Jaguar, a company as famous for its growling engines as it is for gorgeous design, has committed itself to a whisper-quiet, zero-emission future with the unveiling of its new, all-electric performance SUV, the I-Pace, which will be just the first of a range of Jaguar EVs.
In a bold move that reflects how fast the company sees the transition to EVs happening, Jaguar unveiled the I-Pace concept in Los Angeles today, but says it is basically production ready and will be on the road in just over a year, with a range in excess of 500km.
Jaguar's chief designer Ian Callum - who has done a stunning job with the car's futuristic yet feasible shape and packaging - describes the I-Pace as "the most important Jaguar since the E-Type" and says it's just the start of a whole new family of vehicles.
"It's an entirely new chapter for Jaguar, and our goal is to build the most desirable EVs in the world, because one day soon most of the cars in the world will be electric, it's an inevitability," he says.
For Callum, one of the world's most admired designers, it's an exciting time, because removing the engine from the front of a car and putting it under the floor instead means a complete rewriting of the design rule book.
"I think the word of car design will change more in the next 15 years than it has in the past 100," he says, sounding genuinely excited at the prospect.
In the case of the I-Pace it allowed him to push the front seats further forward, creating more legroom in the rear.
In terms of the exterior it's also let him create a more cab-forward design, which looks simply stunning and makes even the lavishly praised F-Pace look dowdy by comparison.
"That cab-forward look is something you usually only see on exotic super cars and it's something I've been wanting to do for a long time," Callum explains.
"It's something we did with the (super car concept) C-X75, and that's really influenced this car. I think the I-Pace is more influenced by the C-X75 than the F-Pace."
Jaguar refused to consider turning the F-Pace platform into an EV, because it wanted to start from a clean-sheet of paper to take advantage of the benefits of the electric-car layout, including a centre of gravity that sits 120mm lower than a comparable internal-combustion-engined SUV.
The underpinnings it has come up with - an electric motor between each wheel, each making 150kW an 350Nm, for a total torque figure that's the same as an F-Type SVR - can easily be adapted to the other body styles that are set to follow.
The car's chief engineer, Ian Hoban, says the huge global demand for SUVs meant that Jaguar's first EV foray had to be a soft-roader, rather than an electric F-Type, but he was at pains to point out that it's a performance SUV, with a 0 to 100km/h time of around four seconds.
"It's not just about being an EV it's about being a Jaguar, it has to do everything a Jaguar has to do, whether it's refinement, dynamics or handling, and we're comfortable this car will have the right level of performance to be a Jaguar," Hoban says.
"Electric cars have instant torque, and no drop off in acceleration as there are no gears. This is going to be a quick car.
"As far as being an SUV, It's a market thing, look at the market, look where SUVs are, look at the people who are buying cars. It's about volume, we make no bones about that.
"It's also very exciting to be the first in this space, and it's where Jaguar needs to be, because we innovate, that's what we do."
The company acknowledges that Tesla is its closest rival, but says it didn't specifically set out to compete with them.
Jaguar says the pricing of the I-Pace will be market dependent, but buyers - who can already log on to the Jaguar website and pre-order by clicking a button that says "I WANT ONE" - should expect to pay 10 to 15 per cent more than an equivalent F-Pace.
Jaguar Australia, however, says that our unique system of taxes, and the fact that the Australian government offers no incentives to buyers of EVs, means the price could potentially be higher Down Under.
The company's local arm is also talking to various providers about wall-chargers, which can give the I-Pace the one full charge it would need for a typical week's commuting overnight.
"A wall-box charger is what we think 90 per cent of owners would use, 90 per cent of the time," says Jaguar Australia spokesman Tim Krieger.
The big question for Ian Callum, and all the people at Jaguar, of course, is how do you put the true spirit of Jaguar into a car that doesn't come with a roaring exhaust, or indeed an exhaust at all?
"The spirit comes out in other ways; it's quick, it's agile, it's great to drive. Maybe we will have soundtracks one day, we might get into downloading them," he says.
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