It’s not an electric Jaguar; it’s a Jaguar that happens to be electric.
Tesla has dominated the chatter around electric vehicles. The upstart brand and its founder, Elon Musk, helped turn the EV from something admired by the granola-munching, tree-hugging crowd to a must-have fashion accessory, a screaming performance vehicle, and a technological hotbed that's forced slow-to-adapt legacy automakers to move.
And now we're seeing the unintentional fruits of Musk's efforts. Major global automakers are diving into electrification, and if the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace is any indication, Tesla should worry about the sleeping giant it’s awoken.
Despite the technology involved, the I-Pace's layout is rather simple. Two electric motors – one on the front axle and one on the rear – provide 394 horsepower and 512 pound-feet of torque split evenly between all four wheels. Effectively all-wheel drive, there's a single-speed transmission to put the power down, while the floor-mounted, 90-kilowatt-hour battery pack gives the I-Pace a manufacturer-estimated 240 miles of range. Disregard saving electricity, and this sleek four-door crossover-coupe can get to 60 miles per hour in just 4.5 seconds.
Those numbers are no match for the straight-line speed of a Tesla Model X P100D, but the I-Pace is two-tenths of a second quicker than the more common 100D. And importantly, the Jag outperforms two of its gas-powered rivals, the BMW X4 M40i (4.6 seconds) and Porsche Macan GTS (5.0 seconds).
The I-Pace is effortlessly quick at low, around-town speeds thanks to its zero-rpm peak torque. Even at half-throttle, this is a point-and-shoot car that can easily expose gaps in traffic and snake through with aplomb. The power doesn't relent at higher speeds either, meaning the I-Pace feels nearly as spirited accelerating from 70 miles per hour as it does from rest.
Like so many other Jaguar products, there are three primary driving modes – Eco, Comfort, and Dynamic – but the difference in throttle response between all three isn't especially severe. Eco is obviously the most relaxed, retarding the gas pedal without making the I-Pace feel sluggish. Dig in and full performance is still available in this mode. Comfort and Dynamic are even closer in behavior, with the latter making it clear that Jaguar isn't messing about with the I-Pace's sporting credentials.
To prove it, we ran a handful of laps at the stunning Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, in the hills outside Lagos, Portugal. Even your ham-fisted author managed to crest 120 miles per hour – very near the I-Pace's 124-mph top speed – on the front straight at the twisting track, while the zero-rpm electric torque catapulted the I-Pace from corner to corner.
Both the track and the tight two-lane public roads around it featured plenty of elevation change, sharp corners, and in the case of the latter, extremely narrow lanes to manage.
Normal roads are the I-Pace's happy place. Lower speeds and tighter bends showed off the natural-feeling steering and controlled turn in. The I-Pace isn't a pointy car, but it changes direction quickly and predictably for its size, with its steering wheel taking just 2.5 turns from lock to lock. The weighting of the electric rack is very natural and positive, with a pleasant on-center response building to an appropriate level for a 4,784-pound vehicle.
The I-Pace is less suited to Algarve – because, obviously – but it did manage the race track’s tight corners, elevation, and braking zones better than any SUV not wearing a Porsche badge. Roll is more pronounced than on the road, owing to the speed, but the sheer level of grip from the massive wheels and tires – we split our time between 20- and 22-inch options, while 18s are standard – kept us feeling confident. It takes either a lot of pushing or a particularly dimwitted entry speed (or both) to get the I-Pace to understeer – in most other cases, the Jag felt pleasantly neutral, owing to its near perfect weight distribution.
This handling prowess is thanks in part to smart design and parts sharing. The I-Pace mounts its batteries low in the floor, but it's also not particularly tall for a crossover, at just 5.1 feet. The center of gravity is impressively low (thanks, batteries!), contributing to the flat handling, while the suspension itself comes from the entertaining F-Pace. That means double wishbones in front and an integral link in back as standard, and an air suspension as an option.
The I-Pace is most at home on the motorways, where drivers can revel in its accessible quickness and relax in its pleasant cabin. Unlike the F-Pace, which can occasionally feel cheap, the material quality in the I-Pace is impressive throughout. Where there's plastic, it feels robust and premium, with excellent fit and finish on such an early run vehicle. Tesla could learn a thing or six here.
The seats themselves are quite good, with standard heating and ventilation, and ample support for carving corners. In back, there are technically three seats, although we wouldn't ask an adult to sit in the middle. Used as a two-plus-two, the I-Pace is perfectly suitable for four adults. Your six-foot, two-inch author has plenty of head and leg space in back and wouldn't hesitate to spend a few hours riding back there. Cargo space is also useful, too, with 25.3 cubic feet available.
Ride comfort is quite good, although the I-Pace did feel underdamped on undulating sections of road. It should be noted, though, that we only drove cars with the optional air suspension, so the damping issues may not be present on the standard car. And while this is an electric vehicle with no engine noise to cover it up, we found road noise disruptive on some of Portugal's rougher sections of pavement, with impact noise and the effects of the road surface entering the cabin clearly. Wind noise is less of an issue.
Like the Range Rover Velar, the I-Pace's cabin is a touchscreen-intensive environment. Called TouchPro Duo, the center stack features a 10-inch screen up top, a 5.5-inch screen below, and even a pair of displays inside the twin climate control dials. Dual-screen setups are normally visually taxing, but Jaguar's implementation here is aesthetically beautiful thanks in large part to the floating bridge design for the lower screen. Unfortunately, the entire affair is functionally disappointing.
The screens simply aren't responsive enough. Inputs take a moment to register and the touchpoints themselves require too much precision (although the smaller 5.5-inch screen is better in this regard). Forget about taking in-depth action on anything but a pristine piece of road, because you'll miss your target.
The learning curve for the system is steep, too. The menus are byzantine in their complexity, and there's a tremendous amount of redundancy. Want communications info? You can have it in the main display, the secondary display, and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. At the same time. Same with entertainment and navigation. It's needlessly difficult to manage.
And speaking of the instrument cluster, just because it has analog controls doesn't mean there aren't similar digital problems. Inputs on the steering wheel controls are slightly faster than the touchscreens, but only just. There's too much depth to the menus here, too, and unless you know about this verticality, you'll grow frustrated (like we did) about why the steering wheel buttons aren’t doing what you want them to.
This needless complexity is particularly troubling because it impacts how the I-Pace drives. For example, there are two separate modes for the regenerative brakes – high regen allows for one-footed driving, even in a dynamic setting, while low regen behaves more like a conventional vehicle’s brakes. We, along with our equally tech-fluent co-driver, had to pull over because we wanted to switch from the high setting to the low. We couldn't find the menu and had to have a Jaguar rep walk us through it. We were told later in the evening that JLR's software team is aware of the issue and is fixing it in customer cars – expect regular updates, too, since like the Model X, the I-Pace can handle over-the-air software updates.
There is some technology on offer that works well, though. For example, those regenerative brakes are among the best we've sampled in an electrified vehicle. Pedal feel both on public roads and in the more demanding environment at Algarve is excellent, with progressive, predictable behavior, but only in low regen mode. We say that because in high regen mode, the normal brakes are mostly superfluous. It's exactly as aggressive as we'd want in street driving.
The charging system sounds good too. A 220-volt charger can get the I-Pace from zero to 80 percent charge in just 10 hours, while a 100-kilowatt DC fast charger can do the job in a mere 40 minutes, and the less-powerful 50-kW DC systems take 85 minutes.
But what makes the I-Pace most impressive is just how normal it all felt. Electric cars, especially Teslas, capitalize on being standouts and statement makers. The I-Pace does make a statement, but it does so in the same way that most of the brand's products do. This isn't an electric Jaguar, it's simply a Jaguar that happens to be electric. Whether you're tired of Elon's bombast and the culty attitude of Tesla owners or you simply want a stylish all-electric luxury crossover that isn't defined by its powertrain, the Jaguar I-Pace will give you what you're looking for.
Prices for the I-Pace start at $69,500 with US sales starting this summer.