Four Things We Learned When We Drove the Jaguar I-Pace EV

By · June 27, 2018

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

After two days behind the wheel of the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace in early June, we can confirm that the British automaker has delivered a stylish, highly capable luxury EV. With its 90 kilowatt-hour battery pack providing 240 miles of range, and an electric propulsion system capable of zooming to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, the I-Pace sets a new standard for a long-range EV from an established luxury automaker.

While we expected the I-Pace to be a beast on the road and offer a high degree of luxury appointments in the cabin, we discovered four things that surprised us.

The I-Pace is a capable off-road vehicle.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

The route established by the Jaguar media drive was the splendid Algarve region of Portugal. The handing and taut steering of the I-Pace were impressive as we passed through quaint villages with whitewashed buildings. With a slight nudge of the accelerator, the I-Pace surged forward on the highway. That was expected from the 394-horsepower and 512 pound-feet powertrain. But what was almost beyond belief was the route going straight through two-foot deep streams and up steep gravel inclines.

“The mission of the I-Pace is not necessarily to wade through deep water, but it will clearly help someone reach a cabin in the woods, even if it’s on the other side of a stream and across deep gullies,” said Sue Mead, a champion off-roader who drove the crossover in Portugal. She especially loved the quietness of the vehicle as we rippled through the water.

“Very few people would think of an electric vehicle off-road,” she added. “Many vehicles today are being engineered for what we say is off road but seldom is it really off-road.” But the Jaguar I-Pace crossover is the real deal. And if you’re not used to piloting a car in rough terrain, the I-Pace’s “all-surface progress control” system, borrowed from Land Rover, works like effortless cruise-control system for rugged terrain. I set and then changed the SUV’s speed on the fly, just as you would with cruise control. My feet lifted off the pedals, the all-wheel-drive two-motor Jaguar calculated the optimum traction and slippage, allowing the I-Pace to traverse the hills easily.

The I-Pace looks and feels more like a wagon-like sports sedan than a crossover.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

“What I like about the I-Pace is that it doesn't look like anything else right now,” Stuart Schorr, Jaguar’s communications chief for North America, told me. “It has a unique shape and packaging.”

You might see the I-Pace described as an SUV or a crossover, but the vehicle defies labels or conventional segments. It’s low to the ground and sleek—yet spacious. Wayne Burgess, the vehicle’s designer, said he was inspired by the C-X75 supercar concept and Jaguar XJ racers from the 1960s. That makes sense. He was thrilled to take a clean-sheet approach to the design, based on the unique qualities of an electric car. Without the need for a big engine bay, Burgess could give the I-Pace a cabin-forward design, pushing the wheels to the corners, and providing as much room as possible for the passengers.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Looking from the cabin, you can see straight through the hood to the road. That opening turns the hood into something like a front wing, making the air hug the car's body for better aerodynamics.

“I believe that, with electrification, we are going to see the biggest step change in the entire history of car design,” said Burgess. One delightful touch was the see-through front hood that channels wind from the road straight up and along the front windshield.

Jaguar engineers and designers fell in love with EV technology.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

The I-Pace is all about one-pedal driving—the gold standard for how an electric car should handle. All along the route’s long sweeping roads, and tight twisty village streets, my foot barely touched the brake pedal. The feeling of solidity from a relatively heavy vehicle, with the battery pack positioned low and directly below the cabin, allowed for easy placement of the car where I wanted it to be— just by slightly easing off the accelerator. Push the go-pedal back down, and the thing rocketed forward. When taking my foot entirely off the pedals, the I-Pace quickly and smoothly came to a halt. It’s a blast to drive, especially for anybody who loves EV one-pedal driving.

As I learned from my conversation with Simon Patel, the I-Pace’s senior program manager, the entire engineering team became infatuated with electric propulsion. At the same time, they brought Jaguar’s sense of refinement to their first EV. Referring to its quick launches from a standstill, he said, “It could have been more brutal, but we still want it to be refined. You need the right balance.”

Jaguar is not trying to conquest Tesla owners.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

I believe it’s finally time to retire this term: “Tesla Killer.” With the arrival of the Jaguar I-Pace, and long-range luxury electric car from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes to soon follow, nobody is looking back at what inspired the EV movement. Instead, the auto industry is looking ahead to the wave of groundbreaking electric cars yet to come.

“We are pretty confident that the world is changing and that the entire population is starting day by day to get more open-minded about electric vehicles,” Schorr told me. “In our process of trying to identify potential I-Pace buyers, we concluded that they look like the people that already buy Jaguars and Land Rovers.” He called it the “normalization and expansion of EVs.”

Schorr also candidly recognized that nobody knows how the introduction of so many great electric cars in such a brief period will pan out. “I started in the car business in 1988,” he said. “I don’t remember anything else like this, where such a big shift is coming and everyone is investing billions of dollars in it, and we don't know what's going to happen here.”

The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace starts at $69,500. With more refinement, bigger wheels, and a better audio system, the price climbs close to about $80,000—topping out with even finer finishing touches, head-up display, and adaptive surface response in the $85,900 First Edition model that we drove.

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