The first thing you notice about the new Jaguar I-Pace fully electric all-wheel-drive crossover: It’s unlike any other Jaguar ever made. The second thing you notice after a few more minutes behind the wheel is that the I-Pace is a Jaguar through and through. You half expect to find a cup of hot Earl Grey waiting in the center console the next time you drive it.
This is a remarkable machine, a road going device imbued with cutting-edge technologies and electric propulsion to carry it well into our rapidly evolving 21st-century transportation future, yet it’s equally warm, luxurious, and, yes, even analog. This is an engineering feat not to be underestimated. The Tesla Model S, in comparison, subjectively feels more high-tech, more digital, and more remote in its driving responses, less elegant and plush inside. The Jaguar’s advantage stems from more than 80 years of luxury-motoring heritage. No newcomer, even one as successful as Tesla, could hope to compete against such a rich tapestry of old-world elegance and style.
Mind you, “old” is the last word that would ever come to mind after exploring the I-Pace. The leather-lined cabin is refined and sumptuously appointed, but it’s also gleaming with chrome accents and modern-day digital displays. The exterior shape is trendsetting, too. Thanks to the tidy size of the two identical electric motors (one for the front axle, one for the rear), Jaguar chief designer Ian Callum and his team were able to pull the cabin well forward, creating a remarkably spacious interior from what at a glance appears to be a compact overall package. The shape is cool, too, with a stubby but rakish profile, meaty 20-inch wheels and tires pushed out to each corner (22s are available), and interesting cutlines, scoops, and visual embellishments that add way more visual excitement than you’ll find in the otherwise mostly pedestrian compact hatchback/crossover class. The shape is also as efficient as it is pretty, boasting a claimed drag coefficient of just 0.29. I began to lose count of how many onlookers chased me down to learn more about my stunning Caesium Blue Metallic test vehicle. At the moment, there really isn’t anything else on the road quite like the I-Pace.
The name is apt, because this cat has pace aplenty. Jaguar claims a zero-to-60-mph time of just 4.5 seconds—and that’s from a rig weighing around 4,800 pounds! The sensation from the driver’s seat is like being hurled forward by a very mannered and genteel slingshot. If you need some aural accompaniment, the I-Pace will feed a futuristic, Jetsons-like powertrain noise through the audio-system speakers (it becomes more strident with speed), but most of the time I drove with the system turned off, preferring the Jag’s relaxing quiet. You never get tired of the immediate response from the massive torque supply. As an urban runabout, the I-Pace is near-perfect, scooting away from stoplights with electric ease, nipping and tucking through gaps in busy highway traffic at the touch of the right pedal, always feeling solid, secure, and unflappable. The high seating position helps with the view ahead, too.
The steering is smooth and communicative, and the response of the regenerative brakes commendably refined, allowing you to easily bring the Jag to a drama-free stop. There is a choice of braking modes, configurable via the touchscreen. In High Regen mode, simply lifting off the accelerator will cause the vehicle to decelerate sharply—no braking required. Indeed, with careful timing it’s possible to drive almost without ever using the brake pedal at all (I found it to be a fun exercise in inertia management). In Low Regen, the I-Pace behaves more like a conventional vehicle, coasting once you’ve lifted off the accelerator. Also configurable are three available drive modes: Comfort, Eco, and Dynamic. Eco maximizes range (the EPA rates the I-Pace at 234 miles on a full charge), while Dynamic stiffens the air suspension, thickens the steering, and quickens throttle response. Comfort splits the difference. I used Dynamic mode almost exclusively and found ride comfort to be supple and well-damped even in that most aggressive setting. Overall, the Jag drives and performs like a well-balanced sporty car. No enthusiast would be disappointed with its dynamics.
While the main controls—steering, throttle, brakes—are excellent, the digital touchscreen interfaces are subpar. Unfortunately, as in other Jaguar Land Rover products, the main 10-inch display is lazy in responding to commands and haphazard in acknowledging tapped inputs. There are design issues, too. For instance, without a simple rotary knob to access the radio dial, the only easy way to find the station you want is to input the number directly. That said, if you don’t know the Sirius/XM channel number you’re after by heart, you’ll have to tap-tap-tap-tap-tap (or swipe) up or down the long channel list until you finally find it. It’s annoying. On a better note, the Bluetooth key fob remembers the driver and, as you approach the vehicle, it’ll automatically configure everything from seat position to A/C temp to radio presets based on your preferences. It even learns your habits. If you regularly listen to, say, NPR on your drive to work and Fox News on your drive home, the I-Pace will know to switch to the latter at the end of the work day.
Right now, the I-Pace stakes a legitimate claim to being the most complete EV you can buy. During a week behind the wheel, I hit a ChargePoint station (at the mall) only once, adding 30–40 miles of range during a one-hour errands and shopping stop. But that was really only for giggles; I could’ve easily driven the entire week without ever plugging in and without getting near the final quarter of the battery’s charge. So the range is there, barring a long work commute. What’s more, the I-Pace is more engaging and fluid to drive than just about any other EV I’ve sampled thus far. Add in its luxurious appointments and innovative styling, and you have a 21st-century Jaguar with a unique and undeniable appeal, one that’s at least a year ahead of coming rivals from Germany.
Hey, it’s the coolest battery-powered cat toy you can buy.
2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 HSE Specifications
|PRICE||$81,495/$88,840 (base/as tested)|
|MOTORS||2 permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 197 hp, 256 lb-ft; combined output, 394 hp, 512 lb-ft|
|BATTERY||90.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack|
|TRANSMISSION||1-speed direct drive|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front- and rear-motor, AWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||80/72 MPGe (city/highway)|
|EPA MAX RANGE||240 miles (est)|
|240V CHARGE TIME||13 hours (est)|
|L x W x H||184.3 x 74.6 x 61.3 in|
|WEIGHT||4,800 lb (est)|
|0-60 MPH||4.5 sec|
|TOP SPEED||124 mph|