Swift and sleek, the I-Pace is first among the lux­ury elec­tric ri­vals for Tesla

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - RICHARD BLACK­BURN

The elec­tric car rev­o­lu­tion is about to gather pace in Aus­tralia, thanks to the aptly named Jaguar I-Pace. The sleek­look­ing SUV is the first of a wave of new lux­ury EVs de­signed to make life tough for cur­rent poster boy Tesla. Later this year Mercedes-Benz will en­ter the fray with the EQC, then Audi will fol­low with its e-Tron.

New Jaguar man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Mark Cameron says beat­ing the Ger­man lux­ury brands to the punch on EVs is “a huge achieve­ment for a brand of our size”. It is also a chance to change per­cep­tions of the brand.

“Look back at the his­tory of when Jaguar has been at its best … it’s been at the fore­front of de­sign and tech­nol­ogy,” he says. The I-Pace will serve an­other pur­pose by en­cour­ag­ing the roll­out of charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

“It’s all about us be­ing an ac­cel­er­a­tor of the ac­cep­tance of this type of tech­nol­ogy,” he says.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion is an I-Pace trump card. There’s V8-like urge off the mark and the run from rest to 100km/h takes just 4.8 sec­onds, thanks to 294kW of power and 696Nm of torque.

More im­por­tantly, it claims a range of 470km on a sin­gle charge, putting it on par with some petrol SUVs and ahead of them in stop­start traf­fic. The range has been es­ti­mated us­ing new “real-world” test cri­te­ria, although Jaguar says a fully loaded model with the air­con blast­ing is more likely to cover roughly 415km.

This cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy comes at a cost — the I-Pace starts at $119,000 for the S, climb­ing to $130,200 for the SE and $140,800 for the HSE. A fully loaded “First Edi­tion” is avail­able for $159,700. Of the 60 cars al­ready on or­der, about 15 per cent are the launch edi­tion, but the SE is likely to be the vol­ume seller.

The S ver­sion has some dis­ap­point­ing omis­sions, given a price north of $100,000, among them an auto open­ing tail­gate. Real leather costs more and ac­tive cruise con­trol with high-speed au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and blind spot warn­ing are in a $1740 op­tion pack. As an al­ter­na­tive to the Tesla Model X, though, it’s more than com­pet­i­tive.

Stan­dard fare in­cludes a high-def­i­ni­tion cen­tre screen and a con­fig­urable dig­i­tal read­out in front of the driver, two-zone air­con, sat­nav and wi-fi hotspot.

Safety gear in­cludes traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion, lane keep as­sist and a “clear exit mon­i­tor” that helps when pulling out into traf­fic.

The cabin can be pre-warmed or cooled while it’s still plugged into the wall, so you don’t waste valu­able bat­tery life.

Jaguar ex­pects cus­tomers to do 90 per cent of their charg­ing at home and is sell­ing a wall charger from $2280 that will give roughly 35km of range for each hour plugged in, com­pared with 11km an hour for a stan­dard house­hold power point.

For long dis­tance trav­ellers, Jaguar says there are roughly 150 charg­ing sta­tions around the coun­try and the num­ber is grow­ing. The avail­able tech can re­plen­ish about 270km of the range in one hour at a cost of $5.70 per 100km.

ON THE ROAD

Be­hind the wheel, the Jaguar has all the wow fac­tor of a Tesla and more. The cabin is beau­ti­fully pre­sented with qual­ity ma­te­ri­als and mod­ern fin­ishes, com­ple­mented by crys­tal clear, high-def­i­ni­tion read­outs.

Leg and head­room are on par with mid-size SUVs and lug­gage space is de­cent.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion is neck-snap­ping off the mark, thanks to the in­stant torque and all-wheel drive trac­tion cre­ated by elec­tric mo­tors at each axle.

Ex­ten­sive use of alu­minium pan­els means the I-Pace is much lighter than a Tesla, trans­lat­ing to a more nim­ble car. You can still feel its weight through tighter cor­ners but pre­cise steer­ing and im­pres­sive grip mean it’s gen­uinely en­joy­able to drive. It can’t tow, un­like the Tesla, which is rated at 2250kg

With the stan­dard sus­pen­sion the ride can get a bit fid­gety over pock­marked roads but over­all it’s a good blend of lux­ury and sporti­ness. The op­tional air sus­pen­sion de­liv­ers a no­tice­ably smoother ride over rough roads.

Re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing means you can ac­cel­er­ate and slow by press­ing and lift­ing off the ac­cel­er­a­tor. It takes some get­ting used to, es­pe­cially in the more ag­gres­sive brak­ing set­ting, but af­ter a while it be­comes in­tu­itive.

The range claims ap­pear re­al­is­tic. On a hot day, with plenty of hills, high­way driv­ing and the odd ac­ci­den­tal de­tour, the I-Pace de­liv­ered pretty close to its 400km prom­ise.

The I-Pace emits a sound at up to 20km/h to warn vul­ner­a­ble road users of its ap­proach. The tech­nol­ogy, tested in the UK by Guide Dogs for the Blind, emits an alert from a speaker be­hind the grille. En­gi­neers ini­tially tried to mimic the sound of space­ships in sci-fi films but that idea was shelved be­cause pedes­tri­ans looked at the sky rather than the road as the car neared.

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