Driving disruption: behind the wheel of Jaguar’s new all-electric I-Pace
There’s a high chance you’ll come across a conservatively styled saloon – in a fetching shade of British racing green, perhaps – with a powerful yet pedestrian combustion engine under its long, gently swooping bonnet. Now compare that with the short-nosed, cab-forward visualisation of Jaguar’s all-electric future on show and the true effect of Jaguar’s chief designer Ian Callum becomes staggeringly obvious. ‘I know some people see Jaguar as being a conservative, old brand but if you look at the history, it’s been more disruptive that not,’ insists Callum in an interview room, moments after the launch. ‘I saw [I-Pace] as an opportunity to be disruptive, so I was all for it to be electric. I wanted to get into the same place that Tesla got into – seen to be looking forward to the future.’
When Jag revealed the I-Pace concept back in 2016, there were only a handful of full-electric, premium production cars on the road, most notably Tesla’s Model S – now considered the benchmark for electric carmakers. ‘I’ve been asked on a few occasions if I’ve done this to compete with Tesla,’ says Callum wearily. ‘No – we’ve done this to create an electric Jaguar because that’s what we believe is the right thing to do. Our design team don’t go looking to see what other people are doing to emulate them, we do what we want to do.’
Driving the I-Pace on a custom-built track, designed to test the cars acceleration and agility, the electric Jaguar is quick off the mark. With a 0-60mph of 4.5-seconds, the I-Pace has (near enough) the same acceleration as a V6 Jaguar F-Type, only it does it in near silence, with a reassuring whoosh from the two electric motors (front and rear), which give the I-Pace its all-wheel-drive capability. An essential skill set for any Jaguar sporting the ‘Pace’ suffix.
With a 90kWh battery taking the place of an oily engine and fuel tank, ‘we had the freedom to do what we want,’ says Callum. ‘I always loved the idea of mid-engined cab-forward cars. I grew up in the era when they started to evolve from speculation to reality – the Ferrari 250LM was one of the first cars where they put the engine in the back – and, as a teenager, I just loved the whole energy and the disruption of them at the time.’ For Callum, the I-Pace project is more than the ushering in of a new generation of powertrains for the Indian-backed British brand – it is the fulfilment of his longstanding disruptive design vision, realised in the form of mass-production battery powered vehicle. ‘I want people to buy this because of what it is, not because it’s electric – that’s an added bonus,’ he admits.
With prices starting from £58,995, sales of the I-Pace have already started with the first cars hitting the streets this summer – just months ahead of its motorsport debut in the e-Trophy, a single model support series within the all-electric Formula E racing series. That, coupled with the marque’s investment into full Jaguar Formula E works team as well, suggest this certainly won’t be the last all-electric big cat from the marque. ‘I’m already thinking about what the next generation should be. You just don’t stop.’