Automobile - - Drives -

BBLACKPOOL IS AS work­ing class as fish and chips, a pint of bit­ter, and ap­ple pie with cus­tard. A fa­vorite des­ti­na­tion dur­ing the U.K.’s Bank Hol­i­days, the sea­side re­sort—known among other things for its neo-Eif­fel

Tower and an­tique beach­front trams— wel­comes us with a glit­ter­ing ar­ray of gam­bling ar­cades, low-rent fast food eater­ies, back street riffraff, and the grand au­tum­nal il­lu­mi­na­tion that has to dou­ble the city’s elec­tric­ity bill.

Speak­ing of elec­tric­ity, mild panic made the rounds of Team I-Pace when the task of find­ing a suf­fi­ciently pow­er­ful charg­ing dock for the brand-new al­l­elec­tric Jaguar proved more dif­fi­cult than ex­pected. Thank­fully there were a cou­ple of low-power wall boxes at the ho­tel. By the time Wolf­gang Ziebart (the driv­ing force be­hind the I-Pace’s de­vel­op­ment and my co-pi­lot for our cross-U.K. ad­ven­ture) and I set off the next morn­ing, the state-of-charge dis­play read 93 per­cent, and the range me­ter in­di­cated we had more than enough juice to make the nom­i­nal 147 miles to our des­ti­na­tion. In an ef­fort to max­i­mize driv­ing plea­sure and min­i­mize con­sump­tion, the cho­sen route was prac­ti­cally de­void of high­way stretches. The chase car car­ried a cou­ple of spare wheels and a tow bar but no mo­bile charger.

An early eye-opener was a mul­ti­m­ile duel we had with a black Mercedes-AMG C 63. True, at speeds over 90 mph where max power takes over from max torque, the AMG and its twin-turbo V-8 pulled away with vigor. But we reeled it back in through slower sec­tions thanks to the I-Pace’s re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing fea­ture, which has the lift-off ef­fect of a sud­den su­per-strong head­wind. Ex­ceed 0.4 g, and its four disc brakes will match the AMG sedan inch by inch for stop­ping power, all while charg­ing the bat­ter­ies in the process. The I-Pace also ex­cels around quick S-bends and wide round­abouts. Es­pe­cially round­abouts. Its long, 117.7-inch wheel­base and high curb weight of 4,784 pounds kick the door open to a new di­men­sion of grip and road-hold­ing no sim­i­larly sized SUV save the Porsche Ma­can can match. Frus­trated by the white ap­pari­tion loom­ing large in his mir­rors, the Mercedes driver even­tu­ally gave up and waved us past.

“This was liv­ing proof that mod­ern bat­tery-elec­tric ve­hi­cles are no longer about re­nun­ci­a­tion and dy­namic con­ces­sions,” Jaguar’s beam­ing se­nior en­gi­neer de­clared from the pas­sen­ger seat af­ter our AMG en­counter. Ziebart also lauded the I-Pace’s in­stant torque punch, its elec­tric




all-wheel drive that in­tro­duces a new di­men­sion of axle-byaxle torque vec­tor­ing, and the air sus­pen­sion, which helps neu­tral­ize the weight penalty. “The I-Pace com­bines the best of both worlds,” he said. “It pro­tects our planet, and it puts a big smile on the driver’s face.”

Those smiles start with the car’s 90-kWh lithium-ion bat­tery pack, which feeds power to two elec­tric mo­tors, mounted in the cen­ter of the front and rear axles, that pro­duce a to­tal of 394 horse­power and 512 lb-ft of twist routed through a sin­gle-speed trans­mis­sion. It hits 60 mph in 4.5 sec­onds and calls it quits at 124 mph, ac­cord­ing to Jaguar.

It does it all with a hush, too. Just as the en­vi­ron­ment needs to get used to the silently ap­proach­ing elec­tric car, the driver needs time to learn and ad­just as well. Take for in­stance the “sin­gle-pedal” driv­ing style many cite as one of the breed’s dy­namic high­lights. You de­cel­er­ate by lift­ing off of the throt­tle, us­ing the high amount of drag-pro­duc­ing brake re­gen­er­a­tion for the best bal­ance of charg­ing the bat­ter­ies and pac­ing your­self. Ziebart loves the one-pedal feel, which

“For­get range and state of charge,” com­manded Herr Ziebart. “Just go for it. Drive it like an F-Type.”

prob­a­bly ex­plains why the tog­gle for al­ter­nat­ing be­tween low- and high­re­gen­er­a­tion modes is hid­den in the un­der­growth of the I-Pace’s sys­tem set­tings. Al­though high works well in many sit­u­a­tions, it forces you to keep the ac­cel­er­a­tor de­pressed at a cer­tain min­i­mum an­gle or the ve­hi­cle will swiftly purr to a stop. In terms of over­all en­ergy bal­ance, low is there­fore marginally more ef­fi­cient than high.

When­ever we stopped for photos, food, or a brief pow­wow, the Jaguar was about as con­spic­u­ous to on­look­ers as the area’s graz­ing sheep. No one re­ally took no­tice of this early ex­er­cise in zero-emis­sions mo­bil­ity. That’s prob­a­bly be­cause the I-Pace looks first and fore­most like a mod­ern Jaguar, sport­ing a large trade­mark grille, a stubby squared­off front end, sub­stan­tial 20-inch wheels (22-inch­ers are avail­able, 18-inch­ers come stan­dard) hug­ging the sel­domap­plied brakes, and a spa­cious body shaped for street cred and aero­dy­namic ef­fi­ciency.

The I-Pace’s ba­sic op­er­a­tion is as easy as most any other car. Hit­ting the starter but­ton sum­mons the in­stru­ments, lights, and in­fo­tain­ment. There are four self-ex­plana­tory keys la­beled D, N, R, and P. The dished steer­ing wheel is laden with var­i­ous fum­ble­ments, the driv­ing po­si­tion is of the com­mand-view type, and the 18-way seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive. How­ever, legroom for taller driv­ers is com­pro­mised by the el­bow­ing cen­ter con­sole, and vis­i­bil­ity is masked some by the rak­ish green­house and prom­i­nent C-pil­lars. That said, thanks in part to the lack of a con­ven­tional pow­er­train, in­te­rior space in the well-ex­e­cuted, cab-for­ward cabin is am­ple, with mul­ti­ple sig­nif­i­cant stor­age ar­eas and plenty of room for four adults,

five in a pinch. A full-length glass panoramic roof fur­ther opens up the space. Three dig­i­tal screens—the 12.3-inch in­stru­ment panel, 10.0-inch main touch­screen, and 5.5-inch sup­ple­men­tal touch­screen be­low it in the cen­ter stack— of­fer loads of in­for­ma­tion and are gen­er­ally easy to use.

Head­ing north past Lan­caster, we skirt the For­est of Bow­land be­fore head­ing in­land for the York­shire Dales along a route usu­ally haunted by mem­bers of the Anti-Des­ti­na­tion League. But to­day you could eas­ily mis­take the 40-mile sec­tion be­tween In­gle­ton and Bedale for a par­tic­u­larly pic­turesque stage of Ral­lye Eng­land. “For­get range and state of charge,” com­manded Herr Ziebart. “Just go for it. Drive it like an F-Type.” Or­der taken, mis­sion ac­com­plished.

At just south of 1,400 pounds, the bat­tery pack adds more than enough weight to flat­ten the ride, lower the cen­ter of grav­ity, and bal­ance the axle loads. Even low-speed sus­pen­sion com­fort is ac­cept­able; nei­ther pot­holes nor crum­bling soft shoul­ders will up­set the car’s bal­ance and poise. Long un­du­la­tions and trans­verse ir­ri­ta­tions are rarely an is­sue, and tire roar is about level with wind noise. The I-Pace does a fine job build­ing con­fi­dence through com­mu­ni­ca­tion, com­po­sure, and cool­ness at speed.

Al­though Eco, Snow/Gravel, and Com­fort modes have their place, Dy­namic is where the I-Pace is at its pa­ci­est: Throt­tle tip-in strikes like light­ning, and tip-out squashes speed as if an elec­tronic grem­lin had pulled the park­ing brake. Throt­tle ac­tion is down­right ag­gres­sive, and al­though the steer­ing may be a touch too heavy, the sus­pen­sion stamps its go-faster sig­na­ture onto ev­ery apex it can clip. Sound like a hard­core sports car? It should. We had it air­borne over brows, oc­ca­sion­ally lifted the in­ner front wheel when cor­ner­ing For­mula E style, and took no pris­on­ers cir­cling three­lane round­abouts on the rac­ing line. Ziebart grinned but said noth­ing. He looked happy that I too now knew what he knew all along.

About two-thirds of the way across the Bri­tish Isle, the range mon­i­tor sud­denly sug­gested we should recharge ASAP, ide­ally at a shop­ping mall down the road, spark­ing some EV anx­i­ety. Two min­utes later, how­ever, the com­puter caught up with the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem and in­di­cated we were good to go for the re­main­der of the jour­ney to Scar­bor­ough. “Ev­ery­one is at the be­gin­ning of a learn­ing curve, which may be steeper than we think,” Ziebart said. “That’s why gen­er­ous com­fort and safety mar­gins are so im­por­tant.”

We ar­rived in Scar­bor­ough with plenty of range left, just in time for tea and scones. I was sorry to see the I-Pace go be­cause it is a har­bin­ger of a bright and promis­ing fu­ture, and it is, most im­por­tant, fun to drive. Make that a lot of fun. Max torque on de­mand is a killer as­set, ve­hi­cle dy­nam­ics are al­ready a match for the SVR mind­set, and more space in com­bi­na­tion with a smaller foot­print scores 10 out of 10 on the prac­ti­cal­ity scale.

Not too long ago, Jaguar would have been proud to be an early adopter of tech­nolo­gies in­vented else­where. In the sum­mer of 2018, how­ever, things are dif­fer­ent: The I-Pace is a sur­prise leader of the bat­tery-pow­ered pack. AM



PACE SETTERThe I-Pace didn’t at­tract much at­ten­tion in Eng­land as it has a Jaguar fam­ily re­sem­blance, but the scooped hood hints at its al­ter­na­tive pow­er­train.

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