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The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is quite an achievement. While the entire automotive industry is scrambling to get electric vehicles out by the end of the decade, Jaguar will begin delivering its new EV crossover before the end of this summer with the performance, style and range to challenge Tesla and everyone else.

(Full Disclosure: Jaguar wanted me to drive the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace so bad it brought hundreds of the cars to Portugal and set up its own massive charging station, and then flew me out by way of Paris and spoiled me with delicious meals, plenty of gin, and an insurance-sanctioned driving test with a special instructor to make sure my 23-year-old self wouldn’t do anything stupid. Then I was put on a race track and encouraged to do just that.)

What Is It?

The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is the British automaker’s first electric vehicle. It’s somewhere between a small SUV and a medium crossover with the aesthetics of a hatchback, and carries the attitude and ability to cruise through the city, round a racetrack or climb a small mountain.

Jaguar presents the I-Pace as the clear antidote to Tesla, placing the EV somewhere between the Model S and Model X packages while offering the sense of style and luxury that matches the rest of the Jag brand, while less-fortunately continuing to carry some of the same-old quality and reliability quirks.

What’s really impressive with the I-Pace is the level of performance and capability Jag has achieved in such a short amount of time. The 2016 concept vehicle was more of a prototype, with Jag fast-tracking the production version and getting it out the door this summer.

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Jag’s engineers have been working on EV technology for ten years and were finally told to let loose, resulting in a car with proprietary battery chemistry and bespoke permanent-magnet motor technology a couple of years ahead of most of the bigger industry names.

The design of the car is a light re-think of the SUV and crossover, taking cues from the company’s C-X75 hypercar concept with a cab-forward cockpit. Instead of a mid-engined layout, the I-Pace’s cab-forward setup is thanks to the packaging benefits of Jaguar’s new EV motors and the lack of a traditional combustion engine. The company could have designed an EV with the proportions of a traditional car, but committed to a clean-sheet design instead, and there’s a lot of benefits—and patents—to show for it.

The styling of the car and its unusual placement between various vehicle segments make it difficult to judge, but that’s only because we haven’t really seen something quite like this before. The result is a spacious interior that seemingly conflicts with the small-seeming proportions of the exterior. Jag designers call it the “Tardis,” which I believe is a Star Trek reference.

The punch of performance from the batteries also makes you overlook the car’s 4,800-pound curb weight, and the regenerative motors and gripping brakes are the perfect counter to the acceleration and speed you can achieve in this thing.

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Specs That Matter

Jaguar claims the I-Pace has an estimated normal range of 240 miles from its juiced up 90 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which you can read more about here. All models of the car come with two electric motors, one at the front and rear axle, which means it has permanent four-wheel drive.

The I-Pace can go from zero to 60 mph in a claimed 4.5 seconds and that feels accurate after passing a few Renault Twingos on the road and from a few squirts on the track. Speed tops out at 124 mph with a claimed 394 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque.

AC charge time for the battery with a 230-volt/32-amp charger is 10 hours to 80 percent, or just under 13 hours for a “full” charge. Its 50 kW DC charge time to 80 percent is 85 minutes, while a DC fast charger can juice up to 80 percent in just 40 minutes. The company claims the drag coefficient of the I-Pace is “as low as” 0.29 thanks to the square shape at the rear end and some trick holes and features in the bodywork.

The car utilizes a liquid cooling system to keeps the battery pack at the optimum temperature range of 77-to-86 degrees Fahrenheit, which can be primed via the car’s connected phone app for hot summers or before track days.

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Jaguar provides an eight-year or 100,000 mile battery warranty, or until it reaches 70 percent of its “state of health.” There’s also a comprehensive five-year, 60,000 mile warranty for the rest of it with 24-hour roadside assistance and complimentary scheduled maintenance.

Pricing starts at $69,500 for the S model and can climb to at least $85,900 for the special First Edition car, but all I-Pace models get the twin-motor, 90 kWh setup with no current performance upgrades available beyond wheels and tires.

That’s not a bad deal when the Tesla Model S 75D only bests it by 0.3 seconds to 60 mph and a top speed bump of 15 mph, but costs a few thousand more. There’s also the fact that Jaguar gives you the benefit, such as it is, of buying from a better-established company. The closest comparison between Tesla and the I-Pace is the new Dual Motor Performance Model 3, which still starts out at around $78,000 and will likely take a chunk of time to actually get delivered.

What’s Great

The I-Pace is arguably the best electric vehicle on sale today. I’m going to go ahead and argue that it is. While it lacks the cult status of a Tesla and its crossover styling will deter those who still complain about such things, it’s a striking look that grew on me after just about five minutes of seeing it in person. The unique profile and proportions make it instantly stand out in the street, and its EV design considerations get people asking you about it.

Jag also thankfully offers it in something other than a weak palate of luxurious greys. In person, the flat-white color catches the light just right without totally blinding you, the royal blue had me lost at sea, the sunburn orange frightened the children and the sparkly silver got a trophy for participation, which it should still display with pride. The shape underneath it all will be catching looks no matter what the color is for a long time after the papers are signed, anyway.

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The I-Pace has changed me forever. Being my first EV driving experience longer than a lunch break, I fell in love with the dynamics of one-pedal driving that an EV with heavy throttle regen grants you (on the I-Pace, you can adjust the strength of the regen, but heavy is the way to go). I felt like a portal to a simpler world had opened before me on the incredible Portugal roads Jag found for us.

Being able to accelerate and slow down with just one foot opens up brain space to enhance the other aspects of driving, like making sure you land the jump from the unexpected rise in the road, or somehow managing to squeeze the I-Pace between a sleeping stray dog, a guardrail and a European coach bus with selfie sticks protruding out of the windows like oars on a Viking ship.

Mostly, managing just the one pedal also grants you more confidence throwing some speed into your corners, since the immediate regen virtually eliminates the human reaction time of having to move your foot over to the brake pedal. My co-driver and I started a competition on how many miles we could go without touching the brake pedal, and the numbers were deep in the dozens at some points.

EVs have basically created a new branch of the human evolution chain, and we’ll look back on our two-and-three-pedal explosion coffins in the same judging way I felt while watching Dude, Where’s My Car? last week.

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Now that you’re throwing it into the corners with this newfound confidence, the I-Pace happily laps it up, giving in to a comfortable amount of body roll before catching and holding you, like a tetherball facing a world class boxer. It’s not a damn sports car, but if you approach it with reasonable crossover expectations, it will impress you.

On Wednesday, we published an article calling out the I-Pace for the fake noise it pumps in when you’re giving it the beans in Dynamic mode, based on audio captured by Roadshow’s Tim Stevens, who was on this drive event with me. After asking him about it, he liked the noise it made, and I did too.

It’s like Jaguar recorded the bass of a V8 with an episode of the Jetsons on in the background, and when your foot is fully flexed on the juice jammer, you welcome anything that indicates the ungodly amount of power you now wield, and you need something to indicate how terrifyingly quick you can get going. If it really bothers you, you can turn it off. Good luck after that.

Off Road And On Track

It was not hyperbole when I said the I-Pace could handle city streets, track driving and mountain climbing, as I’ve done all three. On the way to the race track, Jaguar wanted to show off the I-Pace’s off-roading chops, which include a variable suspension with three settings, the taller one coming handy here, and Adaptive Surface Response on the First Edition model, which controls the throttle for you over rough conditions.

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Jag had us drive through a rocky creek bed and then slowly work our way up a rocky, powdery hill-mountain path that made the whole experience seem like one of those feature coasters at an amusement park.

We were shown that the I-Pace can stop on a steep and loose incline, start again, and then go down the other side. It was impressive considering nobody who buys this would ever think about driving into a creek on purpose. It’s nice to know that when it happens anyway because the driver still hasn’t figured out how to turn off Facebook Messenger notifications, it could probably handle itself.

After our journey over the dusty mountains we found ourselves at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, where we were given an instructor and three laps in a four-cylinder F-Type to get a basic understanding of the layout of the track, and to compare what a heavy EV feels like in relation to a rear-wheel drive sports car.

My three laps in the I-Pace were a blast, but it was a totally different dynamic than the F-Type. As previously mentioned, being able to control most of the action with just one pedal was a little more comfortable, at least for the inexperienced, and it really helped with steering management now that understeer was the name of the game, not oversteer.

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The first time I really felt the weight of the car was on the track, and the instructor walked me through the tricky balance of pushing an EV to its limits. The problem is that you have a lot of weight you’re trying to shift in tight and fast corners, and of course there is a lot more actual braking involved than street driving.

To get the car to go around, you’d brake hard in the zone and then move your foot onto the throttle only enough to prevent the regen from slowing you down further, to neutralize the car while it stabilizes after braking and begin turning in. Once you’re at the apex you can start gradually increasing the throttle input with that satisfyingly electric surge following.

But it was all much different from the F-Type laps. You had to brake harder but your foot was on the throttle more, whereas the sports car, even the with the smaller engine, was still more than willing to let the tail out, and relatively nimble and noticeably and understandably more stable overall compared to the EV.

What’s Weak

Over the course of the two days of driving I managed to drive a First Edition car and the entry-level S model. The First Edition came with massive 22-inch wheels, which were noticeably harsher on the ride when compared to the 20-inch wheels on the S, and it’s likely they only had a marginal benefit while we were running laps.

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You can probably tell even from the photos, but some of the interior materials aren’t great, and the “Flight Deck” dashboard layout with some buttons scattered around two touchscreens feels like an unfortunate compromise between what’s actually practical and possibly a desire to seem futuristic.

The plastic bits around the screens weren’t of the greatest quality and the passenger’s knee sits up against the air-con and drive-mode section of the flight deck, which is uncomfortably hard. It is hollowed out, similar to some of Volvo’s interiors, and perfect for a phone and a charging cable to be tucked away underneath.

The two touchscreens are a little too slow to react to touches, but Jaguar has thankfully limited the number of menus and sub menus, and navigating the actual system, while painfully slow at times, is relatively intuitive to figure out if you are not driving at the exact moment. There’s also a nice lip above the top screen to rest your hand while your finger is at work which doesn’t seem like it would get too smudgy.

There’s another screen in front of the driver that can display a navigation map alongside the main screen, which is a great feature. But, there was a moment on day two in the S model where two of the media cars got a High Voltage warning message, and they had to go through some sort of rebooting process that took just over six minutes before being cleared to go back out.

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When asked about this, Jaguar explained that this was a software issue that had already been overcome. “...Unfortunately a small number of vehicles within the (press car) fleet hadn’t been updated with the latest software across all the multiple control modules. As they were discovered, they were updated at the end of the day when they went in for their post event inspection/service(s),” a rep told us in a note. So, you should be covered there.

The biggest issue for the early I-Paces we were driving seemed to be the air conditioning. The car has sensors in each seat to detect where occupants are sitting. This can warn the driver when someone in the back isn’t wearing a seatbelt, etc., but it’s also used to control which parts of the car get the conditioned air.

At least two of the cars being tested in my group seemed to be having issues with the sensors, because the passengers would complain that the driver was getting blasted while the passenger was getting nothing. I know for a fact it was the seat sensors on at least one of the cars. Jaguar does this as one of many measures to limit energy use and to try to maximize efficiency, but it was a problem for them this week in these early builds.

Other than that, one of the two lane departure warning systems was a little too invasive on the tight roads, locking up the steering wheel and giving me a slight heart attack as it forbid me to turn for a fraction of a second. You can turn both the invasive system and the gentler vibration system off, if you so choose.

I wouldn’t generally consider the 240-mile range of the I-Pace to be weak. For the current generation of EVs, it’s batting higher than average. But if you’re the type of person who is somehow traveling more than that range on a regular basis, it’s obviously something to be aware of depending on the extent of the charging infrastructure in your area.

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Early Verdict

The critical thing, as much as Jag engineered the I-Pace to be different, and to feel and look and sound like an electric car, at the end of the day it still seats five very comfortable, has an insane amount of cargo space, comes with a decent warranty, with throw you back in your seat and re-map your brain, all while being equipped and priced to beat Tesla.

Jag didn’t just go and slap some batteries in a body, and it doesn’t feel like they rushed at all. The I-Pace is refreshingly new, designed with purpose and it wants to impress you. For a new age of the industry when minds have to be made up, Jag seems like a mindreader.

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