Whatever image you have of Jaguar, it will soon be rendered obsolete by the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace, the first all-electric vehicle from a brand that has long lived by its founder’s maxim of “grace, pace and space.”
Forget the long hood look of previous Jaguars; since this is an electric vehicle, there are few components up front. To compensate, the I-Pace incorporates other familiar attributes, such as Jaguar’s signature flowing waistline, although it accentuates the front haunches. Then there’s the grille lifted from the F-Pace or XJ6. The new aesthetic continues inside, which eschews the clichéd walnut-paneled library look. Instead, two large high-definition screens anchoring the instrument panel, augmented by a pair of rotary switches. It’s modern, elegant and intuitive. A full-color head-up display, which projects key information onto the windshield in front of the driver, is available. Finally, a panoramic glass roof lends the roomy cabin an enormous feel far beyond this vehicle’s 184-inch length.
Once you are seated, however, little prepares you for the I-Pace’s exemplary performance.
The test drive route started with a conventional mix of city and highway driving until the navigation directed us off-road, where the I-Pace forded an 18-inch-deep stream. Stop and think about taking an electric vehicle with its undercarriage battery pack of 432 cells effortlessly wading through water.
Emerging from the stream, the road went up an unpaved dusty mountainside, which the Jaguar handled effortlessly. The final stop was a Formula One racetrack, where the I-Pace swiftly yet silently generated speeds of more than 100 mph. And why not? It’s a Jaguar.
On-road, the I-Pace clearly proves itself as a classic Jaguar for the new millennium, with a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 124 mph. If you’re used to an internal combustion engine, going this fast this silently will take some getting used to. You can turn up the electronically produced artificial noise, but why? There’s a spectacularly good Meridian sound system that’s better at that.
The I-Pace uses a Jaguar-designed electric motor on each axle fitted around a compact, single-speed transmission and differential, enabling power delivery to all four wheels. Nevertheless, the vehicle is filled with features meant to extend the I-Pace’s range:
— The climate control adjusts airflow to the number of passengers so that air doesn’t blow on empty seats. The I-Pace can also pre-condition the cabin to the proper temperature while plugged in, rather than drawing power to do it once underway.
— The I-Pace maintains the battery pack’s optimal temperature while charging to deliver the most range.
— The navigation system factors in the topography of routes, driving styles and available range to accurately calculate routes. It also locates charging locations along the route.
The car employs regenerative braking to capture energy generated while decelerating to recharge the battery. It can be adjusted to capture more or less energy. Under the former, the driver nearly never has to touch the brake; just release the throttle, but gentle pedal modulation is essential.
A standard air suspension delivers an impeccable ride/handling balance in the best Jaguar tradition, lowering the car by 0.4 inches above 65 mph, and raising it 2 inches in off-road mode. Of course, as you’d expect of a car with such a huge battery pack, the I-Pace perfectly plants itself during cornering. Fortunately, there’s enough power that you rarely realize how heavy this car feels. In fact, its driving position and component setup give it a futuristic vibe that gives it uniquely futuristic driving feel. It’s enhanced by the utter lack of any mechanical commotion common to gas-powered cars. You just silently rocket forward, thanks to 512 pound-feet of torque.
It’s quite a package, one that truly reimagines the automobile, not just in terms of packaging, but also in design, proportion, performance and interior accommodations. It’s truly a landmark Jaguar.
In another time, they might have even called it the E-Type.
Base prices: $69,500-$85,900
Motor: Permanent magnetic electric motors
Torque: 512 pound-feet
Range (estimated): 240 miles
Charging time (80 percent/100 percent — 230 V): 10.1/12.9 hours
Wheelbase: 117.7 inches
Length: 184.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,800 pounds (estimated)
Cargo capacity: 25.3-51 cubic feet
An Interview With Jaguar Design Director Ian Callum
Given Jaguar’s history of radically sleek sports cars, you can imagine the challenge facing Jaguar design director Ian Callum when asked to design the brand’s first battery electric vehicle, the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace.
“Jaguars are about drama and exaggeration,” Callum said during an interview earlier this year at the Amelia Island Concours in Northern Florida. “The E-Type with the long bonnet, the SS-1 with the long bonnet and low roof, and the XJ’s low roof, long bonnet and big wheels.”
But the I-Pace is a battery electric vehicle, so there’s no need for a long bonnet. Nevertheless, sports car design influenced its look.
“I remember when the Ferrari 250 LM came out. I remember thinking how dramatic to take what is a design language of the old Berlinettas and the 250 GTs, and moved the cabin forward. To me it’s even more dramatic; it always amused me.”
As the I-Pace was being designed, the memory stayed with Callum, who pushed the I-Pace’s visual weight forward.
“If you think of an F-Type, where all of the weight visually is thrown to the back of the car and the rear haunches, this is the opposite. It doesn’t matter which way, as long as it dramatically does something to make the car look like it’s moving.”
The end result is a striking proportion that’s not an SUV or crossover, but not a car either. Still, why produce a crossover rather than a sports car? The answer is simple.
“The F-Pace has been a huge success for us, the highest selling Jaguar ever,” Callum said. “It’s the road of least resistance in terms of marketing.”
Best of all, Callum bestowed the I-Pace with classic, flowing lines, rather than bizarre forms increasingly common in modern vehicle design.
“I think being different is easier than beautiful. We could’ve done a (BMW) i3, but we chose not to because I like beautiful things,” Callum said.
“There are a set of rules that we live by aesthetically, and I think that holds us to what you see here.”