2019 Jaguar I-Pace First Drive - Electric Avenue Now Has More Traffic
Editor’s Note: This article is written by contributor Jeff Taylor. Due to technical difficulties, it is under the TTAC Staff byline. Once those difficulties are fixed, Jeff’s name will be properly attached.
Jaguar’s new I-Pace EV is the first vehicle in the automaker’s plan to fully electrify — or electrically assist — all of its vehicles beginning in 2020.
The I-Pace raises the question: can Jaguar’s EV powertrain live up to everyday driving demands and deliver the premium experience luxury buyers demand without a huge power-suck mileage penalty?
Additionally, mainstream and luxury manufacturers have announced aggressive electrification plans of their own, which puts more heat on Jaguar to get it right or risk its plug being pulled.
To gauge Jaguar’s level of success, I spent some time in Lisbon, Portugal for the I-Pace Media Drive. During the launch program, I put the I-Pace through some tough driving situations and made some surprising discoveries about both the vehicle and what it means for the industry moving forward.
Full disclosure: Jaguar flew me to Lisbon, Portugal and covered my luxury hotel accommodations and meals. They also provided track time at Autodromo Internacional Algarve racecourse in Portugal. I was also offered a European electric outlet plug converter, which I did take, and an I-Pace coffee table hardbound book, which I did not keep.
I-Pace is the first legitimate challenger to Tesla’s Model S hatchback and Model X SUV. Tesla has been the poster child for luxury electric vehicles for several years, but a string of delays/high-profile incidents/corporate layoffs have tattered that poster. Jaguar has the benefit of fortuitous timing for the launch of its version of what a premium, all-wheel-drive, midsize crossover EV can be.
Walk up to the 2019 I-Pace and you’ll notice the low roof height, styling bends, kinks, pop-out door handles, vents, and diffuser. All are there for air management purposes and look good on the curvaceous body. The rear is abrupt to provide maximum aero efficiency. Large 20-inch tires (22’s are available) fill wheel openings and provide an aggressive contact patch. The “cab-forward” design, combined with a long wheelbase and short overhangs, gives I-Pace an athletic blend of crossover/sedan/wagon that differentiates it from oddball-styled EVs. During the drive, I received lots of admiring glances and head nods. Goodbye geek, hello chic.
The battery design is a big reason why this vehicle exists. It’s a big lithium-ion pack with a nickel, manganese, and cobalt composition. It’s heavy, so engineers designed the battery to tuck below the floor and become an integral part of the platform, improving the vehicle’s center of gravity and maximizing interior space. The result is a nearly neutral 50/50 weight balance.
The other powertrain story is the Jaguar-designed dual e-motors powering both the front and rear axles. The motors are synchronous permanent magnet units linked to a continuously variable automatic transmission. Total system output is robust at 394 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque. Towing is not an option, but a bike carrier and roof rack are.
Fire up the I-Pace and there’s nothing, no shudder, vibration or roar of a combustion engine. The dash lights up, accompanied by a brief hum, as the car becomes “energized.” Pulling out into a crowded street, the I-Pace felt and behaved like previous EVs I’ve tested. Adjustable, regenerative braking enables single-foot driving, meaning I could keep my foot off the brake pedal and still slow down. Regenerative braking can be set for lighter or firmer application and activates the brake lights when in use.
I-Pace’s double-wishbone front suspension is cribbed from the F-Type, and at the rear, there’s a modified version of the integral-link suspension employed in E-Pace and F-Pace. The suspension is adjustable with Comfort, Dynamic and Eco modes. I-Pace can go “low-rider” via an optional height-adjustable air suspension that drops it 1.6 inches. An additional 0.4-inch drop occurs at speeds in excess of 65 mph for more drag relief. You can also raise I-Pace 2.0 inches for off-road and water crossings – more on that later.
Mash the juice pedal in Dynamic mode and you’re pushed deeply into the seatback. Jaguar claims a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds. I was impressed by the acceleration, immediate response and smooth takeoff – no noise, body shake or gear changes.
After buzzing down the highway out of Lisbon, we ventured up into the mountains. It was there that I learned how capable and responsive I-Pace is. Charging up the mountain roads, taking corners at an aggressive clip, my co-driver and I kept pushing the I-Pace. We were able to toss it deep into corners confidently, using regenerative braking to scrub speed entering turns and hairpin corners, then power out as quickly as we would in any current premium sports sedan.
When the pavement ended, I gave the car a bath. Using the adjustable height setting, AWD and low speed I (intentionally) put an electric vehicle in a stream that was nearly two feet deep and full of small rocks. Then, upon exit, it was straight up a very steep and long hillside with minimal wheel spin or rock inference.
The final part of our drive involved hot laps of the Autodromo Internacional Algarve racecourse. This challenging 15-turn track allowed us to blast down the short front stretch approaching speeds of 120 mph (124 mph is the vehicle’s top speed). The I-Pace carved up corners as well as most sports sedans, exhibiting minimal body lean, brake fade, or excessive suspension unloading. There was some slight understeer and late braking lead to some heart-stopping moments, but the overall buzz from the pampered press was positive.
So, about that mileage range – I’m not a believer in manufacturer EV range claims, as I’ve nearly been stranded several times. Jaguar cites a 240-mile range and I believe that figure is achievable through meticulous driving and favorable weather conditions. However, 200-215 miles is more likely. A 100kW DC fast charger provides roughly an 80 percent charge in about 40 minutes. Buy a 7kW wall box charger for your garage and Jaguar indicates it will take almost 13 hours to fully charge a depleted battery.
Inside I-Pace I was greeted by a massive protruding dash housing large digital gauges behind a grippy steering wheel. Two screens dominate the center of the dash: A 10-inch touchscreen up top, and a 5-inch screen below. The latter displays infotainment via the menu-heavy Touch Pro Duo system. Dials with mini readout screens for HVAC and audio control are also used.
The navigation system employs artificial intelligence so I-Pace can learn your driving style. Beyond directions, I used it for a projection of my remaining mileage range. It can also program a drive route around charging stations – very handy.
The leather seats are very comfortable during aggressive driving (excluding second row center position) and comfortable for normal drives. The flat floor provided excellent foot/leg room and rear seating is good for four. Above your head is a roof comprised of a solid UV coated (non-shade) piece of tinted glass — it looks cool — but I question its crashworthiness. My other interior gripe concerns the short sun visors that don’t stretch the length of the front passenger windows to block the late afternoon sun.
As I-Pace is a crossover, it has to be able to carry something. The luggage compartment holds 25.3 cubic feet second row up, and 51.0 cubic feet with the second row folded flat.
At launch late this summer, I-Pace will be offered in four trim levels: S, SE, HSE and First Edition. During the program I drove a fully loaded S ($69,500 base, $82,885 as tested) and a red First Edition ($85,900 base, $88,595 as-tested) models. The as-tested pricing included the $995 destination and delivery charge. There’s quite a spread between S and HSE models, mainly in equipment, but not in looks.
Available equipment includes leather seats, blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, high-speed emergency braking, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, power tailgate (power gesture tailgate also available), heated steering wheel, front fog lights, four-zone climate control, premium audio, 360-degree camera, activity key, adaptive cruise control with steering assist, and head-up display.
Jaguar has now upped the standard for luxury and non-luxury EVs with its I-Pace. This SUV/sports car combination is not perfect, but it hits the sweet spots of robust acceleration, athletic handling, and a roomy, luxurious interior. I’m a muscle-car aficionado raised on “there’s no substitute for cubic inches” mantra, and I never thought I would be impressed by the performance of a production EV. I-Pace previews the direction and expectations that cars and crossovers will take in the future.
[Images © Jaguar/Land Rover USA]
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