What is it?
The future of Jaguar. The brand announced this week that it will convert its entire fleet to electric power in just four years. By 2025 the brand will have every model in its line-up using batteries instead of petrol or diesel.
Not only is that a major shift for a brand synonymous with performance sedans and sports cars throughout its 85 year history – it's also a lot of work in a short time period. At the moment it only offers a single electric model, the I-Pace we're testing here.
So there's extra pressure and expectations riding on what was already a ground-breaking model for the brand. Let's see how it stacks up as both a luxury EV crossover and as a car worthy of carrying Jaguar's famous leaping car badge.
Does it have any racing pedigree?
Yes, quite a lot for such a relatively new model (it first launched in 2018) because Jaguar immediately put it into action. Having joined Formula E racing to begin pushing its electric image and learning what it can about motors and batteries, Jaguar went a step further and established the I-Pace Trophy – a one-make support series.
Unfortunately with the arrival of the global pandemic and a need to focus all of its financial resources towards its accelerated EV transition Jaguar cancelled the series last year.
What's under the bonnet?
The foundations of the I-Pace is its battery pack that's mounted underneath the floor, between the axles, that send power to the dual electric motors – one at each end for all-wheel drive performance.
Together the system produces 294kW of power and 696Nm of torque, which is enough to launch this more than two-tonne crossover from standstill to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds. That's the kind of performance that we've come to expect from Jaguar over the years. However, it's how it produces that performance that sets the I-Pace apart.
Like all EVs the I-Pace is whisper quiet, with just a subtle hum from the powertrain to let you know it's working and give you a sense of speed. But while it lacks the drama and excitement that petrolheads enjoy when they put their foot down and listen to the revs rise, it doesn't lack the effect. The I-Pace is a genuinely quick car, with enough grunt to shove you back in your seat when you bury your right foot.
It's range between visits to the power point is solid if variable. The official claim is 470km but in the real world somewhere closer to 300km is probably more realistic – at least in our experience. But that's no issue if you buy one and don't plan on regular 300km trips each day, because you can top it up quite easily overnight if you've got a charger at home.
How does it handle?
There are two main benefits to packaging the batteries on the floor, firstly, it's the biggest area, and secondly, it keeps the significant weight of them as low as possible. It's also one of the major reasons why the I-Pace is a crossover, because the extra height allows for extra battery space. It's worth noting that I choose the term ‘crossover' instead of calling it an SUV because the I-Pace really does blur the line between passenger car and SUV more than most. It's not as low as a sedan or wagon but neither is it as tall as Jaguar's F-Pace SUV. It's also not a conventional shape, putting aside its cab-forward design is very un-Jaguar, it's been shaped by aerodynamics into something that's neither a sedan, SUV or even a wagon; it's uniquely an I-Pace.
What all that means for how the I-Pace drives is that it's hard to know exactly how to categorize it. Obviously it feels heavier and therefore slower to react than something like the similar-sized Jaguar XF sports sedan, but it feels different from the F-Pace too. Weight aside it turns sharply and sits relatively flat, which makes it feel ‘sporty' without wowing us in the same way the more performance-orientated (but similar output) F-Pace SVR did.
Where would you most like to drive it?
Personally I'd really love to experience one of the I-Pace Trophy cars on the track. It's one of the most unusual race cars – an electric crossover – so it would be fascinating to see how it performed at the limit.
As for the road-going version, I think it's actually well suited for a weekend blast on the open road. Sure, you'll need to be mindful of how far you plan to go and where you can recharge it, but it's range is respectable and its performance suitable for enthusiast adventures.
What's the interior like?
Jaguar's recent interiors have tended to be polarising, but personally I'm a fan of the brand's modern aesthetic. The I-Pace, unsurprisingly, pushes the design to the very cutting edge of modern cabins, with a digital instrument display and digital controls for most of the infotainment and even the climate control.
Our test car was equipped with a likeable array of unconventional trims too, instead of the traditional focus on leather. There was plenty of Alcantara and a denim-like fabric trim on the doors and other touchpoints that can give the I-Pace a unique sense of style.
Is it good value for money?
There isn't a whole lot of direct competition for the I-Pace in terms of similar-sized EVs, but compared to the most direct rival, the Audi e-tron Sportback, it stacks up well. The range-topping I-Pace HSE we tested is priced from $145,723 (plus on-road costs), whereas the Audi with similar performance (300kW/664Nm) is priced at $169k.
Of course, if you prefer old-fashioned petrol power (while Jaguar still offers it) the F-Pace SVR is priced from $140,262 and makes 405kW/680Nm. Decisions, decisions…
Would I buy one?
Honestly, it took some time for the I-Pace to grow on me, especially its unorthodox styling. But in the right specification and trim level it can be a very handsome and dynamic looking vehicle.
More importantly the performance and range offered up by the electric powertrain makes it an appealing car to drive. Obviously EVs aren't for everyone but if Jaguar can take lessons about the power, performance and style of the I-Pace and evolve it into its upcoming EV range then it could be the right move for the leaping cat brand as the world transitions to an electric future.
2021 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 HSE price and specifications
|From $145,723 plus on-road costs
|Single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
|4.8 seconds (claimed)