, perfect for getting to that little cabin on weekends. I would hesitate to take my i-Pace on rugged terrain, but AWD gives it some cred when competing with its Land Rover cousin and other luxury crossovers.
Technology is great, but the driving experience is what Jaguars are all about. With abundant horsepower and the wondrous instant torque that EVs bring, the i-Pace charges forward with genuine enthusiasm. The 4,868-pound car blasts from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. While that’s not quite the amusement park thrill of a Tesla in Ludicrous Mode, it’s definitely fast and fun.
As an EV, the i-Pace lets you use one-pedal driving to accelerate as well as slow down and stop. You can easily set it to a more “normal” style, but one-pedal is the best way to get the most out of an electric vehicle. The Jaguar releases the regen at a couple of miles per hour, just before coming to a stop, requiring the brake pedal at stoplights—like a Tesla, but unlike a Chevrolet Bolt EV in Low or the new Nissan Leaf with e-Pedal selected.
Different Driving Modes
Choose from three different drive modes—Comfort (the default), Eco, or Dynamic. Eco mode is great for maximizing range by changing the electronic accelerator map and adjusting the energy the climate control system uses. Dynamic mode increases suspension stiffness and steering wheel weight and feedback, while sharpening accelerator pedal response and turning the gauges a sporty red.
I used Dynamic mode while on the curving back roads, and it made the tall, heavy car feel light on its feet. I spent my commute time in Comfort mode, which was indeed comfortable. The car feels firm, but not harsh, and stable and smooth at all speeds. If I owned the i-Pace, I’d likely choose Eco for commuting, but with a three-day window, I wanted maximum response from this athletic ride.
The interior is what you’d expect from Jaguar, but is thoroughly up-to-date. My car’s color scheme was a dramatic Ebony and Mars Red. I didn’t see woodgrain anywhere, but the silvery accents were tasteful. The steering wheel spokes are dramatic billet-quality pieces that look rich and custom. The transmission buttons are tucked onto the left branch of a dynamically structured console running down the dash to the armrest.
The Meridian Surround Sound System provided exquisite musical entertainment. Production vehicles will connect to your Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Once I figured out how to store my preset SiriusXM favorites, it was easy to get exactly what I wanted from the premium sound system
The interior features ambient lighting all over the place, from the ceiling to the doors to the console and the floor. You can customize the color from about a dozen compelling shades.
The Shape of Jaguar’s EV
Although this pre-production vehicle didn’t have everything in final form, the shapes and surfaces were lovely and felt great. I noticed that there was no stitching on the dash, which may change in production, but it amounted to a clean, unpretentious look.
The information panel on the dash is integrated into a single flat screen that is much wider than the image. The touch system was responsive, and provided access to multiple screens by swiping across, as on an iPad. There are many ways to customize the driving experience, which owners can explore at their leisure.
The air suspension lets you raise and lower the i-Pace to suit your needs. Normal is just that—higher than a regular car. You can also raise it for an Off-road setting or lower it to the Access setting—easing entry and exit for shorter-legged folk. My friends found this feature highly amusing.
I was surprised when I lifted the hood. The entire area is shrouded, except for a couple of access points and an approximately one-cubic-foot “frunk” about large enough for a day backpack.
Goodies at a Price
The official base price of the i-Pace is $70,450 (including $995 destination charge). For now, you can also opt for the i-Pace First Edition, starting at $85,900, which is packed with special features. My test vehicle base-priced at $80,500 and totaled out at $89,310, including many options, some of which may be part of the First Edition, and all of which made it an extraordinary experience.
Selected goodies included the wonderfully supportive bucket seats with heating and cooling and 14-way adjustment—driver and front passenger both got three position presets. A bright head-up display showed speed, speed limit and other information. Four-zone climate control gave rear seat passengers their own temperature dials. The white paint added $575. The black wheels and adaptive lighting were on the list, as was a cabin air ionizer, much appreciated during a smoky period from California wildfires.
On a surprising note, the i-Pace is assembled in Graz, Austria, from 74 percent Polish parts, including the motors. Vehicles today are highly complex, with parts sourced from around the world. This is the new normal.
There is a big upside and no downside to owning and driving the new electric i-Pace. As Jaguar’s first EV, it paves the way for the brand to bring out more offerings in the next few years. Jaguar has invested in training its sales and service people to understand how EVs need to be sold and serviced. They also plan to invest $1.5 billion in the United States over the next five years on new facilities and enhanced owner experiences.
For now, if you drive one, you will attract a lot of attention and have a ball, while lowering your carbon footprint.
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