Jaguar I-Pace: Test Drive

In Drives by Luca

Premium, Power and Electric. For the last decade (or so), those 3 words clearly were associated with Tesla. The American manufacturer is the leader of the market because… it is all alone. Or is it? Text & Photos: Luca W. ©

Obviously, the European brands are also on the market but on a different level: “low-cost” electric vehicles (EVs) are surely the most popular. Renault with the Zoe is actually second on European sales, as it fits better the city lifestyle of the Europeans. There is no actual premium European EV. Sure, we know that Porsche, Mercedes and Audi are currently working on it (BMW?) but there is still some work to accomplish. Who thought that Jaguar would be the very first premium European EV on sale? Clearly, not me. The brand seemed to me like an outsider that always tried to catch up the other car makers in terms of technology. The big cat just knocked on the EV house door and is the first European guest to arrive in the Green VIP Zone.

Electric cars all about numbers and units: autonomy, kWh, charging time, kW AC, kW DC. I do understand those terms but it is not really what people are interested in. The big question would be, to me:

Is it like a car?

It looks like one and that’s a point. In fact, the Jaguar I-Pace’s style is kind of futuristic: born from a sedan and a SUV, it is difficult to give it a precise category. So, the British car manufacturer is opening a new style door by innovating, which is a visual experience on its own. Obviously, for cost reasons – I guess -, Jaguar borrowed the E-Pace and the C-X75 head (and tail) lights but it is not as shocking as it gives the I-Pace an identity. The silhouette is sleek: the low bonnet and the squared-off rear clearly helps reduce drag (aerodynamics) and so, lower electric consumption. This is clearly design: science and art for efficiency. Sure, there are some gimmicks that really catch the eye: the bonnet scoop that redirects air and when cooling is not required, or the retracting door handles to increase aero efficiency and to make you say “Wow!”. People in the streets look at it as a (silent) flying saucer and guess what: even pigeons are not scared by the Jag. Trust me on this one, even I could not believe this.

A very agressive front with the scoop, taken from race cars

Like it or not, the I-Pace design is not neutral: shaped by air and cut by an axe.

Inside, it is very simple in order to save weight and increase the range. First number: The Jaguar I-Pace weighs 2135 kg; approximately 350 kg more than the E-Pace which is a very big car! Batteries are very heavy, and the interior is one of the first aspects that engineers look in to save weight. This is a dramatic consequence of efficiency: plastic everywhere, even though it is good quality. The materials are simple, sober and show the vision of the future by Jaguar: Tron. All black, white and screens. The brand likes horizontality and the interior of the I-Pace clearly inherits that. Consequently, it is very relaxing and pure. The 3 screens are practical and not too invasive, unlike Mercedes or Tesla, that probably would put an enormous TV instead of the windshield if they could. Rather than doing this, Jaguar chose the other way by implementing 2 smaller touch screens and a numeric cluster that are very intuitive. The third screen, located in the middle of the central console is used for climatisation, music and massages. It works with 2 very beautiful buttons that clearly enhance the eye-catching and futuristic part of the whole car. I lied: it is not eye-catching but simply the beginning of future.

A simple, pure and efficient interior

Beyond all this technology and connectivity – that are very useful by the way -, the Jaguar I-Pace is a car and as every car, it has to be driven. In Automobili Eleganza, like everyone else I guess, we like power. And torque. The 2 electric motors (disposed on both front and rear axles) deliver a total of 400 PS and 696 Nm. This is a lot and as the Jag’ is electric, the max. torque is delivered… instantly. This car is the first European one to give you a proper whiplash. You can feel your brain being pushed to the back of your skull, literally. There might be a void in my head, but still. Want to get out of a toll quickly? No problem. Want to overtake 5 cars in a row? No problem. Want to drive fast at night in the city centre? No problem: it is totally silent. You could only ear the air whispering and what a comfort. Flat out, I could still hear the birds singing. Undoubtedly, it will never scream like an Aventador or even a Toyota Yaris. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a silent and performant car, you should probably focus on this one.

Door handles are out but still, what a special machine

There is always a ‘but’ and on the I-Pace, the but(t?) is big: what are those suspensions? The front is a double wishbone, which is commonly used on sports cars. Yes, it could be considered as one, but this car is first a sedan/SUV and I was expecting more comfort. The suspensions are hard as hell: the smallest road irregularities make the I-Pace bounce and make you rebound. Compressions and rebounds are very closed and it makes the car so uncomfortable on public roads, especially on pavement. Yet, it is so relaxing in traffic jams: no noise (except the other cars), no Start&Stop, only the smells. On highways, there is no actual issue, if it is in a good condition. The driving assistance systems are not bad at all and soothes the driving experience, conflicting the hard steering for daily uses, yet precise and intuitive. In everything, a compromise should be taken but on this one, Jaguar was too focused on the sport part.

Talking about sport driving, the suspensions and the tires simply don’t care about the 2135 kg. There is almost no roll and the weight distribution is delicious (thanks to low batteries). Brakes are good (yet noisy), as they are co-working with the regenerative charging power that can generate a 0.4G deceleration alone. In fact, when I was driving normally, I just used the accelerator: the brake pedal should only be used to stop, that’s it. You will not drive a sports car with the Jaguar I-Pace, but you will drive an incredible multi-tasking machine. It is simple: I have never experienced a smoother car than this one: it has absolutely no compromise on driving experience, on good roads.

Electric Vehicle. 400 PS. All Wheel Drive.

The key question about electric cars is all about the range. In other words: how many kilometres can it run? This is the main battlefield in the electric war as the EVs and ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles should be at least on the same level. Like ICEVs, do not trust the numbers: Jaguar, according to the WLTC, announces 470 km (292 miles) of autonomy. When I received the car with full batteries, the cluster displayed 325 km (201 miles). To simplify all these numbers, that is a 31% difference. Of course, I always doubt the truth of numbers, so I drove it for 618 km (384 miles). My sentence is the following: cluster is right, not WLTC (or Jaguar). The batteries needed to be fully reloaded twice and calculations are simple: approximately 309 km per cycle. Unlike ICE cars, EVs don’t use a lot of energy in urban environments. On the other hand, it drinks the energy down in one on highways and extra-urban environments, as the speed increases. The powertrain technology is not very practical for long travels (yet), so it is meant for mid-range distances, as long as you can find a charging station. No, I will not approach this topic, as charging zones still need to develop; at the beginning of high production ICE vehicles (somewhere in the 50s), there weren’t gas stations everywhere.

After driving the I-Pace for a couple of days, I deduced the following fact: electricity does not pervet a car’s identity. Every engine has its own behaviour, experience and every car has its own particularity and identity. With the electric cars, it is a question that many ignorant people ask; I was one of them before I have driven this machine. My opinion was even more sharp than that, as I told everyone around me that there is no way an electric car could have the same identity as an ICE one. In fact, it never will but EVs and especially the Jag’ have simply a different one and it does not mean it is less funny. As soon as you provoke it and look for trouble, it instantly explodes and punches you right in the face. If you are kind to it, it will simply ignore you and continue its routine and be harmless. Mind yourself if you push it because you can regret it; it is boiling blooded, agile and fast. In fact, it is like a big cat! I get it now Jaguar, well played.

This is only the first chapter of European EVs and it is already fascinating.