Jaguar’s electric I-PACE storms onto Tesla’s turf
Sleek yet angular SUV proves a joy to drive
SAN FRANCISCO – The barbarians are at Tesla’s gate. And this one is cloaked in a Union Jack.
Jaguar’s new 2019 I-PACE, which hits showrooms in November, is not just the first all-electric vehicle from the British car maker – it’s the first genuine challenger to Tesla’s reign as hip purveyor of luxury, battery-powered vehicles.
Sandwiched conveniently in between the entry-level Tesla Model 3 (which typically runs consumers about $55,000 out the door) and the vaunted Model S and X (about $100,000), our fully loaded I-PACE test car rang in at $88,265 replete with everything from buttery leather seating to plentiful technological wizardry.
There is quite some irony in Jaguar being the first to rattle Tesla’s cage considering that early Jag cars were outfitted with Lucas electronics and lighting, which gave out so often founder Joe Lucas was dubbed the Prince of Darkness.
But those tech-challenged days are over. Jaguar’s spotty track record over the decades, including one stint under Ford’s corporate umbrella, has mercifully come to an end, due in large part to infusions of capital from Tata Motors, the Indian automotive giant that bought the Jaguar Land Rover group in 2008.
“Driving this car is critical because with all the stereotypes out there about electric cars, it’s key to see that they’re really exciting vehicles,” said Kim McCullough, vice president of marketing for Jaguar Land Rover North America. “The idea with our marketing push is to get people to say, ‘Wow, this could be my only car.’ ”
And it well could be. Within limits. What strikes you immediately when surveying the I-PACE is how different it is from its main competitor, Tesla. Sure, unlock the car and the smooth door handles pop out to greet you, just like on the Tesla Model S. But that feature aside, Jaguar engineers and designers clearly wanted to make their offering stand apart.
That means no giant TV-sized center console screen but rather more discreet infotainment touch screens that are also common in the company’s Land Rover models. The quality of the leather surfaces and the general fit and finish of the I-PACE edge more toward the Model S than Model 3 territory – perhaps fitting, as it’s midway between the two price points. That means creature comforts such as Windsor Leather 14-way heated and cooled seats, a suedelike lining overhead and cabin lighting you can tweak to your interior designer heart’s content.
Our vehicle, the top-line HSE EV400 – which starts at $80,000, while the SE ($75,000) and S ($70,000) simply offer fewer standard features and smaller wheels – had as standard a typical driver-assist technology suite that allows the car to center itself between lanes and emergency brake when needed.
Another luxury perk, which runs $940, is a fighter-pilot-style heads-up display that projects your speed and the area’s speed limit in the glass ahead of the driver. But the key point is that the electric power plant remains the same for the full I-PACE model range – a 90 kilowatt-hour battery pack boasting 394 horsepower that rockets the torquecrazed tiger to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
Jaguar says fast-charging the I-PACE on a 100-kilowatt charger to 80 percent of its 240-mile range takes 40 minutes and roughly twice that on the more standard 50-kilowatt chargers.
So what’s it like to drive? In a word, exhilarating. That’s due to the typically rocketlike acceleration, noiseless at that, of all electric cars.
Inside, front and rear passengers alike have plenty of room in this angular SUV, thanks to the batteries being underfoot. The rear hatch offers enough space for most parental or weekend sports gear needs.
Outside, the car is sure to polarize. While Tesla quite successfully has adopted a more standard sedan design for its Model 3 and S, Jaguar has opted to give the I-PACE a cutting-edge concept-car-type feel.
You’ll do a double take, then search the nose for a clue as to what it is and find that snarling big cat. For some automobile enthusiasts, Jaguar’s long racing and road car heritage will mean more than Tesla’s techie upstart cachet.
No question that Musk has singlehandedly has made electric cars cool. But he now is dealing with a host of personal and professional headaches while the value of the company’s stock sinks.
So Jaguar is first into the EV arena to do battle with a wounded titan. Let the games begin.
The I-PACE aims to stand out with arresting colors such as this Caesium Blue, the color of our $89,000 test vehicle. JAGUAR LAND ROVER