Full disclosure from the off: I really like a Jaguar I-Pace. Always have done. So much so, in fact, that a secondhand I-Pace might replace the 335i as the Bird family bus at some point soon. Therefore, the test car you see here - yes, Jaguar really did choose a press I-Pace to be Santorini Black with 22-inch black wheels - was booked partly for a bit more time with it than could be afforded by a dealer. So we’re clear from the off.
But it was also requested for a proper follow-up assessment. And that was before Thierry Bolloré’s departure. Seemingly lost in both the angst around Jaguar’s future and the industry’s obsessive excitement for electric SUVs is the fact that the I-Pace still exists. From what seemed like nowhere in 2018, Jaguar produced a genuinely game-changing, progressive, capable electric car. The range, let's not forget, comprised saloons, an F-Pace and an F-Type; then in comes this battery-powered spaceship that won every award going and made the German makers look a bit daft - or at the very least slow-footed. It even looked entirely at home in the existing lineup, too. The chances of Jaguar pulling the proverbial out of the hat in the future seem a lot more favourable when you consider the I-Pace at length, because it really was (and is) that good. Of course, the electric car landscape will look rather different come 2025. And that’s not very far away.
Being ahead of its time has almost worked to the Jaguar’s advantage - or perhaps it has just dated more slowly than most cars launched four years prior. Certainly, it has always been a hard model to pigeonhole. But it says much about what was achieved the first time round, with little more than an infotainment upgrade in 2020, it remains competitive in 2022. And desirable, too, it should be noted.
This is still a great-looking EV, making full use of that bespoke architecture to push the wheels out and maximise space but without subverting a comparatively sleek design. That doesn’t happen very often. The interior, moreover, still looks contemporary, even if a few details inevitably date it. The chunky knurled dials for ventilation are a godsend after so many screens, the mode and drive buttons are chunky, and Pivi Pro works as well here as anywhere else. Albeit on a smaller screen. It would be good to have certain EV features like the Active Sound Design and regenerative braking more accessible but, again, we’re talking about a car that’s changed not that much since 2018. This still works better than many much newer cars. And it’s a fast Jag with cabin space for more than two adults, plus many things, which still feels like a minor miracle.
There’s a proper Jaguar feel to it, as well, even without a shrieking supercharger or thundering V8. Or both. The cues are more subtle but definitely there, from the way it steers to the way it rides (once out of town), even on the largest wheels. Everything responds so slickly, and with such polish, you just know car people have spent time sweating the details. Because not everything is range and charge times and making people sick getting to 60mph when it comes to electric vehicles.
But they do make a difference, and there are bits of the EV package that age the I-Pace just a little. It’s still seriously brisk - mostly because Jaguar never offered it with anything but 400hp and all-wheel drive. However, only being able to accept 100kW of charge (at best) when cars like the Kia EV6 can take 350kW does inevitably make the Jag feel a bit old hat. That’s progress for you. And there are only so many cookies you should eat in 40 minutes. Undoubtedly some quicker charging would make a massive difference to long journeys. Again, though, it’s worth bearing in mind how far EV tech has come in just a few short years - 100kW is alright.
It's become boring to hear people ask for longer ranges in EVs, because the sensible, long-term solution is more charging and not more weight from yet more batteries. But the I-Pace doesn’t quite go far enough for a family with people to frequently visit on the other side of the country. It’s 155 miles from our house to my mother-in-law’s, a trip we tend to do every month. With a charge break on a daytime drive, it’s generally fine - but with the I-Pace we chose to do it in one hit (as you'd prefer to do on Friday evening). With 235 miles showing on departure, there were less than 40 showing once we were home, even with Eco mode used for a chunk of the journey, the air-con off when possible and a cruising speed around 65mph. It makes a weekend visit stressful because you inevitably fall into the trap of stressing about range, and rural Suffolk isn’t blessed with chargers. Even the journey is more of a palaver because you’re fretting about miles on the nav against miles on the range.
Clearly, this is not an issue unique to the I-Pace, and there are ways around it - using a route more favourable to EV driving would have been a start. But sometimes - quite frequently, in fact - the journey just needs to be done quickly, without stopping to avoid waking a sleeping baby. You don’t want to be concerned with regen, miles per kilowatt hour and how much energy is being drawn by ancillaries. You want to embrace what the I-Pace does best: i.e. drive with all the aplomb and panache a modern Jaguar should.
Indeed, that was the biggest frustration of a few hundred miles with Jaguar’s only electric vehicle - both my partner and I loved driving it. But short of having a wall box fitted on her mum's bungalow as well at our own home, the I-Pace isn’t yet viable as a family car. Pity. Still, the good news is that the I-Pace remains a great advert for what Jaguar can do with electric propulsion. This is a car that’ll be five years old in 2023, yet can still teach other EVs plenty about style, handling, and sense of occasion. Which ultimately means there’s hope yet for Project Reimagine, assuming the firm can harness the pioneering spirit evident in the I-Pace. Arguably, it need not break the mould: a car like this that could go a bit further and charge a bit quicker would be fantastic. But we - and the wider market - are expecting so much more from the new electric Jaguars than that. Nothing less than another ground-breaker will do. No pressure, guys.
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