JAGUAR LEADS THE CHARGE
Swift and sleek, the I-Pace is first among the luxury electric rivals for Tesla
The electric car revolution is about to gather pace in Australia, thanks to the aptly named Jaguar I-Pace. The sleek-looking 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.