‘There are times when the rum­ble of a V8 is re­as­sur­ing’

Push­ing the lim­its of ‘Jaguar’s most sig­nif­i­cant car since the E-type’ proves a stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. But there’s a clas­sic out­come at the end of it all

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents - Quentin Will­son had a nine-year stint pre­sent­ing the BBC’S Top Gear, has bought and sold count­less cars and has ce­mented a rep­u­ta­tion as ev­ery­one’s favourite mo­tor­ing pun­dit.

This was my chal­lenge. A roundtrip of 211 miles to view a ’65 Alfa Gi­u­lia Spi­der 1600 in a slim four-hour time win­dow and be back in time to pick up my 13-year-old daugh­ter from school net­ball prac­tice. I needed wheels that were fast, de­pend­able and cool (it was 29 de­grees) and leav­ing my daugh­ter wait­ing wasn’t an op­tion.

I didn’t fancy ham­mer­ing the Cor­niche or Mus­tang all that way in the heat so the choice was be­tween a Range Rover Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy or a new elec­tric Jaguar I-pace that had ar­rived that morn­ing on test. A more re­spon­si­ble par­ent would have taken the for­mer. Ice-cold air­con and a tur­bocharged 4.4-litre that never sur­ren­ders. But no. I chose the I-pace.

My rea­sons felt good at the time. I was one the first jour­nal­ists to drive Jaguar’s new elec­tric SUV on UK roads away from its re­cent glitzy launch in Por­tu­gal. The ‘real-world’ bat­tery range was claimed to be around 250 miles. Could I prove that dis­tance was pos­si­ble at brisk mo­tor­way speeds with the air-con at full tilt with­out stop­ping to recharge? Quoted bat­tery ranges on EVS are no­to­ri­ously op­ti­mistic so this ex­per­i­ment car­ried a heavy risk. The I-pace is Jaguar’s most sig­nif­i­cant car since the E-type, and prov­ing it can build a Tesla ri­val that has soul, sen­su­al­ity and pas­sion is a big deal. Run­ning out of volts on the hard shoul­der would have been a dis­as­ter with tabloid im­pli­ca­tions...

With the bat­tery fully charged I hurled the I-pace down the M40 to­wards London. Things be­gan well. Sweet steer­ing, crisp turn in, flat cor­ner­ing stance, epic ac­cel­er­a­tion and gor­geous de­tail­ing. The I-pace is the world’s most sen­su­ous EV by a hefty mar­gin; another of Jag de­signer Ian Cal­lum’s bril­liant cre­ations. But none of that mat­tered be­cause that day all I could feel was a deadly, climb­ing range anx­i­ety. Fate threw ev­ery­thing at me. Con­sti­pated traf­fic, an in­dus­trial es­tate I couldn’t find and it was so hot I could only turn the air-con off for a few min­utes at a time.

I ar­rived at the Alfa’s lo­ca­tion with 141 miles of range left. The Gi­u­lia was stun­ning, a freshly re­stored gem I couldn’t fault with £90k of re­cent bills. And a rare orig­i­nal rhd Spi­der with fac­tory five-speed and front discs to boot. Af­ter one of the fastest in­spec­tions ever, I made my of­fer and climbed fear­fully back into the I-pace.

More queues, jams and stress. By the time I was back on the M40 the bat­tery in­di­ca­tor had fallen to 120 miles, home was still 80 miles away, the mar­gin for er­ror was clos­ing and time was run­ning out. As I hit my exit I had only 50 miles of bat­tery left. Breath­ing a sigh of re­lief, I turned into my drive with 39 miles re­main­ing.

All my angst was com­pletely mis­placed be­cause the I-pace does what it says on the tin and I’d proved it – 211 mo­tor­way miles, mostly air-con­di­tioned, and hardly hang­ing about ei­ther. Did I com­mit one last act of to­tal ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity to eke out those last 30-odd miles and head for my daugh­ter’s school in the Jag? In a mo­ment of un­char­ac­ter­is­tic cau­tion, I plugged the I-pace into my wall charger, low­ered the Mus­tang’s con­vert­ible top and gunned it.

There are times in this high-tech world when the ea­ger rum­ble of a full-fat, ca­st­iron V8 sounds par­tic­u­larly re­as­sur­ing.

Grace, pace, space – but I think we can all agree on which has the pret­tier face...

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