New Jaguar I-Pace 2018 review

4 Jun, 2018 11:30am Jonathan Burn

Can the new Jaguar I-Pace, the brand's first ever EV, steal a march on rivals? We get behind the wheel to find out...

Verdict

5
Jaguar has succeeded in not only creating the best electric car on sale but perhaps one of the most exciting cars you can buy. From the way it looks to the way it drives the I-Pace is a real game changer for Jaguar and electric cars overall. It’s not perfect: the ride could be softer and brakes more responsive but as a first attempt at an EV Jaguar has nailed it. Still thinking of ordering that Tesla?

The most important Jaguar since the E-Type – that’s how company bosses describe the new I-Pace SUV. It’s been difficult to avoid the hubbub surrounding the electric SUV; billions of pounds have been poured into its development and over 1.5 million miles have been driven in prototypes across the globe to ensure Jaguar gets it right. 

The I-Pace pretty much defines a new segment - luxury electric SUVs - and one that is soon to be saturated with rivals from Audi, Mercedes and BMW; even VW and Skoda will be getting in on the act in two years time. Company bosses won’t admit it publicly but even they are surprised they managed to beat the Germans to market, and because of that Jaguar has everyone’s attention. 

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“But what about Tesla?” you ask. Jaguar doesn’t view the American startup as a genuine competitor - it isn’t luxurious enough, it says, although lots of people will disagree – but bosses do acknowledge Tesla as an accelerator of the technology and the reason why every major car company is now racing to develop a fleet of electric cars. Tesla proved categorically there is an appetite for this sort of vehicle - now everyone wants a piece of the action.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the noise Jaguar has been making about the I-Pace, a quick recap. The SUV is the first car to be based on the firm’s new ‘skateboard’ architecture, one that is for fully electric cars only and will go on to underpin a whole family of future Jag EVs. The I-Pace is powered by a 90kWh battery (8-year/100,000-mile warranty), which drives two electric motors to give four-wheel drive. The system develops 396bhp and 696Nm of torque – enough for 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and a range of 298 miles of ‘real world driving’.

Now, what’s it like? In a word, beautiful. Away from the bright lights of a motor show stand and in the flesh the I-Pace looks fantastic - the proportions are superb. It’s squat, muscular stance and short overhangs mean there’s little else like it on the road. That may cause a problem for Jaguar, however, as it will age everything else in its showrooms by 10 years.

Climb inside and things look more familiar. In First Edition models, like we’re driving here, the cabin is a sea of leather, polished woods and aluminium. Despite the mountain of battery cells beneath the floor the driving position is excellent; lots of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel mean you can make it feel more like an F-Type behind the wheel, with the steering wheel up high and close to your chest.

The stubby bonnet is joined by a vast expanse of dashboard inside to give the I-Pace the feel of a long-nosed classic Jag. The cabin is also wonderfully airy; a huge panoramic glass roof, thin A-pillars and large windows create a real sense of space inside. 

The starter button located to the left of the centre console brings the I-Pace to life - hit D on the drive select and you’re off. Like every electric car it whirrs off without raising a whisper and is quickly up to 30mph in near silence. There’s an evident firmness to the ride at low speed, but it’s not what you’d call uncomfortable. Weighing 2.2 tonnes and riding on 20-inch alloys (22-inch wheels are available) does mean a mighty thud if you hit a pothole or particularly rutted stretch of road, however. The ride settles at speed with the standard air suspension – regular steel springs are fitted on the rest of the range – doing a reasonable job of smoothing out the ride – but you are always aware of the car’s mass.

Is it faster than a Tesla? No, is the simple answer. But the I-Pace is about so much more than acceleration. It has sense of poise, agility and precision that you won’t find in any other electric car – for this reason the I-Pace isn’t just a game changer for Jaguar, but the industry and electric cars in general.

Of course with 396bhp and 696Nm of torque available from a standstill the I-Pace feels is exceedingly quick - quicker than the 4.8 seconds Jaguar says it takes to get from 0-62mph. To replace the absence of engine noise Jag has fitted a synthetic soundtrack, which you can adjust from ‘calm’ to ‘dynamic’ – it’s a neat feature and adds to the sense of speed, but it's a bit of a gimmick and we quickly left it alone. 

But what marks the I-Pace out against the rest of the EV pack is its steering and rock solid body control. This may be a 2.2 tonne SUV, but in truth it feels more like a sports car with the way it twists and slaloms itself down the tight and technical mountain roads of Portugal where we’re first getting to grips with the car. 

Initially the steering is a little vague just off centre but it weighs up beautifully and instills the car with a sense of precision you don’t get in a Tesla Model X. Turn into a corner at speed and it remains remarkably flat while the car works out which axle can make best use of all the available torque. 

Mid corner you can feel the motors shuffling power between them to help slingshot you round as fast and as smoothly as possible – the result is unbreakable traction. The I-Pace changes direction with real athleticism and a nimbleness, which is partly down to its suspension setup that is shared with the F-Type. The bulk of the car’s mass is also located as low down as possible to help reduce the car’s centre of gravity.

Of course the I-Pace doesn’t entirely defy physics; if you barrel into a corner a whiff of understeer scrubs off some speed before the traction control is able to nibble away at the front axle. However, it took three laps of Portimao racetrack before the I-Pace showed any blemishes in its dynamic makeup. 

If there is a weak spot it’s the brakes - but that’s not uncommon for an electric car. The pedal feel is soft and mushy for the first half of its travel before eventually firming up albeit artificially. However, the I-Pace does feature regenerative braking which means you rarely have to touch the brakes at all – as soon as you lift off the throttle the I-Pace begins slow until it comes to a complete and natural stop. It’s a wonderful feature and immediately makes you more aware of when and where to apply the throttle. 

Draining the battery is a lot of fun then, but topping it up takes longer than Jaguar will have you believe. A 40-minute blast from a 100kw charger will give you almost 240 miles of range – trouble is there isn’t a single 100kw charger in the UK. A 50kw charger – of which there are 3,178 – takes 85 minutes to achieve the same amount of range. But the majority of buyers will top up at home or the office from a smaller 7kw charger or wallbox, which takes over 12 hours for a 100 per cent recharge.

Elsewhere, the flat floor and lack of engine means the I-Pace is surprisingly practical and crammed with handy storage solutions. The central armrest hides a 10-litre cubby, the centre console has been hollowed out and features two USB charging ports for mobile phones, while pull out trays beneath the rear seats can swallow a laptop or iPad each. 

There’s also a decent amount of space in the back. Your feet slide neatly under the seat in front and because there’s no transmission tunnel and plenty of headroom you could seat three adults in the rear – although shoulder room may be a little tight. The boot is flat and can swallow 656 litres of luggage, while dropping the rear bench frees up 1,453 litres in total – only marginally smaller than an Audi Q5. There’s also a 27-litre ‘froot’ under the bonnet. 

You won’t be left wanting for extra kit on First Edition models either – it’s a limited run top spec model that is on sale for 12 months only. It includes a panoramic roof, air suspension, heated steering wheel and windscreen, four-zone climate control, 20-inch alloy wheels and a full leather interior. The rest of the I-Pace range is made up with S, SE and HSE specification. 

Whichever spec you go for all come with Jag’s new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system comprising a 10-inch touchscreen on the dash and small five-inch display on the centre console. It looks incredibly slick and for the most part simple to use, although you can get lost in the layers of menus and sub menus when trying to adjust some of the car’s settings. The lack of haptic feedback can make it tricky using it on the move, especially using when trying to select some of the shortcuts buttons along the bottom of the display they are quite small. And at long last Jaguar will offer the I-Pace with Apple CarPlay at some point in the future meaning you can bypass Jag’s infotainment system entirely if you wish. 

Key specs

  • Model: Jaguar I-Pace First Edition
  • Price: £81,495
  • Engine: 90kWh lithium-ion battery, two electric motors
  • Transmission: Single speed auto, all-wheel drive
  • Power/torque: 396bhp/696Nm
  • 0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 124mph
  • Range: 298 miles
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • Charging time: 12hrs 36mins 100% charge from 7kw wallbox
  • On sale: Now