Brits set to tackle Tesla’s dominance
A Jaguar Project 8, V8 DB11, all-electric Porsche, Benz’s ‘base’ E63 and more
IS THE I-PACE an SUV, a sedan, a coupe or a sports car? According to Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director, “It doesn’t matter.” He’s probably right. Even to expert eyes the lines between different types of car are blurring, so imagine how confusing it is to those who actually spend money on them. All they need to know about the I-Pace is that it’s a 294kW, $119K-plus, battery electric vehicle (BEV) with a 480km range, and it joins Tesla and a host of plug-in hybrids as the posh electric vehicle of choice. Jaguar designed and specified two motors, the same at each end of the car. There are more than 10 patents on its permanent magnet motor, which has the DC-AC inverter attached to it because AC cabling needs to be as short as possible to be efficient. Using two motors enabled Jaguar to put the wheels where it wanted. With only one axle driven, the rear wheels would have had to be further forward in the body if the car was going to drive halfway normally. Suspension is double wishbones up front and an integral link at the rear, with coil springs and passive or adaptive dampers, or air springs with adaptive dampers. The I-Pace has all-wheel drive and 50/50 weight distribution. The I-Pace is more car-like than a Tesla – it has a key, start button, and a handbrake on the dash, although you’ll probably never use it. Push D and pull away using the ‘creep’ function, or use the throttle. It’s smooth and quiet. Perfect for the next-gen Jag XJ… Throttle sensitivity can be turned up or down and you can change how much regenerative braking you get. On the higher setting there’s so much regenerative braking that Jaguar reckons you can dispense with 98 per cent of actual brake use, and you quickly get used to doing that. It’s why the brakes can be small. Throttle response is about halfway between how razor sharp it could be, and what we’re used to from petrol-powered
cars, so you don’t bunny hop along. In normal driving, the rear motor does the accelerating so there’s no steering corruption or front-wheel scrabble, and the front one does the regeneration under deceleration because that’s where the weight shifts. It soon becomes a doddle to drive using only one pedal, all the way to a stop. That encourages you to drive smoothly and efficiently, but don’t for a minute think the I-Pace is slow. Peak torque of 680Nm is available from zero rpm and the motors spin to 13,000rpm (with a single-speed 9:1 reduction gear), so overtaking urge is brilliant and as you ask more of the chassis it shuffles power – up to half of all available – to any wheel it wants. The I-Pace we drove had the air spring/adaptive damper setup and it’s not too shabby off-road, either. We crossed a river (it can wade in water up to 500mm deep), and climbed a steep gravel hill. Here electric AWD systems have huge potential because they can stop and go at will and put as much or little torque as they want to any wheel. On the track, trailing the brakes (actually the brakes and front motor) means the car rotates nicely into a corner. Then when you get back on the power, it’s metered out pleasingly. Weight (2208kg) keeps it from being a real driver’s car, but it’s impressive. It’s very quiet, but you can turn up the enhanced ‘whoosh’ noise it makes under acceleration. Ride quality is a drawback, though. There’s great weight distribution and a low centre of mass, but weight is the perennial EV problem. The low centre of gravity means roll control is good, but you’re aware of body movements. Elsewhere, though, I-Pace is seriously refined and relaxed. There’s not much else to dislike and if a BEV fits your lifestyle, you’re looking at the best of them.
DON’T FOR A MINUTE THINK THE I-PACE IS SLOW. PEAK TORQUE IS AVAILABLE FROM ZERO RPM AND THE MOTORS SPIN TO 13,000RPM
ABOVE At 2208kg I-Pace is heavy like all BEVs, but its 680Nm of torque, available from zero rpm, makes light work of overtaking OPPOSITE Despite a low centre of gravity, ride quality on the road is affected by I-Pace’s weight. Off-road, though, the Jag is a revelation
LEFT I-Pace creates so much regenerative braking that ‘normal’ braking is almost redundant