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It is happening. Yes, the bigger boys are getting down with the business of serious electric cars and Jaguar has decided to show us that the I-Pace doesn’t need a V8 to be fun
This is not a torch, or a cell phone, and it is definitely not an electric shaver. Yes, it possibly has bits that may resemble these appliances and a battery that can charge all of them for an entire neighbourhood, but that isn’t what the I-Pace is about. This is Jaguar laying its cards out on the table and calling out numbers to play top trumps with the rest of the electric vehicle makers.
True, there isn’t a whole lot there, most of them are still mucking about in the little league and adapting existing cars to get their foot in the door or showing off shiny concepts. But, Jaguar has managed to go from a clean sheet of paper, to a production-ready car in less than four years.
And, you might even think it has skipped a step or two, seeing the I-Pace parked up front. I mean, don’t production cars generally become less edgy, certainly have smaller wheels and, in all likelihood, have a roof that you cannot see through? Well, apparently not.
If you remember the concept car, you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the car you see in these pictures. It’s gone through, what looks like, a miniscule softening of lines, and the 23-inch wheels have been swapped for 20-inchers on the HSE. However, you could still get the concept car-like 22-inch wheels if you manage to get your hands on one of the ‘First Edition’ cars. The general shape and details on the production I-Pace have largely been left alone.
The C-X75 inspired front-end, with its scooped-out bonnet and tall haunches over the wheel arches, makes the I-Pace very distinct from anything else on the road. And then, you take a few steps towards it and realise how sleek it really is with its low roof. The swept-back profile sure looks cool, but the surfaces on the side remain quite plain.
At the rear, the high shoulder line makes it dramatic as does the little lip spoiler below the windshield. The other extension at the edge of the roof works to keep the airflow close to the car and eliminate the need for a wiper on the rearward glass.
It’s a far more conventional setup inside the cabin though. All the seats face forward, the steering wheel doesn’t magically appear out of the dashboard, there is a screen to read out speed and range. The centre console gets split screens for infotainment. There isn’t, however, a gear selector – so no Jaguar handshake here – and the air-con controls are neatly crafted, but a bit fidgety with their pull/push functionality.
What you do get is an array of buttons on either side of the console to select whether you’d like the car to move forwards or backwards and to select the level of saintliness you feel with corresponding drive modes. There isn’t anything ludicrous here and the interaction is pretty straightforward, to avoid distractions.
Somewhere along the way, while I was checking out the screens and marvelling at the roof with no blind and being impressed by the general amount of space inside the cabin, which looks roomier than even an F-Pace, I pressed the start/ stop button. Except, in an all-electric car, nothing really happens. The screens may have become brighter and the air-con blower louder, but there is no lumpy idle or a baritone note to report. Gently tickle the pedal with your right foot, and you’re off.
Having heard plenty about electric motors and their instant power delivery, I gingerly felt my way around to gauge responses. If you were worried about it being like a switch, like I was, well, you can breathe easy. It is exactly like a normal accelerator pedal, until you decide to put your foot down. Out on the motorway, this game kept me rather entertained in the absence of any mechanical noise or gearshifts. Put your foot down at 20kph – neck snaps.
Try again at 60kph, the consequence remains the same. 100kph and the violence is only slightly restrained and I begin to approach speeds that will get me into trouble. In case you are wondering, in an ideal world, you could extract the 395 horses from the two motors running in tandem and get the I-Pace to hurl to 100kph in 4.8 seconds. That’s proper sportscar territory and you can have it with your 2.2-tonne SUV while leaving behind a trail of chirping birds and daisies for a possible total of 480km from a single charge.
That’s a Mumbai-Pune run with some charge left over. Under regular circumstances, the 696Nm of torque would’ve possibly overwhelmed the tyres and caused a lot of smoke and possibly a few wrinkles on the face of the earth. But thanks to the two motors driving the front and rear axles independently, with a smart traction control nanny working out which wheel can handle how much power, there is zero drama. Only bounce-your-head-off-the-restraint sort of acceleration.
Once I did turn off onto country roads, the I-Pace impressed even more. It managed the undulating surfaces really well in ‘comfort’, feeling a tad soft even. But then, push the button with the chequered flag on it and the suspension firms up. The responses become sharper, the steering heavier and the front-end grip, thanks to the long wheelbase and 50:50 weight distribution, is simply incredible.
There’s also the super stiff chassis, which allows for little roll, and it turns into a bit of a beast on a twisty road. It’s like sitting at a console with the speakers turned all the way down so as to not wake the others while you steer away into the night. There is barely any wind noise, and little road noise too, until you have pushed hard enough to make the tyres squeal. And without the combustion engine for aural cues, you often end up at higher speeds without realising it. There is a slider to choose between calm or dynamic ambient noise, but that serves more like white noise in the background. In fact, Jaguar is so confident about the I-Pace’s dynamic ability that they let us have a go at a racetrack with a 2.0-litre, 300bhp F-Type serving as a benchmark.
Yes, you do feel the extra weight with the I-Pace when you need to slow down for a corner, but everywhere else, it is fantastic and with a top speed that creeps to 200kph, there’s enough juice too.
Having cracked every appliance joke possible before the drive, I have to admit, the I-Pace delivers a bit of a kick in the face. It is incredibly difficult to fault this car. It looks incredibly striking, the interiors are superbly done, it drives really well and seems to manage levels of grip that I am simply not used to from an SUV thanks to its low c of g. Moreover, the theoretical 480km range makes inter-city trips entirely possible and if you have access to a decent charging infrastructure – a fast charger will deliver 80 percent power over lunch (40 minutes) or an additional 100km over tea (15 minutes). When you are at home, the wall socket is good to deliver 80 percent charge in 10 hours or a couple of episodes on Netflix and a good night’s sleep. It is expensive, sure, at about twice the price of an F-Pace, but for that, you get a future-proof car and have far less costs to worry about – prescribed service intervals are every two years. Jaguar has surprisingly opted for the most basic level of autonomous driving, but I suspect that will be an easy fix on an electric car that can receive over-the-air updates for various systems.
For now, in India, we will not have the option of buying one anytime soon. But hopefully, the government will make up its mind and get to work on the charging infrastructure because the last we spoke to JLR India, they are ready to bring the I-Pace to India, if India is ready for it.