It’s an electric vehicle race to the showroom floor and Jaguar has won if its display at the Geneva motor show this year is anything to go by – even if Tesla has been waiting on the podium for some time.
While most mainstream manufacturers were able to display concept cars pointing towards their imminent fully-electric, battery powered vehicles, Jaguar managed to go one better.
Its new Tesla-bashing I-Pace electric SUV was front-and-centre in production ready trim, complete with full specifications and prices, beating the likes of the Audi e-tron quattro, VW ID Crozz and Mercedes EQ C to the showroom floor.
Better than that, some of us got to drive it.
Jaguar’s first-ever electric vehicle will hit Australian showrooms in October and the British marque has already confirmed pricing and specifications, with prices starting at $119,000 for the entry level model going up to $159,700 for the feature packed First Edition.
With two electric motors outputting a total 294kW of power and 696Nm of torque, claimed performance of 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds, a range of almost 500km on a full charge and a degree of off-road ability, it’s a tantalizing prospect for any prestige car buyer or tech-head interested in emissions-free performance and luxury.
And here comes the kicker line: tantalizing is exactly how the Jaguar-organised test drive proved to be, with just a short run around some traffic cones in a cheerless car park adjacent to Geneva airport to get a taste for the new electric cat.
As rapid as Jaguar’s electric turn-around is it wasn’t all roses at the motor show launch and the test drive machines were only pre-production prototypes. But the build quality, interior trim and fully functioning electronics all seemed otherwise and if indicative of what we’ll see later in the year it’s a very impressive effort.
In fact, possibly the major thing to take away is how painless Jaguar is attempting to make owners’ transition from fossil fuels to plug-in power.
Inside is plenty of rear seat room, space for five passengers and a reasonable amount of luggage room in the back or under the bonnet. The construction of the I-Pace is relatively radical – 94 per cent of it is aluminium but laying the 432 lithium-ion battery cells under the floor affords extra space on top that counts.
ON THE ROAD
You’d also be hard pressed to pick the difference on the road, except for the lack of noise, with the I-Pace eager to leap from one set of cones to the next with a stab of the throttle – or maybe that should be “foot operated rheostat”.
The two motors are mounted between each of the front and rear pairs of wheels giving all-wheel-drive traction and, as with any electric motor, maximum torque is generated from just above zero rpm so that’s how it should be.
There’s no conventional gearbox, just a single speed transmission so all the driver has to do is stab the d-for-drive button on the centre console and then accelerate, brake and steer.
Jaguar promises the two motors are set-up to give a rear-drive bias to the handling balance but on the extremely tight test circuit, with special slippery patches to catch drivers out, the predominant handling characteristic was of understeer or front-end push. That, however, is likely to be far less apparent on the open road.
The I-Pace is quiet at low speeds as you’d expect and although it weighs something like 2.2 tonnes thanks to a big battery pack with 90kWh of storage, it still feels remarkably agile.
The placement of the batteries gives a low centre of mass – Jaguar says 130mm below the larger F-Pace SUV’s – and being between the axle lines helps towards a 50/50 weight distribution. The battery pack is a stressed part of the car’s chassis for added stiffness and you’d better believe it has been weather-proofed, seeing as the I-Pace can wade through more than half a meter of water for those who want to try off-roading.
It’s hard to firm any sort of conclusion on such a short drive but first signs look promising.
Jaguar is making a lot of the I-Pace’s connectivity, with everything from a Bluetooth key that knows the driver’s preferences (such as radio station or climate settings) on start-up, communication with an owner’s home-based wifi-control system and navigation that plots real-world EV range.
But again, investigating all that will have to wait for a longer drive.