2019 Jaguar I-PACE Review

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British-designed Jaguar I-PACE sets new EV benchmark with incredible depth of capability

What we liked:

• Acceleration

• Twin-motor traction

• Sensible interior

Not so much:

• Lane-keep assist

• It’s a heavy brute

• Range anxiety

The $119,000 Jaguar I-PACE is touted as ‘the world’s finest electric car’. Such a claim would seem tantamount to labelling Boris Yeltsin ‘the world’s finest ballerina’. But after a little investigation, it seems Jaguar’s pomposity is warranted: The Jaguar I-PACE battery-electric SUV is a hum-dinger. With a 480km range from its lithium-ion battery, refined but relentless acceleration via twin electric motors and undeniably impressive on-road manners, it sets a new benchmark.

EV revolution

The Jaguar I-PACE has a striking exterior design with trendy dynamic indicators and big 22-inch wheels.

Inside, it features two flip-out shopping bag hooks within its big 656-litre boot, plush seats, little cavities in the back for laptops or tablets and a deep 10-litre storage bin up front you can stuff almost anything into. There are six USB ports, three 12-volt sockets, massive door pockets and four easily reachable stowage options for your smartphone, even the big ones.

It’s the kind of car you could happily live with.

The Jaguar I-PACE also has supple suspension, plenty of interior space, oh, and a pair of very potent electric motors that provide cheek-rippling acceleration. I’m talking about the kind of acceleration that makes you sharply inhale, dilates your pupils and, on occasion, forces you to laugh like a hyena.

It’s primal stuff.

The Jaguar I-PACE has huge power reserves, with a beefy 294kW/696Nm twin-motor set-up

Tested on road, off-road and even on the racetrack (I kid you not), the battery electric Jaguar I-PACE passed muster with flying colours. It’ll run rings around the Tesla Model X  in a dynamic sense and could perhaps even turn a few Porsche Macan Turbo buyers to the light side of the force.

This new-fangled battery-electric vehicle is an impressively executed silent missile on wheels.

I’d even go so far to say the Jaguar I-PACE is arguably the most resolved EV to date. And the first of its kind with the potential to excite conventional car buyers – not just tech-heads, early-adopters and the self-righteous.

Indeed, the Jaguar I-PACE has polish, something rivals such as Tesla often lack. It acquits itself well in a wide variety of scenarios and, crucially, it gets the jump on upcoming electric luxury SUVs such as the Audi e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQ C.

Simply, the Jaguar I-PACE sets a new benchmark.

There’s more to the Jaguar I-PACE than meets the eye

I-PACE is a fast feline

Developed from the ground up as a clean-sheet vehicle, the Jaguar I-PACE (yes, all capital letters for the grammar weenies) shares very little with any of its Jaguar or Land Rover family members.

Built at the specialised Magna Steyr factory in Austria, the I-PACE is available to order now in Oz, spanning a four-model range from S to First edition and arriving from October 2018.

Model line-up:

Jaguar I-PACE S – $119,900
Jaguar I-PACE SE – $130,200
Jaguar I-PACE HSE – $140,800
Jaguar I-PACE First Edition – $159,700

For the full list of standard features check out our Jaguar I-PACE pricing story.

At the Jaguar I-PACE’s core is a super-stiff 90kWh lithium-ion battery pack (with nickel manganese cobalt chemistry) bookended by a pair of synchronous permanent magnet electric motors that punch out a combined 294kW/696Nm – similar to a supercharged V8.

At full whack the I-PACE feels like a sports car, ripping to 100km/h in just 4.8sec. The EV never has to drop a gear to find maximum thrust; the power band is everywhere and it’s gloriously rich.

Bury the throttle and a muted hum increasing in pitch is matched by mounting g-forces as the car blasts forward with the fiery intensity of Trinidad Scorpion chilli.

The Jaguar I-PACE is an impressively resolved motor vehicle

But the refined manner in which it pours on speed (even at full throttle) is perhaps more impressive than its brute force. It squeezes you into your supple leather seats whether launching from standstill or overtaking at 80km/h. Yet the power deliver is rarely abrupt — and it’s more addictive than baked cheesecake.

Overtaking is no longer a quirk of the impatient – it’s now an exultant and mildly euphoric event.

The only catch is, if you’re heavy on the throttle, your range will decrease rapidly and charging the thing in Australia won’t be easy given the lack of rapid recharging infrastructure compared to Europe, China and the US.

The super-dense liquid-cooled battery pack (it lives in a tightly-sealed water bath of sorts) will take about 38 hours to charge from a regular wall socket in Australia.

That’s about the same time it takes to the janitor to clean up the carsales.com.au office after the annual bring-your-pet-to-work day. (Who knew Matt Brogan owned a mountain cat?) In other words: too long.

Jaguar has crafted an appealing, upmarket interior for its first EV

So Jaguar Australia says it’s working with various energy providers to offer 7kW wall-box chargers, installed in customer’s homes/offices for around $1500, which reduce charge times to around 10 hours for an 80 per cent battery fill. These should really be part of the purchase package, if you ask me.

The I-PACE will be cheaper to ‘fuel’ than a regular petrol or diesel SUV, however, with an on-peak charge in Australia costing around $30, off-peak about half that. Solar warriors? You get your thrills for free.

Still, long charging times – 0-80% (around 400km) in 40 minutes with 100kW fast-chargers – and range anxiety will challenge many buyers who are weighing up the pros and cons of EVs.

It helps that Jaguar Australia has committed to installing more than 150 fast-chargers nationally, including at its 45 dealerships, at a cost of around $4 million, but will that be enough to sway those on the fence?

All local I-PACE buyers will also get a three-year subscription to the Jaguar’s new charging network, which is being installed by JET Charge using its Chargefox system, and all vehicles feature an on-board 7kW single-phase charger and a multi-function 32A Mode 2 universal charging cable.

‘Fueling up’ an EV takes a lot longer than in a petrol car

Jaguar I-PACE tracking well

The Jaguar I-PACE is a convincing EV nonetheless. It’s kind of like an overqualified chemistry professor genius who happens to be an ex-pro-surfer and military-trained survivalist taking a job at an Apple Store.

Most I-PACE SUVs will probably only ever commute, trot to the shops, visit friends and maybe blast down to the beach house, but the EV’s breadth of capability is astonishing. Jaguar was even brazen enough to let us thrash the I-PACE on the track and it sparkled.

This SUV/crossover has a touch of understeer on turn-in and if you attack a corner with too much heat there’s no hiding its 2.1 tonnes. But be clever with your line and tromp the throttle post apex and it hooks up like Fabio at a hen’s night.

It fires out of corners with almost a hint of oversteer thanks to its epic twin-motor set up, which offers completely independent torque delivery on both axles, plus left-to-right torque vectoring and makes the I-PACE really dance.

The Jaguar I-PACE is an absolute ripper on the racetrack

The way it grips and goes while exiting corners under full throttle, sending torque exactly where it’s best utilised, is supercar-like. Lump in a decent electric-powered steering rack with nice weighting and it makes the SUV incredibly engaging to drive at 8/10ths.

There’s very little body roll through corners, which is astonishing at racetrack speeds. The regenerative brakes were good for about three laps but the pedal got flaccid after five laps at Portimao. All things considered, the 350mm front and 325mm rear anchors performed as expected.

Maxing-out at 199km/h on the main straight? No drama.

It is unlikely owners will ever ‘track’ their Jaguar I-PACE. But knowing the powertrain is capable of smashing out lap after lap (something Tesla vehicles aren’t so good at) without losing performance bodes well. This appears to be a stout EV.

The Jaguar I-PACE has remarkably good ride comfort and road holding

Road warrior

The Jaguar I-PACE is also very well behaved on the road. The air suspension (a $2002 option on all models, standard on the $159,700 First Edition) delivers excellent ride comfort, even on the audacious 22-inch alloy rims.

Our launch road drive across two days took in some decrepit surfaces but the I-PACE always felt settled and smooth. It carves up corners like a sports car, the 50:50 weight distribution front to rear helping greatly, yet it also cruises like a luxo-barge.

On a couple of occasions mid-corner pot-holes upset the car’s rhythm slightly, but all in all it showed a clean pair of heels on the road.

The front suspension is borrowed from the Jaguar F-TYPE, meaning extruded aluminium double wishbones, which gives it a sporty feel, while the rear suspension is an evolution of the F-PACE’s integral-link rear-end. Air suspension can be augmented with continuously variable dampers ($2405) to minimise body roll even further.

The regenerative braking system is also very effective in normal use. You can set it to a ‘high’ or ‘low’, the former delivering strong braking whenever you let off the throttle. It cranks up to 0.2g of braking force which Jaguar reckons enables ‘single pedal driving’.

Never touch the brakes again? Not quite, but it comes close in urban areas.

It may be an SUV but there’s strong sports car cues in the I-PACE design

The big cat likes it dirty

The air suspension has various height settings (normal, access and off-road) spanning a 90mm range — 40mm lower for high-speed freeway driving and access, which occurs as soon as you turn off the car to improve entry/exit, and 50mm higher for off-road work.

Jaguar claims the I-PACE can wade up to 500mm and put its money where its mouth is with a short 5km off-road jaunt on the launch. The track went through a creek, with steep gravel ascents and descents thrown in for the good measure.

The EV performed the creek crossing easily. But the Jaguar I-PACE’s most impressive feat was the way it clambered up a slippery gravel incline. Because they’re not physically linked, the twin-motor set-up delivers absolute levels of torque control. Wheel slip? Barely any.

Given the almost 700Nm of torque available at a theoretical zero RPM, the Jaguar I-PACE felt like no other off-roader I’ve driven, effortlessly hauling its 2130kg mass uphill.

Using its ‘forward progress control’ system, it can automatically crawl up and down steep slopes by itself if you don’t want to do regulate progress manually.

We didn’t expect to be doing this in the $120,000 Jaguar I-PACE

Either way, it’s astonishingly capable and represents a new paradigm for off-roading. It’s that good and we cannot wait to see what sister-brand Land Rover can do with this technology.

The fact that it’s silent means you can drop the windows and feel a little closer to nature, hearing all the critters and tweety birds.

The breadth of capability the Jaguar I-PACE delivers simply hasn’t been seen before in an EV. Sure, the larger seven-seat Tesla Model X is faster in a straight line but it doesn’t have the refinement nor the all-round ability of the I-PACE.

Having said that, Jaguar’s chief engineer told me the I-PACE could smash Tesla’s ludicrous mode out of the water if it wanted to. However, the Jaguar development boffins wanted a more balanced product and aren’t gunning for bragging rights… yet.

Who wants a 500mm wading depth? Battery sealing must be pretty good

Luxo-tech interior

The experience inside the Jaguar I-PACE is just as polished as the drive, with a blend of technology and luxury we’ll call luxo-tech.

The fine-grain Windsor leather seat trim on the test vehicles looks and feel lovely, but I’m keen to try out the entry-level kit on the Jaguar I-PACE S models. They get a wool-blend upholstery, matched with recycled suede-like cloth developed in partnership with Danish textile expert Kvadrat. Sounds hipster-cool and should go well with my beard.

There’s plenty of space up front and, while I note that our UK operative John Mahoney thought rear head room was a bit tight in his preview drive, my head didn’t quite touch the panoramic glass roof (a $3380 option on all but the First Edition variants).

We can’t wait to try these entry-level cloth seats – bit of Volvo in there perhaps?

It’s not a seven-seater, nor does it feature a giant iPad-inspired touch-screen like the Tesla Model X, but the Brit’s fit and finish is miles ahead.

The Jaguar I-PACE is also very quiet inside the cabin (I was expecting more tyre roar, especially on the 22-inch rims) thanks in part to a clever noise reduction frequency. It’s akin to those noise-cancelling headphones. There is a subtle synthetic noise that’s a little bit Jetsons and a little bit sports bike, which is a welcome cue to let you know you’re accelerating.

The dashboard has few overt controls thanks to its twin touch-screen set-up dubbed Touch Pro Duo but, mercifully, it retains dials for temperature and volume adjustment. Scrolling through menus just to change the temperature can be frustrating.

Sports seats and bold red leather upholstery, anyone?

I do like the way the I-PACE’s central screens and controls are angled forward and there’s a useful storage area underneath it, but I kind of miss the rotary gear selector of older Jags. It’s just buttons now.

The upper 10-inch infotainment touch-screen is fairly intuitive, taking care of music, nav and phone integration, while the lower screen does the climate controls. I love the twin rotary controls with context sensitive displays, borrowed from the Range Rover Velar.

A large, digital instrument cluster and HUD round out the whiz-bang tech in the Jaguar I-PACE.

All the little things work well too – plug in a USB stick and you can play music. Same goes for Bluetooth streaming and there’s even a Bluetooth key fob that features AI to ‘learn’ your favourite climate control audio and phone settings.

The car will even figure out how many people are sitting in it and adjust the automatic climate-control to suit.

Incidental storage is excellent and the boot is surprisingly big at 656 litres, expanding to 1453 with the seats folded down. There’s also a 27-litre ‘froot’ (front boot) but it’s almost too small to be of any practical use for shopping bags and such.

What the froot?

Jaguar has ditched a rear windscreen wiper for a more elegant solution – hydrophobic rear glass and an angled rear spoiler that directs air across rear window. Does it work? No idea — it didn’t rain during the launch drive — but it sure sounds cool!

Apple CarPlay is available and some of the other cool connected features include the Jaguar Remote app that allows you check the charge, unlock the doors and pre-heat or cool the cabin remotely via your smartphone.

The I-PACE also has a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices and EV sat-nav that takes into account weather, topography, traffic (and your driving style!) to deliver the most efficient trip.

It will even update you with its range calculations. “You’re almost up Ship Creek,” may or may not be part of its digital repertoire.

The adaptive cruise control works well but not everything about the car’s autonomous features are sound. The lane-keep assist, for instance, was more of a steering-wheel vibrate system. The Jaguar I-PACE failed to remain in its lane – even on clearly marked freeways. Hopefully an over-the-air update will fix this.

Customise your ride in the I-PACE

Safe, affordable, awesome?

All I-PACE models come with autonomous emergency braking for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, six airbags, power operated child locks and a perimeter alarm system. Jaguar offers a three-year/100,000km warranty while the battery warranty is eight-year/160,000km.

Service intervals are two years or 34,000km, whichever occurs first, which will be music to the ears of owners as it reduces inconvenience and time off the road. The cost of each service is yet to be determined but expect it to be under $1500 a pop.

There are only a handful of criticisms to be levelled at the car and while the reality is that sales of the vehicle in Australia will be small, those who do take the plunge won’t be disappointed.

The twin-motor set-up is incredible, the way it fires out of corners is undeniably addictive and the practicality of zero-emissions motoring has never had so much appeal.

Onward and upward for the EV revolution

If the I-PACE was priced from $85,000 I reckon Jaguar would have a hit on its hands. At $119,000 it will struggle to find a sizeable audience.

The ‘world’s finest electric car’? That’s a big call, but I reckon it’s warranted. The Jaguar I-PACE takes the EV game to a far more sophisticated level than what’s been offered before and it sets an impressive new benchmark.

How much does the 2019 Jaguar I-PACE S cost?
  • Price: $119,000 (plus on-road costs)
  • Engine: Two synchronous permanent magnet electric motors, 90kWh
  • Output: 294kW/696Nm
  • Transmission: Two single-speed epicyclic automatic
  • Fuel: 480km range (WLTP cycle)
  • CO2: 0g/km (ADR Combined)
  • Safety rating: N/A

(motoring.com.au, http://bit.ly/2J7BJrc)

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