Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: May 6, 2019
The I-Pace is Jaguar’s first foray into a burgeoning new field of all-electric vehicles. Paving the way forward in zero-mission mobility, the Jaguar I-Pace spearheads the wave of vanguards along with the Audi e-tron, Tesla Model X, Chevrolet Bolt, and Nissan Leaf. Even Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are on the brink of launching their own. The future is here and even though the introduction of these electric vehicles (EV) has been slow and met with controversy, they grow ever more impressive and technically capable with each passing year.
Slotting between the E-Pace and F-Pace in size, the five-passenger I-Pace aims to blend small crossover practicality with EV efficiency. If the naming has you confused, you’re not the only one. We kept thinking the E-Pace was the electric variant at first, as ‘e’ always seemed to be the go-to letter for EVs, and ‘i’ was for, well, Apple products. Labels aside, I don’t believe there is any Jaguar currently on sale that I would not call attractive. Their entire lineup is bathed in aesthetic appeal and the I-Pace is no exception with a fastback roofline and multiple air ducts that channel air across its sleek body for maximum aerodynamics. With low-slung proportions and equipped with the optional 22-inch wheels, the I-Pace actually appears more like a raised-up hatchback than a conventional SUV.
Labelled as a high-performance EV, the I-Pace utilizes a 90 kWh lithium-ion battery and two electric motors (inspired by Jaguar’s Formula E racing car) placed at each axle. This effectively makes it an all-wheel drive SUV and each motor is fitted around a single-speed transmission and differential, both assisting in the translation of 394 hp and 512 lb-ft into forward thrust.
Those are true performance car numbers indeed. Not even the BMW M3 or Audi RS5 make that much torque, and because of how instantaneously that power is delivered, the I-Pace feels faster than the numbers suggest. There is no build up, no wait times, and no lag. Press the gas pedal and you are suddenly jolted forward and taken from 0-100 km/h in a hasty 4.8 seconds. That’s only one-tenths of a second shy of the smaller Tesla Model 3 Long Range. The I-Pace doesn’t need to worry about gear shifts or turbo lag either. It whisks away with one gear that hits 12,000 rpm in a jiffy. For those drivers who have never experienced proper sports car acceleration, these EVs will certainly give them their first taste of what true high-tech propulsion is like. Without any auditory signals to tell your brain that you’re accelerating, you won’t notice the speed either. The subtle electrical buzz that is emitted along with the well insulated cabin only drowns you out even more.
Far from being a one-trick pony, the I-Pace also provides a thrilling experience when the road gets twisty. Without any top-heavy lean thanks to the careful mounting of the battery and motors, it emits a sense of agility that you won’t find in other vehicles this size, not to mention brake-based torque vectoring and the ability for the electric motors to articulate and send power to the intended wheel. Here, you have a multilingual powertrain that always tailors its tongue to the driver. Fun is not a word normally associated with EVs but this Jaguar makes it hard to go back to a conventional internal combustion vehicle. Like the Tesla Model X, the I-Pace is loaded with an air suspension with continuously variable dampers, so that bumps and potholes don’t upset the chassis. It can also lower the car up to 10 mm at higher speeds for better aerodynamics and ease of ingress and egress when the vehicle is parked. This can be manually adjusted via the dedicated center console buttons, and drivers can further customize their ride via the Configurable Dynamics screen and select the suspension stiffness, steering weight, and throttle sensitivity.
The I-Pace rides stiffer than its competitors and on-par with the similarly rocky F-Pace, but the chassis is so rigid that any warping or flexing is absent when caressing broken pavement. It’s an entirely bespoke aluminum platform as well, not shared with any other vehicle in the Jaguar or Land Rover portfolio. Of course, the optional 22-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero all-season rubber on our test vehicle didn’t help the ride at all, but they do look damn spectacular filling up the wheel well, and contribute to the car’s low-slung and aggressive proportions. I would personally stick with the 20s for a better balance between aesthetics and ride quality.
The regenerative brake pedal in the I-Pace is the best example of how to mimic a conventional hydraulic setup by far. Without being springy or slushy like other EVs and hybrids, Jaguar has tuned theirs to operate linearly and consistently. More importantly, it is easy to modulate, mitigating the learning curve for new EV owners. There are two adjustable levels of brake regeneration strength as well, which is unfortunately located deep within the submenus on the touchscreen. You cannot simply change it on the fly via the steering wheel like in other vehicles.
The I-Pace allows you to initiate one-pedal driving, though we found it inconsistent in application. At times, the system will pull the electric handbrake when you’re completely stopped, keeping you from rolling away and allowing you to take your foot off the pedal. But in other instances it won’t, and the vehicle will deceivingly creep forward especially when there is any sort of road incline. In any circumstance, you will want to keep that foot wearily hovering over the brakes as necessary. Articulate your foot carefully and your passengers won’t be needing any Gravol either but the learning curve here is much easier than any other EV I’ve driven so far.
Let’s talk about range because as crucial as performance may be to some owners, range is arguably the prominent driving factor in purchasing one EV over another. On a full battery charge, the I-Pace is rated at 377 km and is on-par with the Audi e-Tron (329 km), Chevrolet Bolt (383 km), Nissan Leaf Plus (363 km), Hyundai Kona Electric (415 km), and Tesla Model X (400-525 km). Advertised range is one thing but real-world range is an entirely different equation. After testing with our battery fully charged, our range estimates with the I-Pace never went above 300 kms, and this was in brisk 5- to 15-degree May weather in Toronto. It’s more than enough to remedy the anxiety that used to plague the initial EV offerings but if you are looking to banish long-distance range anxiety altogether, Tesla still offers the biggest batteries and a staggering network of public charging stations.
You will also want a Level 2 charger installed in your garage. Sure you can use the household 12V power outlet but that’s like draining a large bucket of water through a hole the size of a grain of sand. You will be struggling to maintain a full battery at that rate unless you drive once in a blue moon. We did the math based on the I-Pace’s own calculated range estimates, and it would take roughly 107 hours (4.5 days) to fully charge the batteries using that method. A Level 2 charger on the other hand will cut that time to roughly 10 hours. If you find a public or industrial DC rapid charging outlet, you will only need 40 minutes for a 0-80% charge.
Swimming in top-shelf materials, the I-Pace takes many of the interior design elements that made the Range Rover Velar so successful and have implemented them here: the deployable exterior door handles, digital HVAC dials, and dual infotainment screens that use Jaguar’s latest Touch Pro Duo software. The 10-inch main screen sits at the top, and a smaller 5.5-inch screen below it and handles the climate functions, though you can swipe the screen down like you would on an iPhone and access shortcut audio buttons. The screens are high-def and colourful but incredibly glitchy and the screens don’t respond immediately to finger inputs. There is a split-second lag that will test your patience. Annoyingly and rather dangerously, the rear camera view lags as well, and is consistently a millisecond behind what’s actually happening. That means it’s not a live view, and just when you thought you had a few inches of room left to back up, you’re probably hitting the wall already. Be warned.
The floating center console is appealing and without a transmission tunnel, Jaguar was able to further implement narrow but expansive storage cubbies beneath it. The I-Pace doesn’t use a conventional gear shifter either, and instead utilizes a line of push button selectors that run down the legs of the center console, much like the Lincoln Nautilus. The switchgear doesn’t quite have that same precise and expensive feel as a Mercedes or Audi, but overall the interior does make me feel like I am sitting inside a $100,000 vehicle, more so than the barren and Ikea-like Teslas.
Sitting between the Jaguar’s two crossovers in size, the I-Pace isn’t spacious but it is more than enough for a small family. The tinted panoramic glass roof spans the entire length of the vehicle and offers a visual sense of airiness but disappointingly, it can’t be opened. Oddly enough, the front seats won’t allow you to adjust the seat backwards very far either. It stops just where a rear passenger’s knees would rest, perhaps there’s a part of the chassis limiting movement. The seat still moves far back enough for my six-foot figure to find a comfortable and cozy seating position. With a coupe-like roofline that tapers into the trunk, the I-Pace leaves little for rear seat headroom and trunk space, but there’s more than you would find in a Chevrolet Bolt, and a bit less than that in the larger Audi e-tron. At least there’s a small cubby under the front hood to hold your charger and small grocery bags, but if you are looking for a zero-emission family vehicle that will swallow occupants and storage alike, the seven-passenger Tesla Model X wins by a country mile.
The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace comes to Canada with one choice of powertrain, dubbed EV400 AWD, and three trim levels that add-on aesthetic and interior upgrades. The starting price is competitive, ranging from $89,900 for the S, $95,800 for the SE, and $99,800 for the top-level HSE. That compares to the Audi e-tron ($90,000), Tesla Model X ($103,010), and Chevrolet Bolt ($44,800), the latter of which still offers one of the best cost-to-range ratios.
The I-Pace is undoubtedly a costly point of entry into the small bubble of EV ownership. The premium for this luxury crossover won’t pay off within a few years by avoiding the gas pumps but it does set the playing field that was once regarded to be in its infancy. While other automakers are busy playing catch up, a zero-emission vehicle is no longer just a dream for Jaguar. Prospective buyers will be easily drawn to the I-Pace and its efficient packaging, instantaneous torque, gorgeous interior, and sleek coupe-like design. Range anxiety is out the window with a usable 300 km of real-world range, and it’s mighty fun to drive on sinuous roads. The cabin electronics are half-baked and the steep price will ultimately be the limiting factor for many (considering Ontario government incentives are out the window) but I don’t see that stopping fanatics from buying six-figure Teslas either. If Jaguar can keep up the rapid pace of EV development, they have a bright future ahead of them. Keep bringing us phenomenal vehicles like the I-Pace, and the customers will keep bringing the cash.
Model: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 HSE
Paint Type: Santorini Black ($670)
Base Price: $96,500
Price as Tested: $101,510
Curb weight (kg): 2,170
Powertrain: 90 kWh lithium-ion battery, two electric motors
Horsepower: 394 hp
Torque: 512 lb-ft
Transmission: two single-speed transmissions
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD