During the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, I had the chance to drive a prototype version of the new Jaguar i-Pace, which is the British automaker’s first electric vehicle.
The i-Pace is scheduled to arrive on our shores in the second half of 2018 with 240 miles of range and a 90 kWh battery.
I was only able to drive the electric crossover in a parking lot through a small course (and it was also raining) for about three minutes. It wasn’t enough to write a full review (don’t worry, one is coming), but I did observe a few things during my short drive.
Jaguar i-Pace First Drive
1. It Looks Great
The Jaguar i-Pace is an attractive crossover and even manages to look pretty good as a “coupe-style” CUV. Jaguar design boss Ian Callum is basically a genius and I love that this vehicle looks just like the concept that inspired it. I also appreciate that it looks like a normal car, and doesn’t go out of its way to look “green.”
2. Instant Torque
The i-Pace is powered by a 90 kWh battery that delivers 394 horsepower and 512 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels. That’s a robust amount of torque and because the i-Pace is an electric car, that torque comes online instantly, providing very quick off-the-line acceleration and passing power. The official figure is 60 mph in as little as 4.5 seconds. During the small parking lot course, the instant acceleration proved to be a lot of fun and was even enough to get the traction control systems working overtime.
3. Heavy Steering
Piloting the i-Pace through the small parking lot course, the first thing I noticed was how unusually heavy the steering felt — many EVs have super light steering that is too overly boosted electrically, but this was the opposite. Although I normally like a heavier steering setup because it’s more engaging, the i-Pace’s steering almost felt too artificially heavy and required a lot of effort to move around, even at low speeds. Usually, cars have lighter steering at low speeds so it’s easier to navigate through garages and parking spots, and a heavier setup at higher speeds, which helps prevent wandering and makes the car more responsive to smaller inputs.
For the i-Pace, its heavier steering didn’t translate into more communication from the front wheels or more responsiveness — the steering was physically heavy but still felt quite numb otherwise. But remember, this was a prototype model and Jaguar might still be calibrating the details.
4. It’s Quiet
It’s very jarring for a car to make almost no noise when it’s being driven, but it’s also very serene. The i-Pace is figuratively quiet as well — it’s an electric vehicle but isn’t shouty about it. Although it has a funky style, it generally operates and looks like any other conventional car and is user-friendly even to anyone who hasn’t driven an EV before.
5. Tesla Better Watch Out
The Jaguar expert I was driving with said that they were doing a lot of drive demos for prospective customers during the Geneva Motor Show, and he witnessed a lot of Tesla owners or people who were considering a Tesla lining up for i-Pace drives. The Model X has no real competition right now, but the i-Pace will change that. The benefit Jaguar has in this market is its manufacturing is well-sorted, the i-Pace will be more affordable than the Tesla, and it isn’t likely to run into the same quality issues that have plagued the Model X and its elaborate doors. The i-Pace is also a lot better looking than the awkwardly styled Model X.
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