Jaguar I-Pace sets the marque on track for an all-electric future
The Jaguar I-Pace is a big car in every sense. As the first premium full-electric vehicle from a European manufacturer, beating Audi and Mercedes to market by several months, it is the self-appointed standard-bearer for this important next generation of automotive technology. For Jaguar itself, the model represents a radical departure for a manufacturer way too in love with its own image and comfort zone.
The I-Pace is also a physically hefty machine, its scale neatly disguised by elegant and appropriately futuristic styling. The company’s design department, under former design chief Ian Callum, has done well to bring just the right dose of traditional values to this all-new genre, maintaining a sense of elegance and grace that isn’t always obvious in its current crop of conventional cars. It also drives with exceptional verve, deploying the best bits about an electric powertrain (smooth, instant acceleration and near silent progress) and cleverly cloaking its downsides, namely the weight of the battery pack.
As with all with electric cars, that weights sits low, so it’s down to chassis engineers to mask its impact with clever suspension that can insulate the passengers from bumps and thumps and still feel lithe and responsive in the corners. To Jaguar’s credit, the I-Pace is easily the most accomplished driver-focused EV to date, although the imminent arrival of the Porsche Taycan will no doubt shake things up.
Jaguar has bravely done away with the accumulated cruft of the brand’s weighty heritage and still to squeeze a distinctly Jaguar ‘look’ into a very un-Jaguar crossover-style body shape. Jaguar occasionally feels straitjacketed by its past, forever glancing over its shoulder at the veritable gallery of icons that it produced in the latter half of the 20th-century. Unlike, say, Porsche, the company has never completely capitalised on an evolutionary approach to design, instead see-sawing back and forth between clean breaks from the past and heavy-handed homages.
The I-Pace is none of these things, save for the mandated Jaguar grille, hardly a requirement on a pure electric car but now evolved into a visual shorthand for the best bits of the past, complete with feline headlights. In terms of proportion, as we’ve already noted, this is a very different beast. The four-square, crossover form makes enormous sense for electric vehicles and although the test car came with nearly £11,000 worth of largely cosmetic options, the base model is still an accomplished piece of design and packaging, with a flaring belt line that kicks up to convey a tapering passenger cell.
Inside, a full-length glass sunroof creates a light, airy interior, while the touch screens and dials are nicely balanced and intuitively arranged. In the long term, EVs threaten to do away with traditional car styles – saloons, estates and SUVs – in favour of more mono-box forms. The I-Pace might have broken one company’s mould, but it also points the way to the shape of future competitors. §