Future Cars

First Look: Jaguar I-Pace Concept

Jaguar goes electric

Here it is, the first plug-in Jaguar, and it’s a fully electric zero-emission vehicle, not a hybrid. So, why does the Jaguar I-Pace concept, which will make its debut at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, look like a dressed-up coupe edition of the F-Pace, consciously avoiding to fuse breakthrough technology with breakthrough design?

“Because were still in the phase when every Jaguar must be instantly identifiable as a Jaguar,” says chief designer Ian Callum. “We kept the family face largely unchanged for the electric vehicle, so that more people get to know and understand the brand.”

But why only one model, one bodystyle, one drivetrain option, one price (expected to be around $85,000)? “This is the beginning of a new era,” states project chief Ian Hoban. “We don’t know yet how quickly BEVs will catch on, so given our limited budget, it makes sense to tread lightly for a while. But rest assured that there is a fair scope of evolution built into the project.”

Beneath the F-Pace-esque skin, however, is a completely different vehicle. Though it uses the same D7a flexible aluminium architecture as the F-Pace, the I-Pace has essentially been developed from scratch. About the only significant carryover item is the double-wishbone front axle — and it shows. By not making full use of the void created by the absence of a combustion engine, the typical BEV tight turning circle is conspicuously absent.

Conversely, the multilink rear suspension was extensively modified to make room for the second e-motor, which requires more space than the differential. Since there was no need for a transmission tunnel and driveshaft, the entire floorpan was turned into one big and heavy battery tray embedded in a liquid cooling circuit. The energy cells are shaped like pouches, of which there are twelve per module, and there are 36 modules in all. Underbody access makes it relatively easy to replace a module gone AWOL.

The lithium-ion battery pack, which was developed in-house, is good for up to 90 kWh. Since thermal well-being is essential, the energy cells are wrapped by a cooling and heating circuit integrated in the outer rails of the frame. In summer, two cooling modes (diverting 1.5 kWh or 2.5 kWh of power) will keep temperatures in the 70 to 80 degree bracket. In the cold season, a highly efficient heat pump can extend the driving range by up to 31 miles.

You would think that removing the engine, transmission and AWD system would make for a lightweight whisperliner, but Hoban is quick to squash such hope.

“The curb weight actually goes up to 2100 kilos (4,630 lbs), that’s a 300-kilo (660-lb) penalty over the F-Pace. You see, the frame filled with batteries adds 600 kilos (1,320 lbs) to the tally, each motor weighs about 90 kilos (200 lbs), and the cooling system makes up for 100 kilos (220 lbs). That’s not bad for a BEV, but the F-Pace is quantifiably trimmer.”

Jaguar I Pace Concept rear three quarter in motion 03

Stretching the wheelbase by 4.5 in to 117.7 in made room for more power packs and for a more spacious rear seat compartment. The heavy belly section subsides the center of gravity by a useful 0.8 in, and that’s of course prior to fitting optional low-profile 22-in wheels and tires.

Weight distribution is spot-on at 50:50, while the L x W x H dimensions — 184.3 in x 74.4 in x 61.4 in — are more compact than those of the marque’s other SUV and the proportions have also changed for the better.

“We managed to pull the cowl forward by some 200mm (7.9 in),” explains Ian Callum. “This gives the car a sportier stance, and it creates a fresh visual balance between the shorter front and the stubby rear end. Because of the coupé roofline, a four-lite greenhouse made more sense than the classic six-lite.”

Without going into detail, Jaguar describes the powertrain layout as consisting of two rare earth permanent magnet motors coupled to a synchronous single-speed epicyclic concentric transmission. The combined output of the electric drive units (EDU) is 400 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is of course part of the package, as are the electrically-fed air suspension and steering rack. The air suspension will automatically drop the body by one notch above 60 mph and raise it by two prior to eventual off-road excursions.

At 84 lbs each, the compact motors are relatively light, but auxiliaries such as the rear-mounted performance electronics push the tally to 200 lbs. The space-saving transmission is sandwiched between motor and driveshafts. It acts as side-to-side diff, but torque vectoring is only by brake actuation.

The I-Pace is being advertised as the ultimate electric performance SUV. Define the term ultimate for us, would you, Mr Hoban?

“We put an end to range anxiety by achieving over 500 km (220 miles on the EPA test cycle) between charges. The I-Pace can accelerate in around 4.0 sec from 0-60 mph, which puts it on par with the F-Type R. And thanks to the radically advanced packaging concept, rear seat accommodation equals that of a luxury saloon — not to mention those 530 liters (18.7 cubic feet) of luggage space.”

In contrast to the formidable acceleration performance, flat-out Autobahn stints are not the forte of this car, which will be governed at-a-yet-to-be-determined speed to protect its inner workings. As for charge times, when hooked up to a decent AC wallbox, the I-Pace needs about 90 minutes to reach 80 percent of max power.

Integrated in the front wing are five LED bars which signal the state of charge when the vehicle is hooked to the mains. A faster DC charger is allegedly around the corner, and before long cordless inductive charging is going to be common practice. Right now, the I-Pace batteries could digest up to 450 volts, which is available exactly nowhere. As soon as more potent energy cells become available, owners will likely be able to swap them at cost for the older hardware.

Other updates are to be offered over the air — think temporarily more grunt for a day trip through the Alps, more top speed for 30 minutes on the motorway, more on-demand assistance systems, more infotainment functions. As far as driving dynamics go, we may see innovations such as rear-wheel steering, adaptive anti-roll bars and active aerodynamics later in the lifecycle. The timing for such innovations is still blurry, however, and Jaguar would probably prefer to extend the warranty on everything electric before adding complexity.

Jaguar I Pace Concept rear three quarter 03

The pewter metallic show car is fitted with loud 23-inch Nighthawk wheels, which look a bit silly on such an expressively pragmatic vehicle. Despite the upright posture and the relatively large frontal area, the I-Pace checked out of the wind tunnel at a remarkable 0.29. Jaguar could have done even better by replacing the door mirrors with cameras, but this technology probably won’t be type-approved before the start of production.

Functionally, the grille is solid from the bottom up to the lit Jaguar roundel. Only the top third of the intake lets through cooling air when required. Most of the oxygen is channeled through the front spoiler and over the front motor before exiting via a wide duct in the bonnet. The large-diameter disc brakes perform according to a multi-stage energy regeneration program that dramatically increases lift-off deceleration should the driver so desire, in which case he can tap the lo-hi control button on the steering-wheel, SLS eDrive-style.

While some exterior details like the roof spoiler and the wraparound electric blue stripes may not be to everyone’s taste, the interior is absolutely beautiful. We were not yet allowed to check out head- and legroom or the so-called Sports Command driving position, but the bucket seats, which are mounted on slim center spines, look supportive and comfortable. The transparent roof makes the cabin appear light and airy and it’s a pity that the space-efficient, single-runner solution does not meet side impact standards.

Since there is no transmission tunnel to worry about, adding a comfortable third rear seat would be the easiest trick in the book. As it is, the space between the front seats is filled by a tall storage cubicle, which swallows up to two gallons of stuff. Although the main trim material is gray leather, interior designer Alistair Wheelan and his team are already working on a special-edition model kitted out with 100-percent man-made surfaces.

The dashboard has been shaped around the new Flightdeck theme, which will, like the floating center console, recur on future Jaguar models. Primary information is provided by a configurable 12-inch HD instrument cluster and a full-color head-up display. The main supporting act is a flush-fitting 12-inch TFT in-dash flatscreen complemented by a smaller touchpad right below that’s framed by two large rotary controllers and rounded off by a push-button gear selector.

As mentioned earlier, the gearbox has only one speed, forward or reverse, with no artificial up- or downshifts programmed in. Right across the dashboard runs a strip of dark open-pore walnut, which was shaved off a fallen tree, so Mother Nature won’t object. The glove box is no box, but is instead a large pull-out tray lined with black leather embossed with the pictogram of an old-school driving glove. The sculptured door panels are covered with a new type of Alcantara, which looks and feels like thin felt but is allegedly totally wear-resistant. And, since there is no third-row seat option, the full-width hydrophobic glass tailgate cowers like a streamlined bubble over the sizable flat boot.

It’s an open secret that when it arrives in mid-2018, the production version of the I-Pace, dubbed project X590, will be assembled by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. This plant currently produces the Mercedes G-class and the Mini Countryman/Paceman. Why Magna? Because the Canada-based supplier has a history of putting together high-quality low-volume premium vehicles like the Aston-Martin Rapide and Aston’s VH architecture is not unlike Jaguar’s modular, all-aluminium D7a components set. Capacity is flexible, offering a wide scope of between 20,000 and 50,000 vehicles per year. The five-year plan for I-Pace pegs the average output in the 20,000 to 30,000 range, but this can and will grow with proliferation.

In the medium term, we expect a lesser and more keenly priced 300-hp version as well as a high-end, 500-hp R-Sport. Also in the cards is a long-wheelbase seven-seater, which would offer more battery space as well and extra revenue without overstretching the budget. About 18 months after I-Pace has gone on sale, Jaguar is expected to present its second BEV in the shape of the XJ replacement, also based on D7a and again made by Magna.

Jaguar I Pace Concept rear three quarter in motion 02

A Concept in Name Only

Jaguar calls it a concept, but the I-Pace is so fully realized and its specifications so fleshed out that we expect to see it enter production in 2018 with only minimal changes.

The I-Pace is Jaguar’s first all-electric vehicle, a five-seat “performance SUV” that, the company claims, will use a liquid-cooled 90-kWh lithium-ion battery pack to deliver a 220-mile range between charges. With Jaguar’s recent announcement that it’s entering the all-electric Formula E racing series, expect to see a greater emphasis on battery power.

Speaking of power: The I-Pace will be powered by synchronous permanent-magnet electric motors stationed at the front and rear, generating a combined output of 400 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, with the bonus of as-needed all-wheel drive. Jaguar claims a 0-to-60 mph time of about four seconds.

One of the concept’s features that might not make it to production is the set of 23-inch Nighthawk wheels, wrapped with 265/35/R23 rubber. Front and rear suspension design is comparable to the F-Pace.

“The Jaguar I-Pace Concept is one of the most visually arresting concepts ever produced by Jaguar,” the company claims, and we beg to disagree: It certainly has a performance profile and, as the official press release continues, “powerful rear haunches,” but we’re not sure that the I-Pace design is a substantial improvement over its eventual stablemate, the less busy F-Pace. There are, however, multiple air-cheating design touches that contribute to a commendable drag coefficient of 0.29.

With a 117.7-inch wheelbase — the F-Pace’s wheelbase is 113.2 inches — the I-Pace is a relatively large vehicle. Cargo volume is 18.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats, with another cubic foot available under the hood.

The interior is as deluxe as you’d expect, with a massive emphasis on electronics and interface. And more: “Labels with Jaguar paw prints are stitched into the seams of the seats for a playful accent and symbolize the warmth and wit unique to the Jaguar brand.” Yes, well.

Not mentioned in the I-Pace specs is the vehicle’s weight, which is important (Jaguar estimates just north of 4,600 lbs), or its approximate price, which is very important. With the very capable F-Pace bargain-priced in the low $40,000-range, the I-Pace’s price (expected to be around $85,000) will be the deciding factor in whether Jaguar is creating an all-electric sport SUV — with the emphasis on “sport” — for the especially well-to-do who are more intent on making a statement than saving money on fuel, or something intended to start a revolution of practicality-meets-fun.

If it’s the former, the Los Angeles auto show is a perfect place for the I-Pace’s debut. – Steven Cole Smith

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