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Quiet and capable, does the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace change the game enough to justify its (heavily taxed) pricing?

The average lifecycle of a vehicle generation is six to eight years and, prior to launch, a manufacturer might spend up to 48 months developing and planning for final production. In the face of mounting legislation, it’s conceivable many global brands have already penned a date for when a final combustion-powered product will leave its production line ahead of an all-electric future.

South Africa’s preparedness for this inevitability aside, the launch of the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace represents an exciting salvo into the genuine prospect of EV ownership in our market. Tesla and Nissan are playing a waiting game in terms of a local offering, the latter with the newest version of its Leaf.

Unveiled as a concept at the 2016 Los Angeles Motor Show, it was the presence of mind by a budget-conscious Jaguar Land Rover brand and the quality of execution the I-Pace delivers which caught the motoring world by surprise. While 2020 local launch dates for any genuine (Germanic) rivals have yet to be confirmed, this 2019 World and European Car of the Year represents the first modern electrically powered vehicle to be made available in our market that is more than a mere city runabout.

Built in Graz, Austria, the I-Pace’s all-aluminium form is constructed around Jaguar’s D7e platform. It houses 423 lithium-ion cells within a “skateboard” battery pack mounted on a wheelbase 115 mm longer than that of the brand’s F-Pace SUV. With its corresponding short overhangs front and rear, and cab-forward stance, there’s a welcome level of intricacy to the Ian Callum-designed I-Pace that’s easily overlooked at first glance (and not helped by the white paint finish on our test unit).

Boasting a suitably slippery 0,29 drag coefficient, the all-electric Jaguar’s solid grille directs air up and over the front of the car via a deep bonnet cavity. A tailgate-mounted wing provides rear downforce. All three local grades of specification (S, SE as tested here and HSE) include 20-inch alloy wheels, while the top two versions are distinguish-able via intricate LED daytime-running lights.

Touted as an SUV by its maker, the I-Pace’s raised ride height is offset by its sloping roofline, culminating in a cosier cabin layout than anticipated. The optional panoramic sunroof does encroach on headroom but legroom is adequate. 

Along with the advent of stealth-like electric propulsion comes increased pressure on levels of NVH and build quality; any unwanted reverberations are amplified within a muted cabin. Some wind noise and rumble from fairly plump 245/50 R20 tyres do permeate the I-Pace’s cabin; however, the impressive levels of perceived build quality and finish throughout are immediately obvious. We have our reservations about the long-term viability of piano black trim bits currently favoured throughout the industry and here, again, its inclusion can appear budget. All that sunlight streaming in through the sunroof highlights any finger marks on that black panels and affects the legibility of the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system and the climate control display.

The 320 litres of luggage space matches that of the new, smaller Audi Q3 but the optional R2 200 space-saver spare wheel and bespoke carry bag hog most of it. A puncture repair kit is provided for those who opt out of carrying a spare wheel.

Jaguar’s first all-electric vehicle features a pair of lightweight permanent-magnet electric motors, one on each axle. Using a planetary gear train resulting in just one ratio (including an open differential), these front and rear electric motors combine to offer a permanent all-wheel-drive solution that delivers 294 kW and 696 N.m from 0-4 000 r/min. With four driving modes including eco, comfort and dynamic, in its raciest setting, the I-Pace was able to record a best 0-100 km/h time of just 4,79 seconds. Top speed is governed to 200 km/h.

Registering 2 225 kg on our scales (the battery pack alone weighs a claimed 600 kg), the Jaguar’s 350 mm front/325 mm rear ventilated braking system worked hard to bring the I-Pace to a stop from 100 km/h in an acceptable rather than exceptional average time of 3,01 seconds over 10 stops.

Bypassing comfort mode for the most efficient eco setting able to direct climate control to occupied seats only – and despite a claimed fully charged range of up to 470 km in the I-Pace – it’s inevitably always the distance-to-empty figure that EV owners will watch.  JLR’s partnered “Powerway” infrastructure links major centres across South Africa via a series of 82 (60 kW) charging stations capable of delivering an 80% charge to the I-Pace’s 90 kWh battery in 72 minutes. The brand also gives prospective owners the option of a three-phase, 7,4 kW home charging station that can charge the car to 100% overnight. This costs around R25 000 depending on the layout of your home.

Another form of charging is available via regenerative braking; lifting your foot off the throttle while driving results in relatively sharp (brake-light activating) deceleration. It takes a little getting used to and can be dialled out. A trait in the I-Pace that can catch the driver off guard is the immediate power delivery response via the throttle pedal.

Beyond impressive sprint times and despite the car’s substantial overall mass, the I-Pace combines a relatively well-organised – steel coil-sprung as standard – suspension arrangement with dynamics that mimic more established members of the Jaguar family. That said, the I-Pace’s stability control system is set to intervene fairly early.

 
PORTUGAL – At the end of day one of the international launch, I have experienced the I-Pace in stop-start city traffic, blasted along a stretch of motorway, waded through a stream of water before completing a steep off-road course and finally raced around the Portimao Circuit. This is an impressive feat for any car, let alone a full electric vehicle. My perceptions have been well and truly changed.

Background

Let’s take a step back. Many eyebrows were raised when Jaguar revealed an EV concept at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2016. What about heritage? What about a thumping supercharged V8 under the bonnet (something that has become synonymous with the brand)? Even vehicle engineering manager, David Shaw, admitted that his team was very sceptical about the idea at first. But now all members are passionate converts, as this is clearly the most elegant engineering solution in a time when emissions regulations and powertrain complexity are putting the fossil-fuel burning vehicle's survival at risk.

The looks

Seeing the vehicle in the metal parked outside the airport, it's clearly a unique and arresting design (based on the CX75 concept car) and is larger than the pictures might suggest. Chief exterior designer, Matthew Beaven, later passionately talked us through the flowing lines, revealing that the styling and engineering departments for once agreed on the basics. The 22-inch wheels, for instance, are pushed to the corners to free up interior space. And compact electrical powertrain on each axle allows the cabin-forward design with the aggressive Jaguar grille still on the nose, but now directing most of the airflow out of the bonnet scoop to improve aerodynamics at the windscreen base.

The fact that the 90 kWh battery pack is housed underfloor between the axles raises the height of the occupant cell. Air suspension can lift the body a further 50 mm, giving Jaguar the prerogative to class it as an SUV, even if the sleek shape and low roofline point more towards sportscar. The striking but blunt rear design and the roof spoiler aid aerodynamics further and help keep the rear window clean without the need for a wiper – this was proven later when a dirt road section was completed.

Inside

In the cabin, Jaguar has taken current technology, such as the twin high-definition touchscreens plus digital instruments, and combined it with modern design elements to create a futuristic dashboard dubbed the “flight deck” by the firm. Connected car capability allows the owner to control many vehicle functions from their smartphones, including checking charge status, programming the climatic control settings to condition the cabin for a future journey and opening the doors remotely.

Although the length of the vehicle is similar to that of the XE, the occupant space is much larger thanks in part to the wheelbase of 2 990 mm. There's a sense of occasion when entering the cabin, which is not let down by the quality of materials nor the fit and finish. Jaguar could not risk any rattles in its quietest cabin to date (it is possible to hear the chatter of birds when driving in town).

Interestingly, the seating position is more sportscar than SUV as the floor is relatively high in relation to the seat squabs. This especially hampers rear comfort although legroom back there is acceptable. The fact that there is no transmission tunnel allows for a 10-litre central storage cabinet and further storage under the floating climate control shelf.

Piloting it

Starting the vehicle is as easy as hitting a button while keeping a foot on the brake. The dashboard lights up and shows the word “ready”. With twin electric motors (one on each axle) delivering a combined 298kW and 696 N.m, exhilarating performance is a given, with a claimed zero to 100 km/h time of 4,8 seconds. What the figures cannot convey, however, is the instant response to any flex of your right toe, especially in dynamic mode.

With one fixed gear ratio from standstill to 200 km/h, there is no need to wait for a transmission to kick down or a turbo to spool up. No internal combustion engine can respond in this way. The rate of acceleration defies the 2,2 tonne mass (the battery pack alone tips the scales at 600 kg) and the electric car surges to the horizon in anger. The driver can choose to either pick up speed in silence or opt for a synthesised soundtrack that can only be described as a muted, futuristic V8 burble that surprisingly suits the application.

Braking is interesting as with the regenerative effort (for charging the battery) set to “high”, up to 0,2 G of braking force is possible simply by letting go of the accelerator. The result is enough deceleration to avoid the mechanical pedal under normal driving conditions and enabling single-pedal driving that soon becomes second nature.

Off-road?

If a dirt-road section that the I-Pace took in its stride was a surprise, imagine the shock when a Jaguar guide indicated a turn-off into an off-road section, starting with a shallow water crossing. Electricity and water are usually not friends, making the 500 mm wading depth of the I-Pace even more remarkable. Next, a hill with loose dirt was waiting to be conquered. Employing the highest suspension setting and the ASPC off-road mode, the EV easily clawed its way up the slope. With precise torque control and electronic wizardry, wheelspin is limited. Hill-descent control is mostly managed by the regenerative braking effort of the electric motors, without the usual noisy brake activation as found in ICE vehicles.

Race track?

The final stop of the day was at the race track and again the group of journalists expected a few slalom disciplines at most in an attempt to showcase the vehicle's dynamic ability. This was not the case as each driver was given four laps of the circuit at maximum attack – another brave move from Jaguar to prove that the I-Pace belongs in its Big Cat family. Again, it exceeded expectations by carving up the tricky track with no signs of exhaustion. Yes, it's a heavy car and eventually understeers sets in, but its dynamic ability and especially the way that the power can be modulated mid-turn in search for the ultimate level of grip, is nothing short of astonishing.

Range anxiety

A topic not broached until now is range anxiety, or rather the lack thereof. With a claimed range (on the new WLTP cycle) of 480 km, it was never an issue, as it sometimes is with city EVs. Driving the car enthusiastically does slash the range, but this is no different to a petrol-powered performance vehicle. The fact that a 100 kW direct-current, fast-charging capability can replenish 80% of the energy in just 40 minutes, gives the car real long-distance capability if the charging infrastructure is readily available.

Summary

Running cost should be much lower than an equivalent fossil-fuel burning car. And not just in terms of the reduced energy cost, but also the fact that there are few serviceable items. Unfortunately, the technology does not come cheap (no local pricing is available yet with the vehicle expected to hit local dealers in 2019, but it sells for more than £60 000 in the UK), but it delivers in spades. The I-Pace is not just a good electric car, it is a good car, period. And purists will be pleased to hear that it is still has all the credentials of a purebred Jaguar...

Author: Nicol Louw

2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 AWD SE

R1,650,000
Ref No: 1694749

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: Optional
  • Leather upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Lane departure warning: lane keeping assist
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Standard
  • Attention assist rest assist break alert: Standard
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • Electric child proof safety lock switch: Standard
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Directional turning headlights: opt LED
  • Adaptive headlights varying light distribution: opt LED
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Electronically adjustable suspension: opt adaptive air
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • Head up display: Optional
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Standard
  • Cruise control: adaptive
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • USB port: 6
  • Powersocket 12V: 2
  • Central locking: keyless (opt activity key)
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Auto dimexterior mirrors: Standard
  • Sun roof: opt fixed panoramic
  • Panoramic roof: opt fixed
  • Memory for electric seat adjustment: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: LED (opt matrix LED)
  • Highbeam assist: Optional
  • Frontfog lamps lights: opt LED
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: rear (opt surround view)
  • Rear spoiler: Standard
  • Fuel Type: electric
  • Fuel range average: 470 electric km
  • Driven wheels: all
  • Driven wheels quantity: 4
  • Gearratios quantity: E
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Front tyres: 245/50 R20
  • Reartyres: 245/50 R20
  • Air suspension: Optional
  • Length: 4682 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 2011-2139 mm
  • Height: 1565 mm
  • Wheel base: 2990 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 12.0 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 656-1453 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 1453 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 2208 kg
  • Load carrying capacity / payload: 462
  • Gross weight (GVM): 2670 kg
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 0l
  • Fuel consumption average: 0.0 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 0g/km
  • Power maximum: 294 kW
  • Power maximum total: 294e kW
  • Power to weight ratio: 133.2 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 696 Nm
  • Torque maximum total: 696e Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 315 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 4.8s
  • Maximum top speed: 200 km/h
  • Engine capacity: electric cc
  • Engine size: electricl
  • enginedetailshort: elec
  • Engine + detail: electric
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: e
  • Warranty time (years): 5 vehicle / 8 battery
  • Warranty distance (km): 100000 vehicle / 160000 battery km
  • Brand: Jaguar
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 29075260
  • MMVariant: I-PACE SE 90KWh (294KW)
  • MMintrodat: 2019-01-11
  • Introdate: 2019-08-16
  • DuoportarecordID: Jagu_I-Pa1e6

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