The Jaguar I-Pace, the first battery-electric European luxury car ever to hit these shores when it touched down, in late 2018, comes with a lot of awards to its credit. Europe’s Car of the Year. World Car of the Year. World Car Design of the Year. World Green Car. Plus German, Norwegian, and U.K. Car of the Year, BBC Top Gear magazine’s E.V. of the Year, and China’s Green Car of the Year, to name a few more. But don’t blame yourself if you’ve never heard of the I-Pace—you aren’t alone.
You could call it a crossover or an S.U.V., because of the jacked-up wagon configuration, capacious cargo hold, and all-wheel drive. But you’d also want to note that unlike many so-called sport-utility vehicles, it’s not particularly high-riding. Despite a longer than average wheelbase, it’s not too long, either, just spacious on the inside thanks to a wheels-at-the-corners, hatchback design.
It’s handsome in the way of a bulldog, distinctive when set against the tedious conformity of today’s fleet. For, it may be fairly said, never before in the course of human history have so many crossovers looked like so many other crossovers.
The I-Pace is also blindingly fast, with agile moves closer to those of a sports car than the lumbering cha-cha of most S.U.V.’s. Despite wheels that are crossover huge, it’s mysteriously blessed with a cosseting ride—whether by magic or alchemy we cannot say, but monster tires and rims like these were heretofore sworn enemies of ride quality as a basic matter of physics. If for no other reason, this attribute of the I-Pace has already moved the crossover game on.
With an E.P.A.-estimated driving range of 253 miles and a standard fast-charging port that allows it to be charged to 80 percent of its range in 40 minutes, the I-Pace also represents a practical proposition for many, where earlier generations of B.E.V.’s (battery-electric vehicles) with limited ranges nearer 70 miles didn’t. To put it in New Yorkers Who Summer Elsewhere terms, an I-Pace could make it to the Hamptons from the city and back without ever having to recharge, where not long ago most B.E.V.’s, save Teslas, couldn’t even make it out East in one go.
It’s handsome in the way of a bulldog, distinctive when set against the tedious conformity of today’s fleet.
Which brings us to what the I-Pace isn’t. With an entry price of $69,850 and an as-tested price of $87,620, it isn’t cheap. On the other hand, every car in its competitive set of high-end electric crossovers—Tesla’s Model X and two other recent arrivals from Europe, the Mercedes EQC and Audi e-Tron—is similarly expensive.
These elevated stickers are placed in perspective, however, by the auto industry’s determined effort to squeeze every last drop of profit out of the world’s burgeoning S.U.V. habit. Price tags for luxury S.U.V.’s topping $100,000 are common, and several even breach the $200,000 and $300,000 barriers. Today, a garden-variety Chevy Suburban can cost $70,000, while a heavily optioned Rolls-Royce Cullinan S.U.V. can sidle right up to $450,000 of your hard-earned, carried-interest income and keep on going.
So, these new E.V.’s aren’t even frivolous, you’re reasonably well-off, and you think you might like to try owning one. A couple of questions you may be asking: Is an electric vehicle right for me? And, if so, why would I buy a Jaguar and not a Tesla or a respected German brand?
An electric vehicle can be right for you, especially if you have a second car for those madcap runs crossing multiple state lines. Hurriedly making your way to distant shores isn’t quite so easy in a B.E.V. because of the need to stop and recharge—doable, though failing to locate a Level 3 DC fast-charging station could spell trouble. A more common Level 2, 240-volt charger, like you might have installed in your home for around $1,500, will restore a fully depleted I-Pace battery pack to full range in 13 hours. It can be a real drag if you’re trying to go a long distance in as little time as possible. Jack Kerouac and Dean Moriarty would, for instance, not have been well served by an electric car.
B.E.V.’s are surprisingly practical most of the time, though, and lots of fun, because cars with electric motors, which produce maximum torque from zero r.p.m., are fast. The I-Pace’s twin motors (one for each axle) deliver a combined 394 horsepower and 512 pound-feet of torque, so attaining 60 m.p.h. from rest takes a mere 4.5 seconds, not far off the acceleration of the most super supercars.
Better yet, electric cars are silent, which proves unexpectedly soothing. So is not visiting gas stations. I feel compelled to note every time I drive a B.E.V. that extended absence from the toxic forecourts of America is its own reward, saving time and money while sparing owners untold thousands of petrochemical inhalations. There is, too, no question but that B.E.V.’s prove greener throughout their lifetimes than gasoline burners. According to the E.P.A., the I-Pace’s energy use is equivalent to 76 MPGe. And nothing’s easier than plugging a car in for a charge. Turns out, if you’re not traveling vast distances, it’s hardly hard to be green.
But why then an electric Jaguar and not a Tesla or one of the stolid Germans? I’m a Tesla agnostic and, I must confess, a lifelong Jaguar partisan. I agree with critics that the market has overpriced Tesla based on assumptions for its future success, that Elon Musk is some kind of lunatic visitor from outer space, and that it’s kind of not fair that his electric-car outfit’s shares (currently trading in the mid-$900 range) are valued so highly, while all other car-makers, every one with sales, profits, and revenue that dwarf Tesla’s, are deeply discounted by the markets. This is not to say Tesla is without its merits. Tesla has its own network of supercharging sites, and its cars are really good. So good, in fact, they’ve made up the lion’s share of electric-car sales to date, though until recently they had no meaningful competition. If it seems like everybody has a Tesla, that’s because they do. It’s an “It car” generally and the “It car” among B.E.V.’s.
But perhaps that’s where the underdog Jaguar’s opening lies: it’s not a Tesla. It’s almost 750 pounds lighter than a Tesla Model X, which helps make it sportier—more engaging, too, than the electric crossovers by Mercedes and Audi. Jaguar even sponsors its own one-make international race series for the I-Pace, an undercard race for F1’s new all-electric Formula E.
The I-Pace has decent range, along with Jaguar’s actual real-life dealer network behind it, and a driving character all its own. It doesn’t pretend to be autonomous. Its controls are more conventional and familiar than a Tesla’s. Ultimately it feels more like driving a seamless modern car and less like an iPad that wants to drive itself into an uncharted future. The I-Pace is electric, but it’s also very much a new Jaguar, a driver’s car. If you like driving, it’s worth considering.
Jamie Kitman is a car columnist for AIR MAIL