The I-Pace Is the Most 21st-Century Jaguar

The I-Pace isn't like any Jaguar before it, and that's the point.

Jaguar

"When I arrived 20 years ago, one of my objectives was turn Jaguar from the old car—dare I say the old man's car—into something that's very much part of the 21st century," Jaguar design chief Ian Callum said. "I think we've just about got there, especially with this one."

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Callum was speaking at the US reveal of the I-Pace last week. Looking at this car, it's hard to disagree with him—the I-Pace is like no Jaguar before it. And not just because of its electric drivetrain.

When Jaguar bosses gave the directive to build an all-electric car, the first in the brand's history, it was met with an outburst of creativity from designers and engineers. Speaking to Road & Track at the New York International Auto Show, Jaguar design studio boss Wayne Burgess gave us a taste of what the mood was like when work began on the I-Pace

"We enjoy exploring the opportunities that new architectures give us," Burgess said. "In the case of I-Pace, the minute we removed the engine and transmission, we were like, 'Hey, we could do a cab-forward design! Wouldn't it be cool to do that?'"

So that's exactly what Jaguar did, drawing inspiration from the mid-engine C-X75 supercar concept that debuted back in 2010.

"We never shrink away from an opportunity to do something different," Burgess said. He added that all the designers implicitly understood the I-Pace would be like no Jaguar before it.

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Callum never ordered the team to “make this as out-there as you possibly can,” says Burgess, but that was the direction the team naturally headed. But, there's a lot of logic behind the avant-garde looks of the I-Pace. Callum said it was obvious that Jaguar's first electric vehicle would be an SUV. The F-Pace, Jaguar's first SUV, was introduced for the 2016 model year and quickly became the automaker's top-selling model, so the company clearly recognizes that there's an appetite for more utility vehicles.

At the I-Pace reveal, Callum also noted the packaging challenges of an electric drivetrain. With the batteries in the floorpan, the taller roofline of an SUV made it easier to provide adequate passenger room.

A lot of the I-Pace's look is defined by a search for aerodynamic efficiency, which is crucial for an electric vehicle. That's why it has retractable door handles, a relatively small frontal area (for an SUV), and a rather dramatic Kamm-tail at the rear. Aero also brings us to one of its most intriguing design details: The grille.

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DW Burnett/Puppyknuckles
DW Burnett/Puppyknuckles

Jaguar opted to fit the I-Pace with a grille opening similar to that of its other cars. It's partly a nod toward brand recognition, but it's actually functional. Behind the grille, there's a radiator—some electric cars don't use radiators, but the I-Pace uses one that cools the batteries and the car's A/C system. The top of the grille channels air to an outlet on the hood that directs it over the windshield and roof in a smooth flow. A tailgate-mounted spoiler directs the air to sweep across the rear window, eliminating the need for a rear windshield wiper.

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The I-Pace isn't just a design showcase, as Jaguar Land Rover engineering boss Dr. Wolfgang Ziebart explained. It rides on an all-new, aluminum-intensive platform that houses a 90-kWh battery pack between its axles. Ziebart also said that mounting the batteries under the passenger compartment contributes to a lower center of gravity than most sedans, and a perfect 50-50 weight distribution.

The I-Pace is similar in size to a Porsche Macan, though everyone at Jaguar is quick to point out it has more interior room. Among electric cars, it’s within an inch of the Tesla Model 3 length-wise, but 6.4 inches wider; at nearly 4800 lbs, the Jaguar is heavier than the 3800-lb Model 3, but the I-Pace has one more motor and roomier SUV bodywork compared to the Tesla.

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The I-Pace has permanent-magnet electric motors at each axle operating independently and weighing about 172 lbs apiece. Total output is 394 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque.

Ziebart says the front double-wishbone suspension is derived from the F-Type, while the rear is similar to the integral-link setup used in the F-Pace. The I-Pace comes standard with air suspension which allows for a 3.5-inch range of ride height. There's even an off-road mode, which jacks the suspension up two inches and allows for 19 inches of wading, in case you want to take your I-Pace through a shallow lake.

Jaguar promises that the I-Pace drives like you'd expect one of the company's cars should, and to prove it, the automaker allowed us a very short drive on a cone course. That short drive didn't tell us a whole lot, other than that the I-Pace is quick—a lot quicker than its quoted 4.5-second 0-60 mph run would suggest. That's largely because its 512 lb-ft of torque can be deployed all at once, giving you truly instant acceleration. It's a total blast, and I could've done it all day.

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The all-wheel drive system is well calibrated. Around this tight circuit I tried jumping on the power way too soon, but the car always found traction with only the slightest hint of slip. Sticky Pirelli P Zero tires no doubt helped here, but the I-Pace seems to manage the indiscriminate application of its huge torque without trouble.

But really, that's all I can tell you. I only had a few minutes behind the wheel, and mainly, it just made me want more time.

The I-Pace is nothing if not a very ambitious car from Jaguar. The sort of thing you couldn't imagine the company building ten years ago.

Jaguar

Time will tell if building the I-Pace will pay off for Jaguar, but what's certain is that the it's very much a car of the 21st century, as Callum said. It's definitely no old man's car.

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