114 Coast to coast in the elec­tric Jag

New i-Pace knocks our socks o„

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Words Ge­org Kacher | Photography Char­lie Magee

WHEN TESLA LAUNCHED the Model S in 2009, not a sin­gle car man­u­fac­turer took the world’s first mod­ern bat­tery-elec­tric ve­hi­cle se­ri­ously. Com­fort­ably set­tled in its fos­sil fuel-fed, mul­ti­cylin­der par­adise, the es­tab­lish­ment down­played and dis­missed the new­comer from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. ‘Clearly, that was a mis­take,’ ad­mits Wolf­gang Ziebart, the driv­ing force be­hind Jaguar’s re­mark­able i-Pace, the rule­breaker we’ve been look­ing at for 18 months and, fi­nally, that we’re driv­ing to­day – across Eng­land, from Black­pool to Scar­bor­ough.

‘We un­der­es­ti­mated the sig­nif­i­cance of plug-in mo­bil­ity,’ con­tin­ues Ziebart. ‘Most of us were too slow to re­spond, and no­body had a strat­egy like Tesla’s Su­per­charger network, not to men­tion the rad­i­cal dis­tri­bu­tion con­cept, which by­passes deal­ers and pock­ets their prof­its.’ Like Toy­ota with the Prius, Elon Musk and his team quickly carved out a lead, and ever since the Model S has been em­braced by trend-set­ters and for­ward-thinkers, the rest of the world play­ing catch-up.

‘There is only one way to win this bat­tle,’ states Ziebart, who served in top man­age­ment po­si­tions at BMW, Con­ti­nen­tal and In­fi­neon be­fore join­ing Jaguar Land Rover in 2013. ‘Beat­ing Tesla is not enough. At JLR, we must cre­ate a busi­ness model with a twist to po­si­tion our­selves against the

Euro­pean pre­mium brands.’

Our con­ver­sa­tion pauses briefly as we sur­vey early-morn­ing Black­pool, the sea­side re­sort best known for its neoEif­fel tower and grand il­lu­mi­na­tions, which must about dou­ble the town’s elec­tric­ity bill. Speak­ing of which, mild panic cir­cu­lated Team i-Pace last night when find­ing a suf­fi­ciently pow­er­ful charg­ing point proved more dif­fi­cult than ex­pected. In the end, we plugged it into a wall­box at the ho­tel, charg­ing the i-Pace’s bat­ter­ies to 93 per cent by 6.30am. The range me­ter prom­ises 273 miles, which should pro­vide an angst-free 147-mile run to the other side of the coun­try.

We leave Black­pool and head north to the out­skirts of Lan­caster, edg­ing the For­est of Bow­land be­fore turn­ing in­land for the York­shire Dales. Oper­at­ing the i-Pace is sim­ple. Hit­ting the starter but­ton sum­mons the in­stru­ments, lights and in­fo­tain­ment. The next tar­get for your in­dex fin­ger are four self-ex­plana­tory keys: D, N, R and P. The trans­mis­sion is sin­gle-speed, so don’t even think about floor­ing the throt­tle in re­verse. There are no shift pad­dles since there are no gears to shift, but I’d like them to dial in and out the brake re­gen­er­a­tion set­tings (more on these later). The dished steer­ing wheel is laden with var­i­ous fum­ble­ments, some ac­tive, some blank, some de­pen­dent on spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

The deep pro­trud­ing dash­board re­flects nas­tily in the raked wind­screen and is far too bulky for my lik­ing. Push­ing the seats and the in­stru­ment panel fur­ther for­ward would have helped. In­spired by the Ve­lar, the al­most com­pletely flush cen­tre stack could do with some lat­eral pad­ding, too. The main dis­play can be con­fig­ured to your per­sonal pref­er­ence, with a graph­i­cal em­pha­sis on speed, range, nav­i­ga­tion, en­ergy flow or in­fo­tain­ment – what­ever you want. The most prom­i­nent MMI fea­ture is the large cen­tre touch­screen.

The driv­ing po­si­tion is up­right, and the 18-way ad­justable seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive, but legroom for taller driv­ers is com­pro­mised by el­bow­ing the cen­tre con­sole. Vis­i­bil­ity is to an ex­tent hin­dered by the raked green­house and the prom­i­nent C-posts. Although it’s about 100mm shorter and lower than the F-Pace, the rear cargo deck of the i-Pace (there’s also a small load bay un­der the bon­net) holds more, with 656 litres of ca­pac­ity to the F-Pace’s 463 litres – that’s what hap­pens when most of your me­chan­i­cals are stowed away be­neath the floor.

We’ve now reached the A687 in the York­shire Dales, a no­to­ri­ous black spot haunted in sum­mer by car­a­vans pulled by mem­bers of the anti-des­ti­na­tion league, tourist buses and 40mph fighter-cyclists rid­ing three abreast. In mid-May, how­ever, the 40-mile sec­tion be­tween In­gle­ton and Bedale could be mis­taken for a par­tic­u­larly pic­turesque rally stage. On the far side of the Rib­ble­head Viaduct, the road ahead is clear for miles. ‘For­get range and state of charge,’ com­mands Herr Ziebart, read­ing my mind. ‘Just go for it. Drive it like an F-Type.’

Or­der taken. Ex­cept that this par­tic­u­lar stretch of car­riage­way must have been built by the same guys who erected4

Hadrian’s Wall, and ob­vi­ously hasn’t been touched since. But weigh­ing a shade un­der 600kg, the bat­tery adds more than enough weight to flat­ten the ride and lower the cen­tre of grav­ity. So for­get the harsh dampers and tyre kick­back of the E-Pace and F-Pace – our plug-in test car, with its 20-inch rub­ber, rides with the same cushi­ness and com­pli­ance as a Range Rover. Even the low-speed sus­pen­sion comfort is ac­cept­able, nei­ther pot­holes nor crum­bling soft shoul­ders up­set­ting the car’s bal­ance and poise. Long un­du­la­tions and trans­verse ir­ri­ta­tions are rarely an is­sue ei­ther, and tyre roar is about level with wind noise. Un­like the Model X, which reads raised paint­work on the road and con­veys its trans­la­tion to oc­cu­pants through the medium of ir­ri­tat­ing vi­bra­tion, the Jaguar keeps such chat­ter to it­self. The i-Pace does a fine job of quickly build­ing con­fi­dence through its com­po­sure and calm at speed.

I ex­plore the four Adap­tive Dy­nam­ics driv­ing modes. Each has its own steer­ing ef­fort set­ting, throt­tle re­sponse and damper con­trol cal­i­bra­tion. In Eco, the car heads for the next phar­macy to stock up on Val­ium. In Snow/Gravel and on wet tar­mac, there may be just about enough wheel slip to briefly al­ter the cor­ner­ing at­ti­tude from mild un­der­steer to mo­men­tary over­steer. In Comfort, hurry and haste are elim­i­nated for good. In Dy­namic the i-Pace is at its pa­ci­est: throt­tle ac­tion is down­right ag­gres­sive, the steer­ing al­most too heavy, and the sus­pen­sion stamps on every apex it can clip. Fine-tun­ing fetishists are in­vited to dig even deeper into the car’s brain by per­son­al­is­ing the Dy­namic al­go­rithm or by spec­i­fy­ing the grip and sta­bil­ity-en­hanc­ing Adap­tive Sur­face Re­sponse de­vel­oped by Range Rover.

The ‘ESP off’ but­ton is a bit of an odd­ity in a bat­tery-elec­tric car, though… ‘De­ac­ti­vat­ing sta­bil­ity con­trol is a nice demo fea­ture for ice driv­ing,’ says Ziebart. ‘In gen­eral though, power over­steer is not part of this car’s char­ac­ter.’

He’s be­ing mod­est here, ac­tu­ally, be­cause the i-Pace can be­have like a sports car. We have it air­borne over brows, it oc­ca­sion­ally lifts the in­ner front wheel when cor­ner­ing and it takes no pris­on­ers cir­cling three-lane round­abouts on the rac­ing line. My pas­sen­ger

FED BY A LITHIUM ION BAT­TERY, THE TWO

E MO­TORS PRO­DUCE 395BHP OF POWER

AND A COM­BINED 513LB FT OF TWIST

grins but says noth­ing. Ziebart looks happy know­ing that I now know what he knew all along.

Per­for­mance? Ac­cel­er­at­ing 0-62mph in 4.8sec, the £78k Jaguar (£63,495 with­out op­tions) eclipses the £111k Tesla Model X 100D by 0.4sec. Fed by a 90kWh lithium-ion bat­tery, the two e-mo­tors pro­duce 395bhp of power and a com­bined 513lb ft of twist. While the Tesla’s top speed is an en­ergy-de­vour­ing 156mph, the Jaguar calls it quits at 124mph. While these num­bers may be of largely aca­demic in­ter­est, sweet han­dling is a key de­cider, and in this de­part­ment the Amer­i­can eats the dust of the Bri­tish new­comer.

We don’t find any Tes­las to test the Jaguar against en route, but a six-mile duel with a black Mercedes-AMG C63 S is eye-open­ing. True, above 90mph, where power takes over from torque, the Merc and its 503bhp V8 hauls away. But the tide turns un­der brak­ing, when the Jaguar pulls an ace from its sleeve – a high level of re­gen­er­a­tion. As soon as you lift off the ac­cel­er­a­tor, the ef­fect is like a sud­den su­per-strong head­wind. The Jaguar more than matches the Mercedes for stop­ping power.4

It takes time to learn and ad­just to the re­gen­er­a­tive sys­tem – you al­most never touch the brake, in­stead de­cel­er­at­ing by lift­ing off and al­low­ing the car to charge the bat­ter­ies. BEV ad­dicts like Ziebart love the one-pedal feel, which prob­a­bly ex­plains why the switch for al­ter­nat­ing be­tween low and high en­ergy re­gen­er­a­tion is hid­den in the deep un­der­growth of the MMI sys­tem. Although the high level works well in many sit­u­a­tions, it forces you keep the ac­cel­er­a­tor de­pressed at a cer­tain min­i­mum an­gle, or the ve­hi­cle will swiftly purr to a stop. For me, I felt low was marginally more ef­fi­cient be­cause you don’t keep slow­ing down.

But where the i-Pace truly ex­cels is through quick S-bends and wide round­abouts. Es­pe­cially round­abouts. The long 2990mm wheel­base and 2208kg kerb­weight in­tro­duce a new di­men­sion of grip and road­hold­ing no other mid-size SUV bar the Porsche Ma­can can match. This is what does for our C63 S-based amigo – frus­trated by the white ap­pari­tion loom­ing large in his mir­rors, he even­tu­ally gives up and waves us past.

‘This is liv­ing proof that mod­ern BEVs are no longer about dy­namic con­ces­sions,’ de­clares the beam­ing se­nior en­gi­neer be­side me. ‘In­stead, the awe­some punch lib­er­ated by in­stant torque re­de­fines over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vres, elec­tric all-wheel drive in­tro­duces a new qual­ity of axle-by-axle torque vec­tor­ing, and the air sus­pen­sion neu­tralises the weight penalty, to an ex­tent.

‘The i-Pace com­bines the best of both worlds,’ con­tin­ues Ziebart. ‘It pro­tects our planet, and puts a big smile on the driver’s face.’ It does other things, too. Like stun the dude in his blue Ford Fo­cus RS at the traf­fic light grand prix in down­town Black­pool. Or frighten the wits out of a me­an­der­ing stray dog who didn’t hear us com­ing and Fos­bury flopped into a ditch.

You can also park for free while recharg­ing for a nom­i­nal fee. Hook up at the right road­side pow­erpoint and a 100kW in­fu­sion takes only 40 min­utes to boost the en­ergy level from zero to 80 per cent. And, best of all, drive past fill­ing sta­tion after fill­ing sta­tion – the petrol used on this 200-mile trip with de­tours would have cost ap­prox­i­mately £45, whereas the overnight top-up at the ho­tel set us back a scant £8.

Although it started off as an F-Pace spin-off, the i-Pace ended up as a near-to­tal re­design. Since it shares axles and the steer­ing rack with its con­ven­tional sta­ble­mate, the elec­tric Jag doesn’t have a tight turn­ing cir­cle – a typ­i­cal as­set of be­spoke BEVs. En­gi­neered with and built by Magna Steyr, its ges­ta­tion process from draw­ing board to assem­bly line was just four years. Ziebart claims that the project is prof­itable, but it is hard to see how Jaguar can make money in view of the assem­bly and ma­te­rial costs, the gen­er­ous stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tion and the rel­a­tively small pro­duc­tion vol­ume of around 25,000 units per year.

Isn’t that an overly cau­tious fore­cast? After all, the com­pany will sup­ply 20,000 ve­hi­cles to its new cash-rich tech part­ner Waymo (for­merly Google’s self-driv­ing-car project) by the end of 2020, and global dealer re­sponse is en­thu­si­as­tic. ‘Since i-Pace and E-Pace are built in the same plant, there is in­deed a bit of flex­i­bil­ity,’ con­cedes Ziebart. ‘But if de­mand goes through the roof, we would have to re­think our ca­pac­ity plan­ning.’

Thanks to the short front and rear over­hangs, the i-Pace mea­sures only 4682mm in length. At the same time, it is roomier in­side than fu­ture op­po­nents like the Mercedes EQC (another elec­tric SUV, on sale in 2019). How come? Be­cause it was clear from day one that the i-Pace did not have to waste a sin­gle thought on pack­ag­ing en­gine and trans­mis­sion.

But since the i-Pace un­der­pin­nings turned out to be costlier and much more com­plex than an­tic­i­pated, the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion model ex­pected in 2025 will likely be de­rived from a brand-new mod­u­lar ma­trix. Although the Jaguar grapevine is mum about a pos­si­ble ex­ten­sion of the range, boost­ing the power out­put to 600bhp via a sec­ond rear mo­tor wouldn’t be rocket science.

About 50 miles from Scar­bor­ough, the highly com­plex drive mon­i­tor sud­denly sug­gests we should recharge ASAP, ideally at a shop­ping cen­tre 15 miles down the road. Two min­utes later, how­ever, the com­puter catches up with the nav again, and we’re good to make the re­main­der of the trip. ‘Ev­ery­one is at the be­gin­ning of a learn­ing curve which may be steeper than we think,’ says Ziebart.

‘At this point, the charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture is still in its in­fancy, users are sus­pi­cious of un­tried tech­nolo­gies, growth is tied4

to ac­cep­tance, and ac­cep­tance de­pends on the at­trac­tion of the prod­uct. That’s why gen­er­ous comfort and safety mar­gins are so im­por­tant. When the range in­di­ca­tor shows zero, the sys­tem is for in­stance still good for 20 more clicks. The i-Pace can use any charger be­tween 50 to 800 volts, and it can charge with up to 100kW, so you are cov­ered at all times, even though some plug-in lo­ca­tions are slower than oth­ers.’

Ap­proach­ing Scar­bor­ough, traf­fic builds and the Jaguar glides along at snarl-up pace. Ac­tive cruise con­trol is a help in stop-and-go traf­fic, as is the ac­tive lane as­sist, which does its best to fol­low the car in front. Hav­ing said that, this pro­vi­sional con­fig­u­ra­tion is only a first step to­wards proper au­ton­o­mous driv­ing. Not yet equipped with the soon manda­tory low-speed warn­ing buzz that fades away above 20mph, the i-Pace needs to be driven with ex­tra care in built-up ar­eas, where no one ex­pects ve­hi­cles to be al­most silent. This presents a dilemma be­cause warn­ing peo­ple by honk­ing seems rather hooli­gan, while pa­tiently fol­low­ing an el­derly cou­ple at walk­ing pace can end in strops when they even­tu­ally re­alise there’s a huge silent ve­hi­cle tail­gat­ing them and their shop­ping trol­leys.

It’s in­ter­est­ing how few passers-by no­tice the i-Pace. De­signed by Ian Cal­lum, it sports a large trade­mark grille, a stubby front end and sub­stan­tial 20-inch wheels (22-inch­ers are avail­able). But no­body pulls a smart­phone, no­body asks ques­tions and no­body takes no­tice of this ex­er­cise in zero-emis­sion mo­bil­ity. It was the same com­ing over the Dales, where the i-Pace didn’t stand out any more than the sheep in the fields be­yond the dry stone walls.

We ar­rive in Scar­bor­ough just in time for tea and scones with 62 miles of range left. Although we should have saved a bit more en­ergy, even the lat­est elec­tric us­age stan­dard makes zero al­lowance for en­thu­si­asm. In un­der 40 min­utes the bat­ter­ies would be fully charged again for the trip back to Coven­try, but my time with the Jaguar is done for the day.

I’m sorry to see the i-Pace go be­cause it is a har­bin­ger of a bright and promis­ing fu­ture. This kind of BEV pro­tects the en­vi­ron­ment, and it is fun to drive: make that a lot of fun to drive. Peak torque on de­mand is a killer as­set, the car’s dy­nam­ics are al­ready ex­cel­lent and in­creased space in com­bi­na­tion with a smaller foot­print means the i-Pace scores highly for prac­ti­cal­ity, and that’s be­fore you fac­tor in the low run­ning costs and op­er­a­tional perks such as vir­tu­ally un­lim­ited ac­cess to re­stricted park­ing – for now. True, R&D must find some­thing less rare than cobalt for the bat­tery, the ef­fi­ciency ver­sus cost equa­tion must im­prove year on year, and the BEV species needs to evolve in the broader con­text of other in­no­va­tions such as au­ton­o­mous driv­ing and digital ser­vices.

Hav­ing said that, the short- to mid-term fu­ture of mo­bil­ity is not a case of ei­ther/or but a flex­i­ble blend. Not too long ago, Jaguar would have been proud to be an early adopter of tech­nolo­gies in­vented else­where. In the sum­mer of 2018, how­ever, thanks to the fore­sight and sup­port of Ratan Tata, the i-Pace is the sur­prise leader of the pack.

WOLF­GANG ZIEBART

Our co-driver in the i-Pace, Jaguar Land

Rover’s en­gi­neer­ing direc­tor was ap­pointed by Ralph Speth in

2013

A bit of Jag in here, a lit­tle Land Rover… and thank­fully no tram

A nice metaphor for Jaguar’s di­rect BEV op­po­si­tion…

‘Hey man, is this one of those elec­tric Jag­wars?’

i-Pace does its best to keep you posted on range:

don’t panic

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