What It’s Like to Drive the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar I-PACE
Courtesy of manufacturer

The degree to which Jaguar has gone to make its new all-electric, AWD super-crossover a winner comes down to details both tiny and massive. Here, all the ways that the carmaker’s legacy manifests itself in the new 2019 Jaguar I-Pace.

AM 6 Atlanta September 2017 Photo: Drew Gibson

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It’s High-tech, But Still Feels Normal to Drive
Jaguar created the equivalent of the “creep” you get when you let off the brake of a car that has an internal combustion engine and an automatic gearbox, which American consumers are especially used to because it lets them crawl through endless walls of stop-and-go traffic. But electric cars don’t normally “creep,” they just sit there. To make the transition from gas to electric less strange, Jaguar added that small ingredient back into the recipe. Jaguar also made it possible to toggle out of the most-aggressive regenerative braking mode, which gives drivers a more natural “coasting” sensation when they’re off the throttle.

You Can Track It
We’ll get deeper into performance below, but consider that Jaguar made use of extensive cooling, more so than you’ll find from Tesla. Why cooling? Jaguar has a history in racing and understands that you may want to take your I-Pace on the track—as we did in Portugal during the press introduction. Or, at least, drive it very fast. And if that’s your desire, it demands both downforce engineering to keep the car glued to the road, and cooling to prevent battery and drivetrain overheating. Nope, there’s no “transmission” or gearbox. Instead, there’s a motor at each axle and a differential in between, and at a top speed of 124 mph, the single-speed gear’s turning at an astonishing 13,000rpm, and that generates a ton of heat.

Jaguar I-PACE
Courtesy image

Get Yours Dirty
Jaguar is joined at the hip to Land Rover. That means it can paw through its brother’s toy box at will, and it’s done that to a great extent on I-Pace. We took our test car through nearly two feet of standing water, then straight up a mountainside, and an automated mode allowed the car to crawl both up, as well as down, us adjusting the speed via the cruise control. We’ve done off-road trials with other manufacturers where, to be honest, a decent driver could negotiate the same dirt byway with a two-wheel-drive car with decent ground clearance. Here, though, we were on such steep terrain we needed to use the onboard front camera to even see the hill we were climbing (the windshield revealed only blue sky), and thank goodness for a ride height that’s air adjustable, raising from stock six inches to well above eight inches of ground clearance.

Did Jaguar actually need to add this capability? Nope. But again, the rig has a native 50:50 drivetrain split already, and all-wheel-drive is part of the attraction, too. You may never go off-roading in yours, but unplowed snowy roads happen. Why not showcase what 512 lb-ft of torque can really do? The kicker: We clawed up that mountain on 22-inch summer street tires.

Jaguar I-PACE
Courtesy image

Daily Use
Mostly, you’re going to drive your I-Pace on pavement, and there, it’s plenty happy. At 4,784 pounds, it could, instead, steer and handle like a truck, but the bulk of that meat sits in the floor, and between the axles, so the moment you’re rotating the wheel, it wants to turn. Steering can be a tad numb, but placing the car on the road through the seat of your pants grows to be intuitive very quickly. Even as Portuguese two-laners are a lot tighter than American roads, the I-Pace did a very credible imitation of a sports sedan, despite the relatively high ride. It helps that throttle delivery is instant: A 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds is mighty quick, but what’s more rewarding is having ready juice immediately on the backside of an apex. You get used to using the throttle to effectively shorten turns, something you can typically only do at the very top of the performance-car food chain.

Jaguar I-PACE
Courtesy image

You’re hardly wanting for creature comforts here. Dual touchscreens house controls; there are USBs wherever you look, and trim levels are very high, though if we’re buying, we want the carbon fiber trim with the unique, Danish-made wool-blend seating material. It’s partly made with recycled fibers, too, and is the most comfortable option for both cold and hot weather. That configuration also looks extra sharp with the machined aluminum trim that frames key door and dash elements.

As for size, the I-Pace best compares to existing crossovers at about the Audi Q5 scale. Rear seat legroom is reasonable, at 35 inches, and cargo capacity bests a lot of mid-size crossovers, with 25.3 cubic feet before folding the aft seats flat, and a decent, 51 cubic feet when you flip them forward.

One polarizing feature is the smoke-glass roof. It’s said to be UV-“proof,” but we wonder about very hot markets like Texas and southern Arizona, and whether it will in fact be dark enough to prevent cabin heating. Note that some tech features can overcome that, including vehicle pre-heating and cooling systems when your Jag is plugged in at home or juicing up in the mall parking lot, but if it’s 105 in Houston, the last thing you want is to be using extra electricity to keep your I-Pace cool, when an actual metal roof could be doing that job instead.

Jaguar I-PACE
Courtesy image

It has an excellent 240 miles of range. Some cars that run on gasoline barely scrape that mark. Tesla customers still hold one card that Jaguar cannot top, however, which is a network of Superchargers only their cars can access on the fly. You could install a DC fast charger at home to get to 80 percent of juice in under 40 minutes. Or you could just keep up the range via a 230-volt outlet in your garage, which will take 10 hours to fully fuel your I-Pace. The bottom line: The I-Pace is truly excellent in so many ways. It’s a blast to drive, it’s pragmatic, and it’s very capable in all conditions. It happens to be an electric car, too, but at this point, that’s kind of like saying it’s a crossover. Soon, this will no longer be the exception to the rule.

[Starting at $69,500; jaguarusa.com]

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