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Test Drive: 2019 Jaguar I-PACE

DESIGN

Test Drive: 2019 Jaguar I-PACE

How the British automaker simultaneously leveraged heritage and embraced the future

by Josh Rubin
on 19 June 2018

Its haunches may be distinctively Jaguar, but the I-PACE is unlike anything the brand has delivered before. The all-electric vehicle provides Jaguar not only with bona fide green credentials, but new design inspiration too. The first of the British sports-car maker’s models to go fully electric—part of a plan to offer every new model with an electrified option by 2020—the I-PACE launches with an estimated 240-mile range and the looks and performance chops to rival the only other model in the luxury, battery-powered SUT category: the Tesla Model X. But the I-PACE’s design, isn’t an academic exercise in showing off an electrified future. Instead, it’s a study in leveraging the new opportunities an electric drivetrain affords—the I-PACE’s designers said that the electric powertrain cast off the shackles of normal design constraints and provided opportunities to explore.

The battery pack’s placement allows for more interior space despite a smaller footprint overall. Noticeably larger relative to the overall size of the vehicle, the cabin provides plenty of comfort for up to five passengers with copious head- and legroom and, for those sitting in the front, an assurance you won’t bump elbows with your row mate. Add to that the ground clearance of an SUT, the height of a wagon, and a snubbed nose and sloped rear hatch for a shape that begs a new name. Let’s call it a Sport Utility Tourer (SUT).

As guests of Jaguar, we drove the I-PACE in southern Portugal on winding roads, open highways, a world-renowned race track and, once improbable for a Jaguar, an off-road course. With standard all-wheel drive, the car impressed across the board, tackling off-road terrain and the hairpin turns of the track with equal confidence. Two days of driving proved that a traditional automotive brand like Jaguar can bring deep expertise to an electrified future and create a vehicle that both leverages heritage and embraces the future.

Most clearly, the I-PACE harkens back to the automaker’s 2010 mid-engine supercar concept, the Jaguar C-X75. The placement of the SUT’s battery pack between the axles facilitates a low center of gravity and an optimal 50:50 weight distribution ideal for cornering. The battery’s position also helped inform the sheet metal, allowing for a short hood and rear overhangs. The result is a sculpted SUT so aerodynamic it doesn’t need a rear wiper.

Rain or shine, our two days of driving through southern Portugal showed us a highly versatile vehicle that packed the thrill of an EV. With the slightest press of the pedal, the instant torque shoots through the car, propelling it silently, evoking a fierce serenity. Perhaps too silently—without the road noise, it’s easy to underestimate your speed. The I-PACE moves so smoothly and stealthily that you almost want that noise as a reminder to check the speedometer. That’s why Jaguar has arranged for it to emit an acoustic signal to alert pedestrians of its approach at speeds below 12 mph. 
The I-PACE boasts a slew of other technical features new to Jaguar, too. It’s the first Jaguar configured to receive over-the-air software updates to its battery charging capability, telematics unit, and infotainment system. A built-in 4G WiFi hotspot is standard, as are half a dozen USB ports.

Users can also ask Amazon Alexa questions about the car based on information stored in Jaguar’s InControl Remote mobile app. The SUT is available with adaptive cruise control and steering assist, a Jaguar Land Rover first. Though the I-PACE is slated to join Waymo as the first premium EV in its fleet, the vehicle won’t launch with any semi-autonomous driving technology.

Finished with premium materials such as wood grain and precision-machined aluminum, the I-PACE feels every bit a luxury vehicle, showcasing the brand’s heritage making cars for more than 80 years. Seats can be upholstered in Luxtec leatherette, grained leather, fine-grain Windsor leather or a durable wool-blend with recycled suede cloth developed with Danish textile experts Kvadrat.

The I-PACE comes equipped with Jaguar’s Touch Pro Duo “Flight Deck” infotainment system with a pair of HD touchscreens—10 inches for the upper and 5.5 inches for the lower—set in a floating center console. The cabin teems with clever storage compartments, including trays tucked beneath the rear seats to store tablets and laptops. A standard panoramic sunroof creates the illusion of even more space, and the trunk fits more luggage than most mid-size SUVs.

Priced from $69,500 before government incentives, the 2019 I-PACE will be offered in three trims—S, SE and HSE—as well as a First Edition model available for the first year only. Deliveries begin later this year.

Exterior images by Josh Rubin, interior courtesy of Jaguar

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