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HomeFEATUREDA LEAP(ER) AHEAD: Jaguar I-Pace Driving Impression

A LEAP(ER) AHEAD: Jaguar I-Pace Driving Impression

It is everywhere: i-Gadget this, i-Repair that, and a ream of alphabetical members that lend a hand in the construction of a product’s purpose. Everyone does it. Jaguar too with its F-Pace and E-Pace SUVs and now it has a newly lettered model. It’s called the I-Pace and FERDI DE VOS charged around Portugal in it to see if its deserving of the most coveted letter of them all.

It was somewhat ironic sitting in a car from a quintessential British marque that was made famous by the euphonious and sonorous six-pot growl of its legendary in-line six-cylinder engines, yet this one uttered no sound. No roar, no howl, nothing. Not even a whimper.

It was as if you expected some type of noise.

The only sound was an electronically generated warble, most likely inspired by the sci-fi movie **Tron**, only audible while driving. One could amplify it with the press of a button, but (thankfully) it never became overpoweringly loud.

Meet the mute I-Pace. It’s the latest model from the brand with the Leaper on the bonnet that, despite all the raucous Coventry Cats up until now, will be the one that growls the loudest in future.

It represents, to misquote Neil Armstrong’s famous words, one small step for EVs; and a giant leap for Jaguar.
Why? Because in much the same way that the XK engine family guaranteed Jaguar’s prospects for over 40 years, the all-electric I-Pace could be the pace-setter that assures the marque’s continued sustainability.

It was with a healthy dose of scepticism that I left for Portugal to meet the new I-Pace. You see, even while I have experienced hybrids from Toyota, Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, range-extenders and BEVs such as the BMW i3 and EVs like the Nissan Leaf, I’m still an old-school internal combustion engine guy; the bigger and more powerful, the better.

Having grown up with cars without fancy systems such as ABS or EBD, without airbags or GPS, I still value a good driving experience; something lacking in most hybrids and EVs.

Over a period of two days, driving on an extensive selection of Algarve roads that included the technical corners on the flat asphalt of the international Algarve racetrack and the twisting and winding road sections between the towns of Faro and Lagos. Even a challenging off-road course that included a massive climb and a water crossing. The new Jaguar EV entirely changed my perception. Dramatically so, because if this is the future of driving, I’m all for it.

JAGUAR I-PACE FEATURES SUV-TYPE DESIGN

Jaguar I-Pace

The new I-Pace is bigger than anticipated. It’s simple, elegant lines and cab-forward design, long wheelbase and huge wheels contribute to the illusion of it being smaller, while in fact, it is slightly larger than an E-Pace, albeit incrementally lower.

Concerning dimensions, the Tesla Model S and X are slightly longer (4.9 and 5.1 metres respectively, versus 4.6 metres for the I-Pace) and the X is much higher too. However, the I-Pace has a 30 millimetre longer wheelbase – giving it an advantage in terms of interior space and packaging.

This is also why the Jaguar team opted for an SUV-type design; it takes full advantage of the electric powertrain architecture and maximises the potential of the packaging benefits it brings.

The I-Pace has some semblance to the E-Pace, but its coupe-like silhouette is mostly influenced by the Jaguar C-X75 supercar, with a short, low bonnet and aero-enhanced roof design, and then there’s that curved rear screen. This contrasts with its squared-off rear, which helps reduce the drag coefficient to just 0.29 Cd.

To optimise the balance between cooling and aerodynamics, Active Vanes in the token “grille” open when cooling is required, but close when not needed, redirecting air through the integral bonnet scoop to further smooth the airflow.

Inside, the layout is also reminiscent of the E-Pace. Space for passengers and luggage is optimised, and while Jaguar classifies the I-Pace as a mid-sized SUV, it has interior space comparable to that of a large SUV.

With a full 890 millimetres of legroom at the rear, seating is comfortable, and allow for tablet and laptop stowage places beneath the seats. No transmission tunnel permits a useful 10.5-litre central storage compartment, and the rear luggage compartment offers a 656-litre capacity, that increases to 1,453 litres with the rear seats folded flat.

ELECTRIFYING PERFORMANCE

Jaguar I-Pace

The electric Jag uses a 90 kWh Lithium-ion battery comprising of 432 pouch cells that drive two synchronous permanent magnet electric motors — one on each axle. Both motors fit concentrically around a compact, single-speed epicyclical transmission, and differential, and this enables instant and precise distribution of torque to the wheels.

Combined, the motors produce 294 kW of power and 696 Nm of torque; enough for sportscar-like performance. With its instant torque delivery, you need to brace yourself when the zero-emission Jaguar takes off, sprinting from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds. That’s as quick as a BMW X3 M40i or an Audi Q3 RS.

The real beauty lies in how this is achieved. There’s no drama. No noise. No whining gears or turbo whistle. It is smooth and linear, and yet, when you feel that surge, that swoosh, it is strangely exciting.

Top speed is limited to 200 km/h, probably because driving at full tilt severely limits the battery pack’s range. According to Jaguar, the I-Pace can deliver a range of up to 480 km (WLTP cycle) before recharging, when driven at sensible cruising speeds using Eco mode.

The automaker also claims it will be possible to achieve a battery charge from empty to 80% in just 40 minutes using DC rapid charging (100 kWh) or top up an additional 100 km in as little as 15 minutes.

Alternatively, home charging with an AC wall box (7 kWh) will take the I-Pace from empty to 80% in just over ten hours – ideal for overnight charging.

FUSED TO THE ROAD

Jaguar I-Pace

Conceived as a high-performance EV, Jaguar’s engineers have provided for a low centre of gravity and 50:50 weight distribution by placing the battery as low as possible between the axles.

Allied to this, is a stiff aluminium chassis with torsional rigidity of 36 kNm/degree, the highest of any Jaguar. A compact, lightweight double wishbone suspension up front, and integral link rear suspension reduce unsprung weight and aids lateral stiffness, making this cat fabulously lithe and agile.

Ably assisted by the (optional) air suspension with Adaptive Dynamics, variable damping and self-levelling, the EV was composed and poised in fast sweeps, with surprisingly high levels of cornering grip.

With its big 22” rubbery claws, our Edition 1 and HSE models felt like they were fused to the road and owing to the long wheelbase, their ride comfort was a revelation, even on wide and low profile tyres.

An electric booster gives the I-Pace’s brake system more flexibility when blending regenerative and traditional mechanical braking. It provides consistent and precise pedal feel, but you need to get used to the higher level of deceleration inherent to this system.

It also enables you to select either high or low levels of regenerative braking. The high mode, with a maximum regenerative braking force of 0.4 G, reduces reliance on the brake pedal when slowing down.

Beside the dynamic traits, the I-Pace is stocked to the brim with cutting-edge technology. It is the first Jaguar to incorporate the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, with an innovative combination of touchscreens, capacitive sensors, and tactile physical controls to operate key functions.

While quite intricate, with multiple menu layers, this system is accurate and works well, and a full-colour head-up display (HUD) projects vital information onto the windscreen that’s supported by a 12″ Interactive Driver Display behind the steering wheel.

The EV’s navigational system factors in the topography of planned routes to calculate available range, and can also sync with a smartphone travel app, making journey planning easy.

With Smart Settings, it can also learn your driving habits and anticipate your needs.

Surprisingly, nothing was said about autonomous driving (a big Tesla-draw card), but while it is not offered yet, not even optionally, the I-Pace is self-drive ready, according to the engineers. It also produces a warning sound, much like that of trucks, when reversing, and according to Jaguar it can also be adjusted to emit sound while slowly moving forward.

ALL-ROAD VERSATILITY

Jaguar I-Pace

Besides its five-seat SUV versatility, the I-Pace is also quite capable off-road, as we found out on a carefully laid-out gravel route. Selecting the settings for off-road driving (it elevates the EV’s body position), the all-wheel-driven I-Pace negotiated a water obstacle with ease, thanks to a wading depth of 500 mm.

With its short overhangs and relatively good turning circle, it also confidently negotiated the tight sections on the snaking dirt track, but perhaps the most impressive was the ease with which it climbed up a steep incline — made simple by its vast torque and fully-independent all-wheel-drive system.

The I-Pace is built in Austria as part of a manufacturing partnership with Magna Steyr and is now available in the UK and Europe in S, SE, and HSE trim levels, alongside a First Edition derivative. That will be available in the UK and is priced at just over R1 million (at current exchange rates) that also includes an eight-year battery warranty.

LAST WORD

The I-Pace, scheduled for release in South Africa by mid-2019 (no indication of pricing yet), isn’t cheap, and without a zero-emissions incentive or subsidy from government, only the well heeled will be able to afford it.

Nevertheless, this silent cat is an exciting vehicle. It’s well conceptualised and engineered, and it delivers thrilling performance. It’s also practical and versatile, all the while producing zero emissions — this is the car that puts Jaguar one leap ahead of its competitors.

Report by FERDI DE VOS | Images © JAGUAR

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