2019 Jaguar I-Pace Review: The EV age is approaching
It feels like we’re anxiously inching up the initial mountain of a roller coaster track – click, click, click. On the other side is a massive plunge into a widespread electric future where EV’s aren’t just acceptable alternatives to gas-powered cars, they’re superior. There’s indeed a veritable train of luxury EVs coming soon, clicking up that track, but the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is the first from a big-name luxury brand to crest it, providing that first tinge of anticipation for the ride to come. It’s wildly fun, surprisingly practical and a more polished product than the perpetually rough-around-the-edges Teslas.
It also reimagines what Jaguar can be while also staying true to key elements of its past and present. Driving the silky, effortlessly torquey old Jaguar XF Supercharged was intoxicating, and so is the I-Pace, albeit it in a different and indeed superior all-electric way. Its torque flattens you into the enveloping sport seats slathered in red leather, yet it’s responsive without feeling overly caffeinated or neck-snapping.
Like other Jaguars, it also provides a little audible pomp to the driving experience. It’s no barking F-Type R, but its Active Sound Design system pipes into the cabin a deep, purr-like noise when in Dynamic mode that, if not exactly akin to an actual exhaust system, is much closer to it than the usual high-pitched electric motor whine (you can hear it in the accompanying video). Jaguar recognizes that we expect noise and g-forces to go together.
And that goes for g-forces in a straight line as well as around corners. The I-Pace resolutely sticks to even marginal pavement like – well, I’ve already used the roller coaster metaphor above, so what the hell? – it’s on rails. It has the perfect recipe for astonishing grip: all-wheel drive; sticky summer tires on 20-inch wheels pushed to the corners; a heavy battery mounted low and in the middle of the chassis; a 50:50 front-to-rear weight balance; and an available adaptive air suspension that constantly adapts to the road. Oh, and it was engineered by Jaguar, a company widely renowned for its superior-handling cars and SUVs.
Steering feel could perhaps be increased a smidge, but through the wheel and the seat of your pants, you do experience what the I-Pace is doing. That adaptive suspension also sops up bumps shockingly well (another Jaguar trait) despite those pretty 20-inch wheels adding some impact harshness (ditto).
Importantly for an electric car, though, the I-Pace also satisfies when commuting. Like other EVs, you can select the amount of regenerative braking you desire and therefore whether you want to engage “one-foot braking.” Rarely have we met someone who didn’t fall in love with this when stuck in traffic. The adaptive cruise control (standard on all but the base trim) also functions in stop-and-go traffic, allowing you to switch over to “no-foot braking.” Steering assist is added to ACC on certain trim levels, and although it functions similarly to Tesla’s Autopilot, it’s not as advanced, specifically in regards to automated lane changes.
Yet, many of those factors that add up to the I-Pace’s memorable driving experience also help it re-imagine what a car in general can be … and look like. The proportions are distinctive, with the wheels and cabin pushed to the corners, maximizing interior space. The under-floor battery pack results in an elevated SUV-like driving position, but the roof is comparatively low. It’s very much a fanciful concept car of the future come to life.
A Tesla Model S suddenly seems conventional by comparison. Despite the Tesla’s length – a foot longer than the I-Pace – the Jag’s inch-longer wheelbase and innovative packaging contribute to an interior that’s equally spacious. As in the Model S, someone taller than 6 feet can sit comfortably behind a driver of similar height, yet they’ll notice the nearly 3 extra inches of headroom the I-Pace provides. In other words, the I-Pace is analogous to compact SUVs like the Volvo XC60 or Jag’s F-Pace on the outside, but it has the passenger space of a midsize model inside.
Cargo space under its fastback hatch is comparable to the Model S as well, though the Jag’s tiny front-trunk is really only useful for storing the portable charge cable. The Tesla’s frunk can hold an actual suitcase or more if you get a rear-drive model. Still, the I-Pace can fit 25.3 cubic feet of stuff behind its back seat, which in real-world terms, equated to two check-in suitcases, three carry-on suitcases and two overnight bags in the extremely scientific “Luggage from Riswick’s Garage” test.
Ah, but what about the electric car facts and figures? The I-Pace features only one powertrain configuration and battery size: two motors producing a total of 394 horsepower and 512 pound-feet of torque fed by a 90 kWh battery. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph is estimated to take 4.5 seconds, while EPA-estimated range is 234 miles – consistent with the 75D series of Tesla models, which is the lowest available. Pricing is also consistent with those, especially given the Tesla’s just-reduced MSRP’s.
Energy consumption is not consistent, however, as the Jaguar I-Pace uses more juice and requires a bigger battery pack to accomplish the same acceleration and range as the 75-kWh Teslas. Specifically, the EPA estimates it uses 44 kWh to travel 100 miles, versus the Model S 75D’s figure of 33 kWh/100 miles. In other words, your annual electricity costs will be an EPA-estimated $ 200 more per year ($ 850 versus $ 650). For what it’s worth, I averaged 46.4 kWh/100 miles during two days of testing.
If you’re interested in the I-Pace as an EV first and a luxury car second, this deficiency will likely eliminate it from your shopping list. It’s indeed a lighter shade of green. However, the total yearly running costs of any EV are a fraction of a typical gas-powered luxury car. The I-Pace’s marginally inferior electric efficiency should be a nonissue, especially since luxury car shoppers have rarely been concerned with fuel consumption and cost. For instance, does anyone really notice or care that a Jaguar XF S costs an extra $ 100 per year to fill up than a BMW 540i?
I wouldn’t, nor would I hesitate to send my money to Coventry rather than Elon & Company. Beyond the added zest of the driving experience, the I-Pace is quite simply the nicer, more luxurious and better-built vehicle than a Model S. This is obvious in the cabin. The plastics are better, the leather is softer, the center console doesn’t look like it was sourced from Pep Boys. It should also be said that the I-Pace cabin is more stylish and of a higher quality than Jaguar’s disappointing XF, XE, F-Pace and E-Pace.
Are there nits to pick? Sure, interior storage isn’t great. The I-Pace’s pair of touchscreens aren’t the most user-friendly, and although having actual buttons and knobs is nice, Tesla’s in-dash big-screen TV is ultimately the superior tech interface (not to mention those from other carmakers). I also wonder if the all-glass, shade-less roof will be tiresome (and toasty) in the summer.
However, the biggest, real obstacle is the lack of a dedicated fast-charging network akin to Tesla’s Superchargers. Instead, you’re stuck searching for third-party providers such as ChargePoint or public stations when you can’t recharge at home. The in-car navigation system shows you where such stations are, but does not indicate if they are operable, in use or what voltage they provide (a 100 kW DC charger replenishes the battery to 80 percent in 40 minutes, but a 50 kW one does it in 85). As such, even Jaguar suggests using the ChargePoint app or another app such as PlugShare (doing so while driving presents a further problem).
This isn’t just a Jaguar issue, though, it’s an issue with EV infrastructure in general. And it will be an issue for every non-Tesla EV for the foreseeable future. No matter how appealing a particular competitor may be, I-Pace included, the Supercharger network will remain an ace up Tesla’s sleeve. Maybe it won’t matter for some – road trips are usually rare, 200-plus miles is a lot of range, and recharging at home will always be easiest. Wait times at Supercharger stations can also get awfully long these days.
So maybe the EV roller coaster ahead won’t be the smoothest ride, but few cars have left as strong an impression as the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace – and being the first non-Tesla out of the gate gives it some momentum. At the very least, it’ll be interesting to see how it holds up once other mainstream luxury EVs like the Mercedes EQ C, Audi e-Tron models and Porsche Taycan crest that mountain.