Jaguar I-Pace preview: More titillating than a Tesla?
It only seemed like 15 minutes ago that we were arguing about whether or not Jaguar should build an SUV. With the I-Pace shown off at the LA Motor Show – or AutomobilityLA as it’s now known – Jag shows us it’s not only thinking about building more SUVs, but making them electrically powered, too.
So what is the I-Pace? It’s smaller than size than the F-Pace SUV, it’s lower and shorter (4680mm long) and the profile is very different too.
Rather than Jag’s traditional long bonnet and rear-wheel drive proportion (“cab backwards” in designer speak) with the I-Pace the British company has made the bonnet short, with a “cab forwards” proportion.
That creates quite a snub nose and a large, spacious passenger cabin. The tail is chopped off and the rear window more of a coupe profile, creating something that looks altogether new and fresh.
Under the floors, and integral to the structure, is a 90kW, liquid-cooled battery pack. That’s three times the capacity of the battery in, say, a Nissan Leaf. And Jaguar is projecting this means the car can travel around 500km on the official European drive cycle.
However, everyone who’s owned or driven an electric vehicle (EV) knows that measurement to be fallacy, so a better estimate of real-world range is the USA EPA system, on which Jag says the I-Pace will deliver 220 miles range. This sounds much more realistic to us.
Jaguar has also set out to go Tesla baiting, it seems, so the I-Pace makes 400 horsepower and 700nM of torque, and the company is conservatively saying the car will run 0-60mph in around four seconds.
But as it’s all a concept isn’t this all just powder puff stuff anyway? Well, not so fast because – and having talked to Jag’s team – we’re fairly confident that the design of the I-Pace represents 80-90 per cent of the production design. Lose some of the concept details and you’re almost there.
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And when it comes to the powertrain, this is the real deal. Jag, like many other brands, has been working on its EV technology for some time now. Unusually the battery has been developed in house, whereas other brands primarily use Samsung and LG-chem technology. So the I-Pace will arrive, for real, in 2018. Whether it wears the same name, is up for debate.
Inside Jaguar has evolved its current interior design language, added some clever design devices to remove mass and developed some thin seats, but overall it’s quite restrained and not as arresting as that exterior. It doesn’t push things to quite the futuristic lengths as a BMW i in terns of materials, or as a Tesla in terms of tech screens and button removal.
Nonetheless, there’s what Jag calls its “flightdeck” control interface, with everything to hand, meaning things like normal indicator stalks, gear selector buttons exist on a high, floating console – which also contains the climate control knobs.
Combine this tech setup with a 12-inch, TFT driver display, plus a 12-inch centre touchscreen and tertiary 5.5-inch display for the climate. It might not be a Tesla, but there are plenty of screens to hand. The graphics have a much crisper, linear and monochrome design than current Jags, which feels more in-keeping with the I-Pace’s concept overall. It’s something we hope Jag will strive to keep and move forward for production.
In general we sense that EVs are reaching a tipping point. That 200 miles of range feels like the magic, acceptable number for many people. Meanwhile battery prices are falling and battery energy density continuing to increase.
With Tesla already there, and Audi, BMW and Mercedes all planning their own fully electric SUVs between now and 2020, Jaguar won’t have the market to itself when the I-Pace makes its real-world debut.
But what the I-Pace will have – if it’s even 80 per cent of what we see here on the Los Angeles show floor – is a highly appealing, good-looking car that pulls off the neat trick of feeling authentically like a Jaguar and yet advanced and modern enough without being so far out it puts the more conservative buyer off. Roll-on two years’ time.