Electrifying I-Pace is Jaguar’s concept-turned-EV-reality

Although not the first off-the-blocks, Jaguar’s latest i-Pace is both style-centric and an on-the-money inspiration, reports Iain Robertson, having taken his first drive of the newcomer that sets fresh standards in the premium Electric Vehicle (EV) market.

Eco-friendly transport is earning a repute for being allowed to stray from design conventions, as a means to declare a ‘new way’ in mobility. In some respects, it can take an avant-garde direction, as evinced by the tiny Honda Insight hybrid coupe of 2001, or even the current all-electric BMW i3, which contrasts starkly with Tesla’s ‘beauty-first’ stance. However, Jaguar’s design team has adopted a ‘straight-from-drawing-board’ attitude, for the Graz, Austrian-built i-Pace, which is sure to guarantee a ‘double-take’ spin-on-the-heels for any early observer.

Some of the most intriguing motorcars in the world have been designed from the inside out. The resultant benefits in space utilisation are plentiful and the i-Pace is a good example of this process, which happens to make it the roomiest Jaguar (probably) of all time, barring long-wheelbase specials, naturally. Cramming a space between front and rear axles with a Lithium-ion battery pack ensures that a long wheelbase results on a car that is actually 50mm shorter overall than Jaguar’s F-Pace (the company’s SUV model). In fact, the i-Pace’s wheelbase is 130mm longer than that of the F-Pace. Sitting on a choice of big alloys that can be up to 22.0-inches in diameter is the stylist’s dream ticket but Jaguar takes fullest advantage of a wheel-at-each-corner to ensure that occupant space is maximised.

Cladding a raft of technology in an aerodynamic all-alloy body is an essential move to reduce the weight of a car that tips the scales at a hefty 2.133-tonnes. However, there is measure in the apparent madness of its appearance, with a near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution and a chassis (when fitted with the optional air suspension) that can be hunkered down from SUV height, to take advantage of its roll-free, dive-free and pitch-free handling characteristics, more on which in a moment.

At standstill, i-Pace looks swoopy, yet slightly forbidding. There is an apparent tensile strength to its dimensions, which are far more compact than pictures suggest. Of course, extensive wind tunnel work has formed its ingenious outline, which, if the low-down bulk of the battery pack is insufficient, has enough aerodynamic tweaks to create a few extra degrees of downdraught. Hence, the pertinently rounded body shell, the smooth edges to the Jaguar signature grille and the virtually flat Kamm tail. However, it is a driver-friendly package, possessing much of the hide-bound logic expected of a high-end Jaguar, complete with graphic ‘Growlers’ just where you expect to find them, once you crack open the flush-mounted and emerging door handles, also used by the Range Rover Velar.

The Velar touches continue inside, with the digitised triple-screen displays for instruments, sat-nav/connectivity and heating-and-ventilation, which, apart from mild styling deviations, are advanced in appearance but eminently logical in use. Sportier seats are optional but the standard offering is accommodating and very comfortable, even though the inevitably higher floor (beneath which the big battery pack is located) feels odd on first acquaintance. There is plenty of passenger space, front and rear, with around 570-litres of boot space, despite the raised floor level.

Driving i-Pace proves to be a revelation. The headline figures are 295bhp, allied to 513lbs ft of instant torque, which result in a 0-60mph benchmark blast in a mere 4.5s, before maxing-out at around 125mph. Tesla was a clear inspiration to Jaguar’s development team and, while in ‘Ludicrous’ mode, a Model S (which has XJ dimensions remember) can blitz 0-60mph in a mere 2.4s, something that can reach it quicker than you can say it remains immensely impressive.

However, Jaguar has a dynamically sporting image to uphold and EV, or not, i-Pace has to deliver on the handling front. It does. With aplomb. Even mashing the accelerator pedal into the carpet, while cornering, results in a faithful response from the car. Grippy tyres help but so does the lightweight but impeccably damped suspension that rides out any surface irregularities with cool fluency. Pushed to the limit, the i-Pace will understeer, which is as much due to its all-wheel drive system, as the hefty kerbweight. Yet, a light throttle lift returns the car to the chosen road position immediately. In truth, you scarcely feel the platform bulk, as the i-Pace is so beautifully resolved in its handling envelope.

Twin electric motors drive all four wheels through a single-speed epicyclic transmission operated by P-R-N-D pushbuttons. Progress can be stately and near-silent, or verging-on-hypercar, with practised and planned use of the throttle, which also doubles as an energy regenerator and slowing medium that turns the i-Pace into a ‘single-pedal’ driving operation, like most EVs. Its nominal range is around 300-miles on a full charge (a 40-minutes supercharge will provide 80% of battery power; 10 hours for full-charge from a domestic wall-box).

Of course, awaiting on the side-lines is British EV specialist, Octopus Electric Vehicles, a well-funded subsidiary of Octopus Energy, itself owned by £8.6bn funds management company, Octopus Group. Octopus is your ethical EV ally. Its unbiased views (it is not a car sales medium but is a mobility service provider) and total support package that ranges from lease rates that will not make your eyes water, to the provision of renewable energy resources (which can be as low as 5p/kWh, instead of the National Grid rate of four times the amount) are valuable assets. You can reach the EV specialist on: octopusev.com.

Three trim levels, S, SE and HSE are available and i-Pace proves to be a thrilling driver’s car, as well as the only true rival to Tesla. It is priced from a moderate £64,495 (£60,995 with government plug-in grant) and, with the best lease rates available through Octopus, it can be surprisingly affordable and around half the cost expectations of a Tesla. If there is one minor niggle, it lies in the quality of its interior detailing, which is good but feels more mainstream than upmarket.

‘Make Quality Count!’

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