ALL-ELECTRIC JAGUAR I-PACE
Exploring the Algarve
Lying on a deck chair on the huge patio of a mansion designed by a South African born architect in the exclusive Quinta do Lago resort, Ferdi de Vos reflected on his experience with the new all-electric Jaguar I-pace on the curvy roads of the picturesque Algarve region.
“Today the rich and diverse history and outstanding natural beauty of the Algarve attracts over 7,1 million tourists per annum.”
Ah, the beautiful Algarve. Nowadays considered the biggest and most important tourist region in Portugal, sought after as a permanent place to settle and retire, it was the cradle of ever-escalating explorations that fore-showed the Age of Discovery in the fifteenth century.
It was Henry the Navigator that set the sails in motion all those years ago, as it was under his guidance that the lighter, more manoeuvrable caravel was developed with which the Portuguese systematically began to explore the Atlantic coast of Africa. Based near Lagos he conducted numerous maritime expeditions, which established the colonies that comprised the erstwhile Portuguese Empire.
These journeys of discovery brought fame and fortune to Lagos. The town became the capital of the Algarve and remained so until 1755 when it was destroyed by a natural disaster known as the Great Lisbon earthquake. The earthquake and accompanying tsunami destroyed or damaged many towns and villages in the Algarve (or al-gharb, “the West” in Arabic) except Faro, which was protected by the sandy banks of Ria Formosa lagoon. This disaster signalled the end of the domination of Portuguese affairs by Lagos.
However, today the rich and diverse history and outstanding natural beauty of the region attracts over 7,1 million tourists per annum, and with its winding roads it also proved to be the ideal venue for the international launch of the first all-electric model from Jaguar, the I-pace.
Exploring the power
Normally, it is the powerful, raucous sound of the engine of a car that signals its potential, its capability. Not so with the I-pace. With a 90 kwh Lithium-ion battery comprising 432 pouch cells that drives two synchronous permanent magnet electric motors – one on the front axle and one on the rear axle – it produces combined power of 294 kw and 696 Nm of torque. That is a lot of power, and with its instant torque delivery it delivers sports car type performance; sprinting from 0-100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds.
However, the real beauty lies in how it is achieved. There is no drama. No noise. No whining gears or turbo whistle. Its acceleration is smooth and linear. Yet, you feel the surge, the swoosh, and this introduction to a new age of exploration – un-tapping the potential of electric power – and it is strangely exciting. Sure, there is some noise; electronically induced fake noise, barely audible as the speed increases. It can be amplified, emitting a sound straight from a Tangerine Dream soundtrack, but it is not overpowering.
When reversing, it also produces a warning sound, much like that of a truck, and according to Jaguar it can also be programmed to emit sound while moving forward at slow speeds. Top speed is
limited to 200 km/h, since driving at full tilt seriously limits the range of the battery pack. But at sensible cruising speeds using Eco mode, the I-pace can deliver a range of up to 480 km (WLTP cycle) before recharging.
The automaker also claims it is possible to achieve a battery charge from empty to 80% in just 40 minutes, using DC rapid charging (100 kwh) or top up an additional 100 km in as little as 15 minutes. Alternatively, home charging with an AC wall box (7 kwh) will take the I-pace from empty to 80% just over ten hours.
Setting a new pace
Driving through the old section of Faro, capital of the Algarve region, the I-pace with its short, low bonnet, aero-enhanced roof design and curved rear screen, juxtaposed by a squared-off rear to help reduce drag to just 0.29Cd, appeared decidedly futuristic. Its attractive coupé-like silhouette, influenced by the sleek lines of the C-X75 supercar, Suv-type cab forward design, long wheelbase, and huge wheels shrouds its size, and while it looks smaller, it is actually slightly larger, yet incrementally lower, than an E-pace.
Its aerodynamics is further optimised by “hidden faculties” such as Active Vanes in the token Jaguar grille that open when cooling is required, but close when not needed and redirects air through an
integral bonnet scoop to further smooth the airflow. While Jaguar classifies the I-pace as a mid-sized SUV, it has interior space comparable to that of a large SUV, with a full 890 mm of legroom at the rear, stowage places for a tablet or laptop beneath the seats and up to 656 litres of luggage space (1,453 litres with the rear seats folded down).
One only realises how much of a pace-setter the new electrified Cat is after you have explored its limits on the undulating and rolling mountainous roads from Faro to Vilamoura. With a low centre of gravity, 50:50 weight distribution, stiff aluminium chassis, and (optional) air suspension with Adaptive Dynamics it felt as lithe and composed, supremely balanced and agile, as a caravel did in the 15th century, and even on low-profile 22-inch rubber its ride comfort was a revelation.
However, it took a while to get used to the higher level of deceleration inherent to its braking system, with an electric booster that gives it flexibility when blending (high or low) regenerative and mechanical braking.
Besides its on-road prowess the I-pace also proved its versatility off-road. On a carefully laid-out gravel route not far from Lagos, after selecting off-road driving mode (lifting the body), the I-pace negotiated a water obstacle with ease, thanks to a wading depth of 500 mm. It also confidently negotiated tight sections of the snaking dirt track, but perhaps most impressive was the ease with which it climbed up a steep incline – its huge
torque and fully independent all-wheel drive system making it easy.
The I-pace also brims with technology, such as the advanced Touch Pro Duo infotainment system with EV Navigation that factors in the topography of planned routes to calculate available range. It made it easy to silently follow the route to our overnight destination – the exquisite Casa Mãe boutique hotel situated high up in the old part of Lagos above the scenic Costa Vincentina coastline.
The hotel consists of three buildings, each with its own atmosphere and style. The rooms in the characterful 19th century estate house has been renovated with vintage furniture from all over Portugal, while the Cabanas combines boho chic and rustic Algarve-ian style with a contemporary twist – the choice for those seeking barefoot luxury, tranquillity and privacy ...
The newest building with contemporary architecture, on the Jogo da Bola, has spacious rooms with a design savvy combination of minimalism and local crafts with verandas and balconies, hammock and loungers. Ingredients for the delicious indigenous dishes served by the kitchen is sourced from a well-maintained vegetable garden on the property.
After a relaxing stay at Casa Mãe our destination following an early morning drive were the exclusive and prestigious resorts of Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago, nestling within the Ria Formosa nature reserve and peppered with architectural creations by Johannesburgborn and Wits educated architect Vasco Vieira. Combining design and innovation, Vieira has ushered in a new era of architecture in the Algarve with works that are contemporary, yet still maintain the essence of the region with his choice of materials and use of light.
The same applies to the I-pace, as it opens up a new age of exploration for vehicle design and mobility. Built in Austria as part of a manufacturing partnership with Magna Steyr, the quiet Coventry Cat is now available in Europe in S, SE, and HSE trim, and priced from R1,074,757 (at current exchange rates). It is scheduled for launch in South Africa in mid-2019.