New pace to the elec­tric rev­o­lu­tion

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The Jaguar I-Pace breaks with tra­di­tion and so are we. Nor­mally we would leave our ver­dict on a new car un­til the end but when it comes to the I-Pace you need to know one thing up front — it is not only a fan­tas­tic elec­tric ve­hi­cle (EV), but it is a fan­tas­tic ve­hi­cle full stop.

If the world has been wait­ing for a car that re­de­fines the au­to­mo­bile for the fu­ture then the IPace is it. At least for now.

We have driven plenty of EVs over the years, from the Nis­san Leaf to the BMW i3 and the Tesla Road­ster to the con­cept In­finiti Emerg-e. We have been dis­ap­pointed and im­pressed in some­times equal mea­sure but what we have not been is se­ri­ously ex­cited about the elec­tric car fu­ture, un­til now.

The I-Pace was a “clean sheet of paper for us” says Matthew Beaven, chief ex­te­rior de­signer of ad­vanced de­sign at Jaguar.

“We wanted to make an au­then­tic car — not de­sign elec­tric,” says Beaven.

Re­moval of the en­gine from the front en­abled the driver to be moved for­ward; in fact the whole car has a cab for­ward de­sign about it.

We say car be­cause it looks like it is the size of a large family hatch­back, but Jaguar is adamant it is an SUV, with Beaven ex­plain­ing to us at the in­ter­na­tional launch in Por­tu­gal there are cer­tain rules that de­fine what makes a ve­hi­cle an SUV, in­clud­ing ground clear­ance, dis­tance be­tween the wheels and so on. We could de­bate it but re­ally the I-Pace has cre­ated a cat­e­gory all of its own so we would just be be­ing picky.

The in­clu­sion of 432 high en­ergy den­sity lithium-ion pouch cells beneath the floor gave the de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing teams more free­dom, with Beaven say­ing that the bat­tery pouches could be moved around “like Lego”.

At ei­ther end of the bat­tery stor­age sit two syn­chro­nous per­ma­nent mag­net elec­tric mo­tors, one on each axle, which pro­vide four-wheel drive but with­out the tra­di­tional need for a prop­shaft, again some­thing which im­proved pack­ag­ing.

In to­tal the mo­tors pro­vide 294kW and 696Nm of torque, but th­ese fig­ures do not tell the whole story. Typ­i­cal of an elec­tric ve­hi­cle, that torque is avail­able in­stantly. Driv­ing on the roads of Por­tu­gal, it was es­sen­tial to keep an eye on the speedo be­cause there is no en­gine noise (save for a bit of noise-gen­er­a­tion through the speak­ers).

Put your foot down and in spite of the weight (it weighs more than 2,133kg) the nose lifts up so dra­mat­i­cally that you won­der if you should have drag­ster wheels fit­ted on the back. The I-Pace launches with a sports car feel, hit­ting 100km/h in 4.8 sec­onds and go­ing on to a top speed of 200km/h. It seems re­lent­less in its power de­liv­ery, in part be­cause it has no gear­box, no change in rev noise, it just keeps go­ing and go­ing.

And we have no doubt it will hit 200km/h be­cause we hit 197km/h on the Por­ti­mao race­track. Yes, we took an elec­tric SUV to the track where it proved that it has all the Jaguar DNA you would ex­pect in one of the brand’s sports cars.

Granted, things did get a lit­tle squir­relly un­der very hard brak­ing and late turn­ing but with that much weight it’s no sur­prise, but it gathers ev­ery­thing up, gives you com­plete con­trol and you lunge through the apex to chase the next cor­ner.

We nor­mally say this about sports sedans or per­for­mance models and no-one is ever go­ing to take their I-Pace to the track, but Jag has done an ex­tremely good job here.

If you think that is sur­pris­ing then even more of a reve­la­tion is the I-Pace’s off-road abil­ity. It is prob­a­bly not go­ing to match a Dis­cov­ery over the real rough stuff but it han­dled some de­cent as­cents and de­scents, rocky routes and more with ease. It even drove along a river.

Okay, it was more of a stream re­ally, but we are talk­ing about mix­ing wa­ter and elec-

tric­ity here and within me­tres we were con­fi­dent of its abil­ity and we barely tested the claimed 500mm wad­ing depth.

The ride is a lit­tle firm at times, mainly be­cause you can have up to 22-inch wheels, but those wheels help to de­fine the over­all de­sign. Even with the wheels, the whole thing sits 100mm lower than an F-Pace.

Be­yond the driv­e­train tech­nol­ogy, there is other clever stuff too. The grille at the front chan­nels air through a duct in the bon­net (beneath which is a small lug­gage space that in­ter­nally Jaguar calls a “Froot”) and over the front wind­screen just as on the C-X75 con­cept sports car, cre­at­ing es­sen­tial aero­dy­namic down­force.

At the rear there is a spoiler which is aero neu­tral ac­cord­ing to Beaven but this sits above a rear win­dow made of hy­dropho­bic glass. As the name sug­gests, the glass has a pho­bia of wa­ter, mean­ing it re­fuses to let wa­ter stick to it. This is why there is no rear win­dow wiper.

We were not con­vinced ini­tially but af­ter do­ing a few kilo­me­tres on gravel roads, there wasn’t even a speck of dust on the glass. Clever.

The rear has been de­signed to re­move those air vor­texes which create drag. Drag is even more of an en­emy to an EV than to an in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gined ve­hi­cle and so ev­ery el­e­ment of the I-Pace has been de­signed to re­duce it. It all con­trib­utes to a claimed range of 480km on the new WLTP re­al­world cy­cle.

Like all EVs though, the claim is op­ti­mistic and not just if you are charg­ing around a race­track, climb­ing up a hill­side, wad­ing through a river and see­ing how long you can keep the nose up for un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion.

When we were a bit more rea­son­able in our de­mands on the car, we had 104km of range left af­ter 161km of road driv­ing. I reckon you could eas­ily get 300km out of it be­tween charges but it all de­pends on the driv­ing sit­u­a­tion, as it does with a petrol or diesel car re­ally.

The in­te­rior is spa­cious thanks to the 2,990mm wheel­base and you get 656l of lug­gage space which can be ex­panded to 1,453l with the rear seats down. Those rear seats pro­vide great legroom and rea­son­able head­room al­though taller types might find them­selves feel­ing the heat a lit­tle through the vast panoramic glass roof.

For­tu­nately you can pre­con­di­tion the in­te­rior through an app to en­sure the car is nice and cool when you get in, or warm if you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Joburg’s cur­rent win­ter tem­per­a­tures.

Else­where in the cabin there are six USB ports, three 12V sock­ets, over-the-air soft­ware up­dates (Tesla any­one?) and a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot. The car can also talk to your home if you have a smart home and if you are in a suit­able coun­try you even talk to your car through Ama­zon’s Alexa. Now you will have two best friends — Alexa and your I-Pace.

Are we im­pressed? Def­i­nitely. Is it go­ing to be ex­pen­sive? Al­most def­i­nitely. In many coun­tries the I-Pace will qual­ify for var­i­ous govern­ment grants, none of which is avail­able in SA at present; in fact, we are still be­ing hit by ad­di­tional im­port du­ties for EVs from Europe.

Hope­fully by the time it ar­rives in SA in 2019 govern­ment will be more friendly to­wards EV own­er­ship.

We started with a ver­dict, so that leaves me with lit­tle more to say ex­cept that if Jaguar set out to create a game changer, then it’s very much job done.

Good luck to Audi and Mercedes with their ef­forts — the Jag is go­ing to be hard to beat.

De­sign­ers had a clean sheet of paper for the I-Pace but still gave it a real Jaguar look.

Yes, we took an elec­tric ve­hi­cle through a river and it wasn’t a shocking ex­pe­ri­ence. Left: Great driv­ing po­si­tion, good in­te­rior space and de­cent equip­ment.

The I-Pace even proved its sporty DNA on the Por­ti­mao race­track.

Be­tween two elec­tric mo­tors on each axle sit 36 mod­ules con­tain­ing 432 high en­ergy den­sity lithium-ion pouch cells.

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