We get an early drive in Jaguar’s revo­lu­tion­ary new bat­tery-pow­ered I-pace SUV

We get be­hind wheel of con­cept for a glimpse of how revo­lu­tion­ary bat­tery-pow­ered Brit is set to shake up mar­ket

Auto Express - - Contents - Lawrence Al­lan Lawrence_al­lan@den­nis.co.uk @Lobal­lan

On the road in Jaguar’s price­less elec­tric cross­over con­cept Smaller than an F-pace, set to un­der­cut Tesla; due in 2018

THE Jaguar I-pace is one of the most im­por­tant ve­hi­cles to emerge from the Bri­tish car maker in its 80-year his­tory. With Tesla and BMW’S ‘i’ range in its sights, the strik­ing EV will usher in a new dawn for Jaguar when the pro­duc­tion ver­sion hits the streets in the sec­ond half of 2018.

There is only one I-pace in ex­is­tence – of­fi­cially, at least – and now Auto Ex­press has spent some time with the con­cept, and even had a short spell be­hind the wheel.

This is the same show car that was on Jaguar’s stand in Los An­ge­les last Novem­ber, but since then, its paintjob has switched from so­phis­ti­cated sil­ver to an ar­rest­ing shade of red. It has even more vis­ual im­pact as a re­sult; the shape is a rad­i­cal de­par­ture from Jaguar’s cur­rent model range, with a chunky, wide stance and a low and sleek hatch­back sil­hou­ette.

As we wait for our pre­view drive, Sandy Boyes, one of the chief de­sign­ers in the I-pace pro­ject, tells us the car was the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for a “blank-sheet de­sign”, both in aes­thetic and en­gi­neer­ing terms. “The elec­tric pow­er­train gave us an op­por­tu­nity to play with the pro­por­tions,” he says. “The cab-for­ward de­sign is some­thing gen­uinely dif­fer­ent for us.”

The con­cept is 4,680mm long and 1,890mm wide, so it’s smaller than the F-pace (tested on Page 36), but be­cause of the space freed up by the lack of an en­gine, the wheel­base has been pushed out to nearly three me­tres – 126mm more than the F-pace and slightly longer than an XF, too.

How­ever, Boyes claims that de­tail el­e­ments are “very Jaguar”. Ev­ery­thing from the body sur­fac­ing to the tail-lights is in­spired by the cur­rent range, while the nose is said to take cues from the C-X75 su­per­car con­cept of 2010.

The in­te­rior of the I-pace is a sim­i­lar blend of the revo­lu­tion­ary and fa­mil­iar. The dash is flanked by three screens – two of them touch­screens to con­trol in­fo­tain­ment and driv­ing func­tions. Hap­tic feed­back con­trols for the steer­ing wheel fea­ture, but although the cli­mate con­trol dials are also hap­tic, they’re phys­i­cal knobs. Boyes tells us this is pri­mar­ily to cre­ate “a bal­ance of ana­logue and dig­i­tal for the driver, which will al­ways re­main a Jaguar trait”.

You slide across into the driver’s seat of the I-pace, in­stead of climb­ing up into it – and sure enough, once you’re there, the over­all im­pres­sion is that you’re in a reg­u­lar car in­stead of a high-rid­ing SUV. That doesn’t mean it feels cramped, though; the cabin is bright and pleas­ingly airy. And while we didn’t get a chance to sit in the rear seats, there should be space for three adults in the pro­duc­tion car.

Prac­ti­cal­ity could be an I-pace strength. Boot space stands at 530 litres, and there’s a small com­part­ment where the en­gine would nor­mally sit, with an ad­di­tional 28 litres.

We weren’t able to ex­ploit the road dy­nam­ics of this one-off con­cept, but we al­ready know that the pro­duc­tion I-pace will have 395bhp from a pair of syn­chro­nous elec­tric mo­tors, en­abling four-wheel drive. A Tesla-ri­valling 0-62mph time of around four sec­onds is promised, but I-pace en­gi­neer­ing man­ager Dave Shaw tells us that sprint­ing abil­ity isn’t the ul­ti­mate tar­get.

“Our pri­or­ity isn’t just per­for­mance,” he says. “It’s bal­anc­ing per­for­mance with range in the most ef­fec­tive way pos­si­ble.” He prom­ises an NEDC range of just over 300 miles from the 90kwh lithium-ion bat­tery pack, and a recharge time of only two hours from a 50kw DC point.

PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY With a wheel­base longer than an XF’S, the I-pace has plenty of cabin space in the back, and the boot is a gen­er­ous 530 litres, too “Pro­duc­tion I-pace will have 4WD thanks to a pair of elec­tric mo­tors that make 395bhp”

IN­TE­RIOR Low-slung driv­ing po­si­tion means I-pace feels more like a car than an SUV to drive, while large glass area gives an ex­cel­lent view of your sur­round­ings

OF­FI­CIAL Jaguar’s own pic­ture of the pro­duc­tion car in de­vel­op­ment test­ing shows lit­tle is go­ing to change from the con­cept

PRESS ON Sim­pli­fied three-but­ton trans­mis­sion frees up even more space in the cabin

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