JAGUAR’S DESIGN BOSS TAKES ROBBO ON A NOSTALGIC ROAD TRIP IN THE MOST FORWARD-LEAPING CAT EVER
Nostalgic roadtrip with the designer of the Jaguar I-pace
THE SIGNIFICANCE of the date was lost on Ian Callum. Jaguar’s March 1, 2018, unveiling of the production I-pace at Magna’s Austrian assembly facility, occurred exactly 50 years after Bill Heynes, Jaguar’s Director of Engineering, wrote to the 13-year-old schoolboy telling him how to become a car designer.
Half a century later, Callum – for 19 years Director of Design at Jaguar – says the beautiful I-pace is, “my proudest achievement, ahead of everything else. The [Aston Martin] DB7 was monumental for me, but it was a conventional car, beautifully executed.”
What better way to celebrate the remarkable Callum story and the I-pace achievement than to drive Jaguar’s new electric car the 400km from his Whitley, Coventry, design studio to his boyhood home in Dumfries, Scotland?
In response to my February email suggesting the idea, an enthusiastic Callum replied, “I’d love to do that road trip … we can make it happen.”
Happen it did: six months later, with photographer Tom Salt along to record the often emotional, always fascinating story of a prodigal son’s triumphant homeward journey, we set off for Scotland in this most radical of all Jaguars. To show me the future, Ian Callum is taking me back to his past.
This, my first sighting of an I-pace, confuses me. How do you define a car with so long a wheelbase and radically short overhangs, that’s just a little taller than a sedan, but lower than most crossover SUVS? My admission to not being able to classify the I-pace produces a laugh from Ian. “That’s great, because it’s an I-pace rather than easily a definable car.”
It’s true, though American regulations mean the new Jag is classified as an SUV there. The 2990mm wheelbase is 30mm longer than the XF sedan, yet the I-pace is a massive 268mm shorter. A height of 1565mm means it’s about halfway between the F-pace SUV and XF sedan in loftiness. The H-point (seat cushion height) is 128mm higher than the XE, but 90mm lower than the F-pace and 232mm lower than a Range Rover. These are new and original proportions, still with a Jaguar beauty, that in some ways remind me of Citroen’s DS. There’s also a deliberate echo of the 2010 C-X75 electric supercar.
In hushed serenity that I initially find sci-fi weird, we depart: there’s no Jaguar engine note to enjoy and virtually no road noise, just instant and utterly seamless, silent power until, at motorway speeds, a gentle hum from the 22-inch Pirellis invades the interior. According to the car’s digital readout we have 350km of range.
First, I want to know more about the design and the cab-forward packaging.
“I’ve always wanted to design a car like this,” says Callum. “I could see an opportunity that you couldn’t do with [combustion] engines. I wanted to move the occupants forward, so it doesn’t have a long bonnet, but it’s still a Jaguar.”
How did Jaguar come to beat its German rivals to market with a mainstream electric car? Callum says that without the small models – A1, A-class, 1 Series – of its German rivals, it was impossible for Jaguar to meet future corporate average fuel consumption and emission targets. A candid Callum admits, “We contemplated a small car, but the business case was difficult and we know going into partnership on a small car [with another manufacturer] never works that well ... the move to an electric car was an instant solution.”
Enter Wolfgang Ziebart, a brilliant EX-BMW engineer and forward thinker, who joined Jaguar as head of product development in 2013. Callum immediately formed a creative bond with his German colleague. “This is a very single-minded car between Wolfgang and me … we’re
totally aligned.” Originally the electric car was allied to the XE, but the experienced Ziebart knew an existing platform wouldn’t work and that the electric car had to be a ground-up development.
The I-pace started with the wheelbase, and that was determined by the size of the 36 lithium-ion battery modules, flatmounted under the floor with front and rear synchronous electric motors at each end.
“When we started the project in the [northern] summer of 2014 there were doubters, including some designers,” relates Callum. “I sat down with Matt Beaven [chief exterior designer in Jaguar’s advanced studio] and we sketched around the hard-points. Two or three weeks later we had a CAD model. We only did one design, with slight variations, that we took to clay.” Ian admits the designers looked at one alternative with a boot, “especially for the Chinese market, but it didn’t work”. Later, packaging requirements demanded they pull the A-pillars 15mm rearwards.
Few designers are as candid as Ian Callum. “This is our most significant car: the F-type is beautiful, but the I-pace challenges the status quo. I don’t see why this couldn’t be the template for all our cars.”
Aerodynamics also played a huge part and produced some interesting approaches, not the least bending in the top third of the grille and opening up a gap at the rear of the bonnet area. This pushes air through under the bonnet and over the huge expanse of windscreen and roof to the rear rooftop spoiler, that’s essential to directing air down the rear (while adding stability). Rain and swirling dust are kept off the back window, eliminating the need for a rear wiper, though a very shallow rear screen means rear visibility is negatively impacted, making the reversing camera essential. The drag co-efficient of 0.29 is a tribute to Jaguar’s ability to refine the aero by CAD, the numbers later verified by the wind tunnel to be at least 95 percent accurate.
A 90-minute stop is planned for the Lancaster servo, over halfway to Dumfries. Time for lunch and, more importantly, to recharge the I-pace. By the time we find the charging station, the Jag (range 480km) has covered 224kms with 52 percent of the range remaining. The charger is limited to 45 minutes only, sufficient if this was one of the newer 100kw models (they give an 80 percent charge after just 40 minutes), but it’s an old 50kw charger. We leave knowing we’ll need another charge. Further experience reveals that even in the UK, which is far in advance of Australia, there is no getting around the fact that the charging infrastructure is not yet to massmarket standards.
My turn at the wheel confirms first impressions from the passenger seat: true refinement, a superb low-speed ride (vastly better than the F-pace), and roomy to the extent that a bench front seat version is doable. This is a comfortable interior with a stylish dashboard that shares various
“WE USED TO TRY AND GET AIRBORNE OVER THE HUMP IN DAD’S VAUXHALL VICTOR,” CALLUM SAYS
controls with the Land Rover Velar. I’m immediately aware of the effortlessly quick performance thanks to its zero-rpm peak torque. Even at half-throttle, this is a point-and-shoot car that exposes gaps in traffic. Nor does the power relent at higher speeds. The regenerative brakes are brilliant. In high-regen mode they slow the car so quickly when you lift off, the disc brakes are almost superfluous. After half a day’s driving I’m in love with the one-pedal driving style.
Not for the first time Ian’s phone vibrates. Ross Brawn, now managing director of F1 motorsport, wants an I-pace. Yes, Callum is well connected.
We take the A75 exit from the M6 motorway. Ian, very much at home, navigates us down into the valley and Dumfries, pointing out where he rode his bike through the hills. The loss of three major employers means Dumfries is a town in gentle decline. Then we’re outside the Callum’s modest family home, across the road from the primary school. Ian’s voice goes quiet as he walks up to the gate. “I used to stand here and watch the cars go by. That’s my bedroom I shared with my brother,” he points to a window. “The driveway used to be gravel and there were no parked cars on the road.” One day, there’ll be a plaque on this house.
Ian was nine when the family moved to a grander house overlooking the river Nith on the Glencaple road in Dumfries. It was from here Ian wrote to Jaguar and received the famous reply from Bill Heynes.
“When I left Dumfries I always wanted to come back in something I’d designed,” he remembers, as we set off for the coast. “And I did, in 1994, in the DB7.”
It was on the road to The Anchor hotel in Kippford, on the Solway Firth that forms part of the border between England and Scotland, that Callum polished his driving skills and first hit 100mph. He was already aware that he could never match the driving levels of Scotland’s best, and he didn’t own a car. An understanding father allowed him to borrow the family Vauxhall Victor, the coke-bottle FD (the Poms’ equivalent of a LC Torana).
The narrow, hedge-lined road winding between farms, through gentle hills, “became my training ground as a driver”. The I-pace hugs the apex through a 90-degree left-hander: it’s obvious Callum knows the road, this corner and the following humpback bridge. In the Victor, he says, “we used to try and get airborne over the hump.” Through a blind right-hand sweeper, Ian stays flat. “I love that corner,” he laughs, the I-pace barely notices.
The following day Ian introduces me to one of Europe’s great roads: the A774 from Dumfries to Moffat, where it becomes the A701 to Edinburgh. This “scenic route to Edinburgh” is popular with bikers and, because it’s been replaced by a motorway, is seldom used by travellers. A fast, winding, two-laner, the blacktop clings to the undulating hills as it climbs to the Devil’s
Beef Tub where, centuries ago, the Scots hid cattle from the British. You should drive this road, because it is uniquely beautiful.
Growing up, Callum remembers hearing stories of fellow Scot Jim Clark – twice F1 world drivers champion – setting personal records on the road from his farm in Duns for the 70km to Edinburgh. Eventually, Clark got down to 30 minutes. If Clark could turn roads into race tracks, Ian thought, why not, timing his journeys from the Dumfries’ end-30mph symbol to Edinburgh’s first 30mph limit. His best effort, again in dad’s Vauxhall, was just under an hour.
“It was just insane, really,” he admits today. “I’ll probably get arrested now if you write this. Somebody once said to me, ‘the trouble is, Ian, one day you’re going to meet yourself coming the other way.’”
On this road, with its long sight lines, it’s also understandable, as the I-pace proves. We’re not out to break Ian’s record, yet the air-suspended I-pace proves so willing and handy that it’s utterly brilliant. It grips, rides, and turns, with gentle bodyroll the first indication of seriously hard driving.
The low centre of gravity is obvious; equally important is the instant whoosh of power as it jets out of corners and displays an agility that belies the car’s near-2200kg weight. I’m left to conjecture about the possibility the XJ and F-type replacements could be electric. Callum merely smiles and we move on to another subject, but it seems to me that, with future smaller and lighter batteries, two- and four-seat electric F-types are a distinct possibility.
Edinburgh, where his beloved grandfather lived, was Ian’s local city, so the road from Dumfries is totally familiar. “I thought all roads were like this,” he muses. Over the years, he’s come back in his F-type, Vanquish, DB7 and, now, the I-pace.
In the 53 years since Callum last visited this area of Edinburgh, little has changed apart from new stands at the Murrayfield Stadium. We see the rugby ground before we sight the car showroom. Once Rossleigh Jaguar, it’s now a prosperous Rolls-royce dealership.
“Oh my goodness,” exclaims Ian. “Oh, my goodness.” He repeats the phrase six times. “That’s where I first saw an E-type.”
We turn the I-pace first right into Ormidale Terrace. As we pass his grandfather’s house, Ian’s voice momentarily breaks, “It used to be huge.”
In all the emotion, he’s taken back and explains that there is a large garden behind. Then there’s another story of an influential car from his youth: a neighbour drove a Bentley. Open a door and there was, “an expanse of two-tone grey leather. I remember thinking how nice, how disciplined, it looked.”
Photographer Tom Salt is keen to return to the RR dealer where ‘showroom host’ Jill Baike is welcoming. After hearing our story she passes on the information to other staff.
“You mean Ian Callum is in here, in our showroom?” Company driver Neil Ogilvie can’t believe it. “The Ian Callum?”
Callum and Ogilvie part friends, while I’m left to rush to the airport to catch my flight and ponder two remarkable days.
Come August, Callum’s I-pace arrives, successor to his current 423kw F-type SVR. It’s no criticism of the F-type to say he can’t wait. The future has arrived. This is a real Jaguar that happens to be electric.
WE’RE NOT OUT TO BREAK IAN’S RECORD, YET THE AIR-SUSPENDED I-PACE PROVES SO WILLING AND HANDY THAT IT’S UTTERLY BRILLIANT
THE RIVER NITH IN CALLUM’S HOME TOWN OF DUMFRIES: “I ALWAYS WANTED TO COME BACK IN A CAR I DESIGNED”