by Mark Stevenson
At the 2018 Geneva Auto Show, Jaguar finally let the cat out of the bag with the all-new 2019 Jaguar I-Pace, the brand's first-ever electric vehicle as it sets its on some Silicon Valley prey. Built from the ground up to be an EV, the I-Pace makes the best of its packaging while continuing the brand's effort to shed its staid image as being the official car of British dentists. Not only will the addition to Jaguar's ever-growing range of SUVs be a performer on the road, the I-Pace is going to let loose on race tracks, too, as a single-make support series for Formula E.
As Jaguar's first EV, the I-Pace has a burden to bear. For starters, Jaguar is one of the first luxury brands to bring a full-electric model to market. It's also the moonshot Jaguar hopes will carry it through to electrifying every vehicle it sells by 2020, just a mere two years away. At its core, the Jaguar I-Pace relies on a 90kWh Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) lithium-ion battery pack, which Jaguar estimates will provide the EV with up to 240 miles of range. (EPA estimates have not yet been published.) Within that pack live 432 pouch cells, considered to be the most space efficient of all battery cell types, that can grab an 80-percent charge in 40 minutes if connected to a 100kW DC fast charging station, Jaguar claims.
That charging time is much longer at home, taking over 10 hours to reach 80 percent when connected to a 230V AC power source. A full charge will take nearly 13 hours. For those who have a short commute, the long at-home charging times likely won't be a concern as the I-Pace probably won't ever be drained flat before its eventual return to the garage. A Mode 2 universal cable will ship with the I-Pace as standard kit. With all that electric power comes much responsibility as the large battery pack sends electrons to two concentric motors, one at each axle, to lay down 394 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60? 4.5 seconds. Top speed? Wrong car. (Okay, it's 124 mph, but who cares?)
For those of you counting, the I-Pace's performance figures put it at near level-pegging with the Tesla Model X 75D, which manages a Tesla-claimed sprint to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. However, Silicon Valley's wunderkind ekes out a higher top speed of 130 mph—not that it matters. The Jaguar's exterior isn't simply a surface for the British luxury marque to spread its new design ethos. Much of what makes the I-Pace look the way it does is functional. For instance, while electric vehicles don't need to cool a traditional combustion engine, they do need to keep their batteries at an optimal operating temperature, so the Jaguar scoops up atmosphere through its grille and active vanes for that purpose.
Elsewhere, the I-Pace's shape is sculpted to make it aero-slippery and to channel air where the EV needs it most. Larger elements, like its low-slung hood, coupe-like tapered greenhouse, and adjustable air suspension that hunkers down the SUV above 65 mph combine to produce a drag coefficient of 0.29Cd. And like Tesla's vehicles, the Jaguar has flush door handles that pop out when touched or activated by a button on the key fob. But the Jaguar won't win any awards for aerodynamic trickery, as its Cd puts it on par with the BMW i3, but well behind the 0.25Cd Toyota Prius, 0.24Cd Tesla Model X, and the 0.22Cd Mercedes-Benz CLA. Jaguar will likely make aero refinements in the future.
Aside from its sheet metal's functional properties, the I-Pace is a stellar example of how an automaker can blend evoquative, electric-vehicle design language with a brand's already established visual theme. The I-Pace looks like a Jaguar, but it doesn't all the same. If you're into cars, one look at the I-Pace's front fascia—especially its headlights and signature grille—are enough to peg it as a Jaguar. Yet if you were to compare it side-by-side with the F-Pace, the differences are stark. You need to give Ian Callum and the design team at Jaguar some credit for pulling off such a task as it's no small feat. Well done, 'A' surface team. Your work should be commended.
The I-Pace's sculpture is wrapped around a body style atypical of Jaguar's heritage: a high-riding hatchback. Still, its wheelbase and exterior lengths are decidedly SUV-esque. The distance between the I-Pace's axles is just a tad bit farther than that of the F-Pace, but the I-Pace's body is just a smidge shorter. If you do the math, that means Jaguar's new EV wears its wheels closer to the corners, which is great for handling and interior space all the same. And yes, that extra bit of wheelbase length when combined with the structural flexibility of an electric drivetrain (in a platform meant from day one to house it) does pay off inside the I-Pace. Jaguar claims it has more space inside than the F-Pace. How much? Jag wouldn't specify exactly.
However, Jaguar did give some other figures: 25.3 cu. ft. of trunk space (slightly more than F-Pace), 51.0 cu. ft. of cargo space with the rear seats folded flat (dwarfed by the 88 cu. ft. offered in the Model X), 40.9 inches of front legroom, 35.0 inches of rear legroom, and more than 38 inches of headroom in both rows. The I-Pace isn't huge, but it's more than ample for its footprint. Jaguar isn't just about giving you more space. The new I-Pace is filled with technology, starting with a brand-new InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. It features 10-inch upper and 5.5-inch lower touchscreens to best separate information pages and control pages.
As for how the Jaguar I-Pace drives, we can only speculate at this point, but the brand's willingness to setup a single-make series for the EV should be a good indicator of how much confidence it has in its new chassis. Similar to the BMW i3, the Jaguar can be driven with one foot thanks to regenerative braking. As you back off the accelerator, there's a certain point where the I-Pace will transition from coasting to engaging regen. The more you back out of the throttle, the more aggressive the regenerative braking gets. For those of you who've yet to drive the BMW i3, regenerative braking is all you need to bring it to a complete stop at a light.
This obviously has the benefit of recharging the battery as the I-Pace slows down, further extending its range. It also alleviates brake wear, so you shouldn't have to replace consumable brake components nearly as often as with a conventionally powered vehicle that must rely on brake friction alone. Keeping the I-Pace's unsprung mass stuck to the tarmac are double wishbone front and integral link rear suspensions working together with Jaguar's air suspension system and Adaptive Dynamics continuously variable shock absorbers. In concert, these solutions give the I-Pace self-leveling abilities for when you're hauling heavy cargo.
There's much more to the I-Pace's story to tell in the future, but the salient points should be a solid prescription for success against Tesla. (Jaguar also has the upper hand as it makes a profit on all the other cars it builds, unlike the Silicon Valley automaker.) The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace will head to dealers during the second half of 2018 in S, SE, and HSE trims. First Edition models will only be available during the 2019 model year. The I-Pace S has a starting price of $69,500 before any applicable federal and state incentives, taxes, fees, and Jaguar's $995 destination charge. Preorders are open now on jaguarusa.com.