Test Drives

Jaguar I-Pace 2019 Review: I-Pace, therefore I am



It’s spacious, silent and speedy. Now that the Jaguar I-Pace is here, do you still want that old-school turbo SUV?

SINGAPORE — Here it is in Singapore at last, a little over six months after its global debut: the all-singing, all-dancing, all-electric Jaguar I-Pace.

It’s a completely battery-powered Sport Utility Vehicle, a little smaller in footprint than a BMW X3, but with a wheelbase that’s 12cm longer, thanks to the compactness of electric motors.

It’s Jag’s first EV (or Electric Vehicle), and it beats similar cars to market here, such as the Audi E-tron and Mercedes EQ C.

The first thing everyone wants to know about an EV is how far it’ll go before you have to charge it, and the I-Pace is rated for 470km. In Singapore traffic, figure on 300km comfortably, and 320km with a bit of sweat on your palms.

I-Pace pricing starts at $346,999 with Certificate Of Entitlement for the basic model, meaning you’d have to pay roughly 50 percent more for a Tesla Model X from parallel importer Hong Seh Motors. Early adopters, get your chequebooks ready.

Why do an EV as an SUV? Jaguar says the crossover segment is red hot, and it is, but there are probably technical reasons, too.

The I-Pace has a large bank of lithium-ion batteries, made up of 432 pouch cells. They use nickel maganese cobalt chemistry, which Jag believes is the most energy dense available, but all those cells have to live somewhere, plus the whole shebang weighs 640kg, so tucking them away under the floor makes sense. But it also results in a car with a naturally high seating point, which lends itself well to the SUV format.

Those batteries aren’t going to fizzle out in a hail of sparks the first time you hit a thunderstorm, in case you were wondering. We’ve driven an I-Pace down a river…

If you think about it, carriages have always been built around their power source, so the I-Pace’s tall stance, lengthy cabin and short ends make sense.

While the passenger cell sits atop a bank of batteries, there’s an electric motor at each end of the Jaguar. Each is good for 200 horsepower and 348Nm of torque, and more remarkably, each one weighs just 78kg — and that includes the transmission, though it’s just a simple single-ratio reduction set.

Actually, only a geek would care how compact the motors are. What you want to know is how they feel. It you want an approximation, ask a small child to sock you in the stomach.

To accelerate hard in the I-Pace is essentially to be slugged in the gut by the future, a result of both motors sloshing all their torque to the wheels at once. Revs? Gearchanges? Turbo lag? Those are all so yesterday.

Giving it the beans in the I-Pace is a little scary, violent and thrilling at the same time, with the silence of the whole proceedings adding a tinge of weirdness.

Many fossil fuel cars can outpace an I-Pace to 100km/h, but none of them spring forward with the same breathtaking immediacy.

Around corners, it’s somewhat less impressive; the Jaguar is petty well-stuck to the road, and the low position of the heavy batteries means there’s almost no body roll, but there isn’t much steering feel and you end up sort of putting your faith in the tyres’ grip to get you past an apex quickly.

For raw thrills, however, the I-Pace kicks butt and takes names.

The flipside of that is that it’s an exemplary luxury car. There’s nothing as quiet on the move, this side of a Rolls-Royce, and the cabin is a lovely cross between grandiose man cave and the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise.

Incidentally, the sporty, bucket-syle seats you see in the test car are optional.

As you might expect, the controls and instruments are entirely digital; the few knobs and buttons that remain are a pleasure to use, but the lower control panel that operates the climate system makes you take your eye way too far off the road. Likewise, the navigation system can be confusing to program.

Otherwise, the slick displays and hi-res graphics are quite the treat, with the I-Pace capable of interesting digital feats such as learning your preferred climate or entertainment settings over time, and adapting itself to them.

It’s darn spacious inside, as well, since EVs are laid out differently. Jaguar says there’s as much room in the back as you’d get from a long-wheelbase version of the XJ, the brand’s flagship limo.

The floor is practically flat (because there’s no exhaust pipes or driveshaft underneath) so the poor sod who has to sit in the middle isn’t such a poor sod after all, and there are slots under the rear seat for tablets, small laptops, your latest copy of CarBuyer, whatever. That’s where the fuel tank of a normal car would have been.

The motors are small, so there’s room for a front boot (froot?) worth 27 litres. The actual boot is pretty colossal, at 638 litres (cars without air suspension have 656 litres), and if you fold the rear seats you end up with as much as 1,453 litres.

So it’s silent, roomy and suitably plush inside. What intrudes on the party is the busy ride you get from the 22-inch wheels, which come with the S$23,000 First Edition pack. As fetching as they are (check out the carbon fibre inserts), they’re less comfy (and deliver less feedback) than the 20-inch wheels we tried on the I-Pace’s international launch.

The First Edition cars also get air suspension, and with it the ability to vary the Jaguar’s height, along with four-zone air-con, a suede headliner, front fog lamps and some properly posh bits of dashboard trim.

At this level, 23 grand isn’t a lot to pay, so it’s entirely up to you whether the extras are worth it, but knowing early adopters’ appetite for the latest and greatest, the First Edition is probably the one doing the business for Jaguar right now.

Both I-Pace variants have a panoramic clear roof with a heat rejecting tint instead of a shade. It helps fill the cabin with sunshine, but on a blazing day you’ll feel a tinge of infrared energy slip through, no matter how much Jaguar says it doesn’t.

That aside, you’d be happy to live with an I-Pace. It comes with a home charger that takes roughly 12 hours to top up an empty battery, but you’d only have to juice up your I-Pace maybe one or twice a week. That beats driving to a petrol station every week or so.

A full charge costs S$20 (by our guesstimation), so you’d maybe spend a grand a year on energy. You only have to service your I-Pace once every two years, and the battery is guaranteed to hold 70 percent of its charge for eight years or you get a new one.

That sort of stuff appeals to the head, of course, but this is a car you’ll buy for more primal reasons.

Sporty SUVs have been around before, but the I-Pace’s fresh approach to the breed allows for plenty of one-upmanship, while allowing you to proclaim your concern for the climate at the same time. There’s plenty for the heart too, in other words.

But what’ll clinch it for many, I suspect, is the feeling you get the first time you pin the accelerator in the I-Pace. Some cars win over both the heart and mind, but this is one that gets you in the stomach, too.


Jaguar I-Pace EV400 First Edition

Electric Motor 200hp, 348Nm x2 (one per axle)
Battery Lithium-ion, 90kWh
Charge Time / Type 12 hours / Wallbox
Electric Range 470km
0-100km/h 4.8 seconds
Top Speed 200km/h (limited)
Efficiency 23kWh/100km
VES Band / CO2 A2/ 92g/km
Agent Wearnes Automotive
Price S$369,999 with COE
Available Now

 

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.