FARO, PORTUGAL — The cars are lined up nose to tail in the pits, gleaming in the early afternoon Algarve sun and ready for maximum attack. Helmets on, we climb in, hit the stop/start button and … silence. But it’s on alright, its three high-def screens alight and displaying information. Dynamic mode selected and D button pushed, we creep out of our spot and toward Turn 1 of the Algarve International Circuit in an all-electric crossover. Yes, you read that right.
Although we’re not exactly sure what to expect once we get up to speed out on the track (complicating matters is that it’s our first time at Portimão), we already have a pretty good idea that the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is going to acquit itself quite well. Because we’ve already put it through its I-Paces all over southern Portugal, and it has taken that flogging from us with barely a whimper—and barely making one as we did.
The I-Pace is one of a number of electric vehicles headed to the showrooms of mainstream automakers in the next year or two. If the majority of them end up coming out like Jag’s first effort, we’re going to find out pretty soon whether this whole EV thing is for real, because this sleek crossover-hatch is the real deal.
Its baseline specs are impressive enough for a vehicle of this type. Jag says it hits 60 mph in 4.5 seconds—not bad for a vehicle that weighs roughly 4,800 pounds. Range is always a talking point, and with an estimated 240 miles to a charge (official EPA numbers haven’t been posted quite yet), it’s on par with a Tesla Model X 75D.
Step on the gas, er, electrons—or whatever you want to call it—and the I-Pace gives you that instant torque shove characteristic of EVs, which will push you back in its comfortable and supportive driver’s seat. Its single-speed automatic delivers power to the I-Pace’s front and rear synchronous electric motors located on each axle that combine to deliver 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque at peak efficiency. Power is supplied by a 90-kwHr battery pack with 432 pouch cells that look like individually wrapped Pop Tarts, about 1,400 pounds worth of them boxed and stored in the car’s floor. It’s not ludicrously fast, but any all-EV vehicle with a sub-five-second 60 mph time is going to feel faster than it is, and the I-Pace is no exception.
The electric Jaguar crossover delivers power to the rear motor up to 30 mph. After that it optimizes delivery between the axles in an effort to keep range pegged. Other tricks to find a few more miles include a higher brake regeneration setting that you can switch to if you desire, which can make for mainly one pedal driving depending on situation. Another clever feature is the addition of a creep mode that mimics the off-brake forward movement of a traditional automatic. It works as intended.
One issue that has been perplexing automakers with a performance heritage to maintain like Jaguar is how to create sound for an EV, a noise that mimics the aggressive driving experience that the Leaper is famous for. It’s a double-edged issue, as many EV fans enjoy the diminished racket, and indeed at low speeds the I-Pace is as hush-hush as expected. Jag engineers had a go at creating some aural dynamism and allow you to dial up the artificial jams that get a smidge more raucous when you’re jamming in Dynamic mode on some of the Algarve region’s killer twisted-up backroads. It’s not going to make you forget a D-type’s wail, but it (sort of) does the job.
Jaguar also wanted to make sure the I-Pace would handle, and to that end it succeed quite well. Bolted onto what’s essentially an all-aluminum chassis is a version of the automaker’s double wishbone front and integral link rear setup—with anti-roll bars. It’s augmented by an air suspension that allows the crossover to be raised and lowered about two inches depending on the setting. It also automatically drops the car around a quarter inch in high-speed situations.
Aerodynamics also play a huge part in getting range up, and lead designer Wayne Burgess and his team worked some interesting angles on the I-Pace, not the least of which was bending the top of the modern Jaguar look grille and opening up a gap in the hood area, which pushes air over the huge expanse of glass that tops the crossover and to the rear rooftop spoiler. When combined with the other work done to push air away from the car, the effect is that swirling dust and rain are kept off of the back window, nixing the need for a rear wiper—made possible in part by the I-Pace’s EV packaging.
Other interesting fun facts about the I-Pace: it can ford water up to just short of 20 inches high (we splashed through a tiny creek and tackled a couple of light off-roading obstacles with ease), it has a near 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, and a lithe 0.29 drag coefficient with the 18-inch tire/rim package. We rolled primarily on the optional 22-inch setup, and a 20-inch option is also available.
It can also get around a track. The fact that Jag had the stones to let us loose in the I-Pace at Portimao was impressive in its own right. As we’ve outlined, driving an EV is a different experience, as a couple of hot laps in the battery-powered cat reinforced. It’s hard to immediately wrap your head around a car that essentially starts trail braking the second you lift, one that is balanced but heavy. While we tackled the circuit well enough and approached its 124 top end on the long straight, the brake pedal itself can be a bit on the soft side when you first put your foot to it. The steering wheel feels great to hand with its diameter and thickness, and its heavy turn-in worked well for the track and aggressive maneuvering, but seemed a bit ponderous and artificial at times in typical around town driving. While it exhibited some roll at the track, out on the squiggly ribbons we were straight up tearing it up and having an E-blast. What little bumpy stuff we encountered, the I-Pace soaked up fairly well, likely helped by its longish 117.7-inch wheelbase.
You typical I-Pace customer (i.e. well-off types in their 50s) is likely never going to go near a track unless they’re there to root on Nelson Piquet Jr. driving the Jaguar Panasonic I-Type E-Racer in the Formula E series. Or maybe one of the drivers who will pilot race-spec I-Paces later this year as part of a support series for Formula E called eTROPHY. Yeah, this EV was built to run very fast. We will not be shocked (sorry) to see a tuned version of the I-Pace soon enough.
No, what the I-Pace driver is likely to show off other than the pull from the stoplight to his or her friends is its InControl Remote app that can pre-condition the car to your optimum climate control settings, radio preferences, and the like. (Over the air updates will also be available.) Or the three digital screens (instrument panel, 10-inch main vehicle control navi/entertainment, and supplemental 5.5-inch screen below). Or the well-laid out, luxury leaning, and spatially optimized cab-forward cabin that will fit four grown humans with ease (five in a pinch)—or a decent amount of gear, especially with the back seats folded to offer up 51 cu-ft of space. Then there’s that impressive, all glass, stem to stern panoramic roof (which does not open, but hey, it looks super cool).
What those friends are also likely to ask though is how easy it is to charge it? Can it get to work three days straight or to my mountain hideaway and back?
The answer is mainly yes. The I-Pace has a feature that shows you how much battery life it has left at various points along a journey you set in the navigation, and will tell you where the nearest charging stations are. It can handle 50-kW DC (85 minutes to 80 percent charge) or 100-kW DC (40 minutes to 80 percent charge) charging. If you have a 240-volt setup in your garage, it’ll get to 80 percent in 10 hours or so, almost 13 to full charge. So there are some drawbacks, as charging stations can be hit or miss, although topping off to say 40 or 60 percent charge isn’t super onerous on a quicker charger. There’s no getting around the fact that the infrastructure and charge times are not to mass market standards, but if you don’t know that and aren’t prepared to deal with some of the downsides, an EV isn’t a great option at this point, you late adopter, you.
What the I-Pace proved to us is that Jaguar made an EV that’s really good and fun to drive. It is also prepared to put its plug where its socket is with a major 80,000-mile warranty for the battery. It’s a package that bodes well for what’s to come from other major automakers that are eager to see if the Tesla phenomenon is limited to Tesla, or if the car buying public is truly ready to embrace EVs, especially at the lower end of the market—although the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace most definitely does not reside there given its 70 grand starting point. One thing’s for sure, more competition will spur innovation, and after our drive we can safely say that Jaguar is off to one heck of a head start over most of the coming electrified horde.
2019 Jaguar I-Pace Specifications
|ON SALE||August 2018|
|MOTOR||Dual synchronous/200 hp, 512 lb-ft|
|BATTERY||Li-on/ 90 kWh|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front- and rear-motor, AWD Crossover|
|EPA MILEAGE||93/97 mpge (city/hwy) (est)|
|EPA MAX RANGE||240 miles (est)|
|240V CHARGE TIME||13 hours (est)|
|L x W x H||184.3 x 63.1 x 84.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.5 sec|
|TOP SPEED||124 mph|