2019 Jaguar I-Pace first drive review

Sleeping well, Elon? The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is ready to tussle for EV supremacy

The Jaguar I-Pace is your best option if you're ready to go electric.
The Jaguar I-Pace is your best option if you're ready to go electric.
The Jaguar I-Pace is your best option if you're ready to go electric.

Highs

  • Fast and luxurious – like a Jag should be
  • Usable electric range
  • Fully connected
  • Original design

Lows

  • Unintuitive infotainment system
  • Expensive with options added

In 2016, Jaguar design chief Ian Callum told Digital Trends electrification gave his team more freedom to design a car. “Watch this space,” he said with a broad smile when we asked about what he had in store. This is the model he was talking about: the 2019 I-Pace. All-new, it’s Jaguar’s first-ever battery-electric vehicle. And, let’s get this important point out of the way, it’s also Tesla’s first-ever serious competitor.

Jaguar bluntly said “to hell with tradition.” The I-Pace doesn’t use a straight-six engine and it doesn’t wear the long hood, short decklid proportions that characterize fan favorites like the XJ and the F-Type. The British firm’s designers instead pushed the wheels towards the corners to extend the wheelbase in a bid to create a spacious, luminous cabin without stretching the overall footprint. Mission accomplished.

By acting fast, Jaguar enviably launched the I-Pace into a class of one. It’s smaller and about $10,000 cheaper than the Tesla Model X so the two aren’t direct rivals, though they’ll inevitably overlap; it’s deceptively easy to price the Jag well into Tesla territory. Buyers can also compare it to the Porsche Macan and the BMW X4 but neither of those offer an electric option. Jaguar won’t retain its monopoly for very long, though. Rivals Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz are all preparing to enter the I-Pace’s segment between 2018 and 2020.

2019 jaguar i pace review rg ultra wide v2
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

The I-Pace starts at $69,500. Note that figure doesn’t include the mandatory $995 destination charge or incentives from the local and federal government. We drove the base S model, which corresponds to the aforementioned price figure, and the range-topping HSE First Edition, which carries a lofty base price of $85,900. The base variant comes nicely equipped with a long list of standard features including an air suspension, ambient lighting, two-zone climate control, keyless entry, a push-button ignition, three screens on the dashboard, navigation, rain-sensing wipers, and 18-inch alloy wheels. It doesn’t offer leather upholstery or wood accents, though.

Interior and tech

Designers took the interior in a less futuristic direction than the exterior. Wayne Burgess, the director of Jaguar’s production car studio, told Digital Trends that’s because several points have become a fixed value in the world of automotive design for reasons related to safety and ergonomics. Every car regardless of body style or drivetrain requires a steering wheel. It also needs airbags – nearly a dozen of them depending on the model – and a climate control system. These are some of the many features that dictate the size, shape, and layout of the dashboard.

That’s not to say the I-Pace is ordinary.

The driver faces a tech-led dashboard Jaguar calls the flight deck equipped with a trio of screens. There’s a 12.3-inch unit that replaces the analog instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, à la Audi. Look right to find a 10-inch screen that displays the infotainment system, while a 5.5-inch unit takes the place of the numerous dials, buttons, and switches normally associated with the climate control system. The last screen flows into a sloping center console with makeshift grab handles that group a cluster of buttons, including the ones the driver uses to select forward, reverse, neutral, or park.

The basic layout will look familiar if you’ve sat in Land Rover’s stylish Range Rover Velar. The two SUVs share the same infotainment system, too. It boasts a good resolution, and we like the relatively large width of the screen, but it’s not the most intuitive system to use because finding some key functions requires burrowing like a crayfish through several submenus’ worth of information.

You can tell the Jaguar app you plan to leave work at 5pm it will have the 2019 I-Pace waiting for you with a full charge and a cabin cooled to the pre-determined temperature.

Jaguar notes it’s possible to set favorites, which reduces the steepness of the learning curve but doesn’t fully steam-roll it. We occasionally noticed a slow response time after tapping an icon, an issue Jaguar hopes to fix with over-the-air software updates. Alternatively, if you’re not the patient type, the I-Pace comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The firm added several useful electric car-specific functions to the infotainment system. The I-Pace helps users find the nearest charging stations, for example. Jaguar also developed a smartphone application which lets owners remotely monitor the charging process and pre-condition the car. You can tell it you optimistically predict to leave work at 5 pm and the app will ensure your car waits for you with a full charge (assuming it’s plugged in, of course) and a cabin cooled to the pre-determined temperature.



Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

We liked the climate control dials Jaguar placed on the center console. It’s a clever solution that looks good and is remarkably simple to use. Turn the dial left or right to set the temperature; push it or pull it (sorry, you can’t bop it) to access different functions, like the fan speed or the cooled and heated seats.

While the I-Pace offers plenty of space for five passengers, even taller ones, trunk space checks in at a mediocre 25.3 cubic feet with both rows of seats left up. Folding down the rear seat yields 51 cubes. These middling figures are due to the rakish roof line, a hallmark of form-over-function design. In comparison, the five-seater Model X offers space for 88 cubic feet of cargo.

There’s no engine up front, at least not in the conventional sense of the term, so what’s under the hood? Good question. Going fully electric allowed designers to carve out an additional storage compartment called a frunk. It’s about briefcase-sized; it’s more of an oversized external glovebox than a smaller trunk.

Driving experience

The I-Pace’s drivetrain consists of a large, 90-kWh lithium-ion battery pack located under the passenger compartment. In comparison, the Tesla X offers either a 75- or a 100-kWh battery pack. And, like in the X, the battery pack powers two electric motors each mounted over one of the axles. Think of the platform as a skateboard but don’t try to do a kickflip with it; it’s made by Jaguar, not World Industries.

The I-Pace delivers the type of sporty, luxurious, and comfortable driving experience you’d expect from a car wearing the storied Jaguar emblem.

Jaguar pegs the I-Pace’s output at 394 horsepower and 512 pound-feet of torque, and it quotes a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.5 seconds. That’s a few tenths of a second quicker than the entry-level Model X.

An 80-percent charge takes 40 minutes when drawing electricity through a quick charger. Using a 220-volt power source fully charges the battery pack in 10 hours. That figure skyrockets up to a glacial 40 hours with a standard, 110-volt outlet.

We drove the I-Pace in a multitude of conditions. It’s a gliding oasis of calm in a loud, crowded city. The electric powertrain is completely silent at low speeds and there are no vibrations, either. The steering is light enough to maneuver through tight streets without too much trouble but the thick roof pillars reduce front and rear visibility. While the I-Pace comes with an array of cameras that help you see around the car, plus parking sensors on both ends, sometimes it’s helpful to check the surroundings for yourself.

Jaguar’s first electric car really comes onto its own when you leave the city behind. We remember a time when electric cars were about as exciting as a can of Chef Boyardee raviolis. That’s no longer the case. The I-Pace delivers the type of sporty, luxurious, and comfortable driving experience you’d expect from a car wearing the storied Jaguar emblem.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace First Drive
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

Our test car’s optional air suspension soaked up pavement irregularities well, though we expectedly found the I-Pace a little more comfortable with 20-inch wheels than with the 22s. The steering tilts towards the performance end of the feedback scale, and the brakes slow the car down with a real sense of urgency. If you use them, that is. We regularly took advantage of the brake regeneration system to drive using only the accelerator pedal.

How? When you release the pedal formerly called the gas pedal, the motor instantly turns into a generator that captures the kinetic energy generated while braking and channels electricity back to the battery pack. This process slows the car by creating resistance in the motor. The driver can choose a low or high setting; low is subtle, almost like an engine brake, while high is similar to hitting the brakes.

The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace got us across a small river, through ruts, and up a steep hill side without missing a beat – all on regular street tires.

The cabin becomes louder at freeway speeds due to noise from the wind and the tires. And, the most hardcore driving mode turns on a sound synthesizer that emits a noise we can best describe as the exhaust note of a turbocharged straight-six engine remixed by Martian DJs that got bored senseless during an intergalactic hop across the galaxy. It’s a little odd at first but we ended up getting used to it. It added a sense of familiarity (the sound gets louder much like a gasoline engine would) while reminding us that, for most motorists, sound remains an integral part of spirited driving.

The I-Pace, like a vast majority of crossovers and SUVs, will rarely leave the pavement. Our trip across southern Portugal revealed it’s nonetheless capable when the occasion calls for it. It got us across a small river, through ruts, and up a steep hill side without missing a beat – all on regular street tires. Thank you, Mr. Callum, for the short overhangs.

The through-the-road all-wheel drives system provided excellent traction and the electric motors’ instant torque kept the momentum going. Jaguar also knocked on sister company Land Rover’s door for a hill descent control system that maintains a steady speed when traveling down a steep incline. Against all odds, our next destination was the Algarve International Circuit we could see in the distance. And, no, we wouldn’t be swapping the I-Pace for a superbike.



Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

Again, the average I-Pace owner likely won’t hit the track. The average F-Type rarely sees a track. Our time behind the wheel revealed the low center of gravity and the 50/50 weight distribution makes it surprisingly quick around the bends while helping it take a corner without an alarming amount of body roll.

The I-Pace feels every bit like a 4,700-pound car when pushed to the limits so it’s necessary to get on the brakes earlier than you would in a lighter car, but the electric powertrain builds up momentum again in a snap. Driving the I-Pace off-road and on the track back-to-back demonstrated its versatility, and the immense efforts Jaguar went to in order to keep the battery pack cool.

Whether or not you should get the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace ultimately depends on how well an electric car fits into your life.

We couldn’t accurately measure real-world range; that would require spending at least a week behind the wheel. We took relatively long trips we wouldn’t have felt entirely comfortable embarking on in an electric car with less range, like the Nissan Leaf, and yet we never once got dreaded range anxiety. It helps that the navigation tells you approximately how much range you’ll have left when you get to your destination.

Though Jaguar wants a slice of Tesla’s market share, it hasn’t announced plans to take on the California-based firm’s Autopilot suite of electronic driving aids. The I-Pace is available with features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. The former works as advertised, but the latter tended to bounce the car between the white lines like a ping-pong ball instead of keeping it in the middle of the lane.

Warranty

The I-Pace’s warranty lasts five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. Jaguar offers complimentary scheduled maintenance for the same duration, and it backs the battery pack for eight years or 100,000 miles. It considers the battery to be defective when it no longer holds more than a 70 percent charge. That’s important because Tesla’s battery warranty only covers malfunctions and defects.

Jaguar has never made an electric car before so it’s difficult to predict the I-Pace’s reliability.

How DT would configure this car

If we were spending our own money, we’d go a step beyond the base model and select the mid-range SE. It adds features like leather upholstery, high-speed emergency braking, 10-way adjustable front seats with a memory function, and a power-operated tailgate.

Conclusion

With the I-Pace, Jaguar made a great all-around car that just happens to be electric. It’s luxurious, high-tech, quick, and reasonably practical. We like the stand-out design; it’s a breath of fresh air in a segment free-falling, Tom Petty-style, into ubiquity as you read these words.

Whether or not you should get one ultimately depends on how well an electric car fits into your life. The I-Pace doesn’t solve the fundamental problems of living with a battery-powered car, namely limited range and region-dependent access to charging points. But, if you’re willing and able to go electric, or if you’ve already done so and you’re ready for your next car, Jaguar’s is the best option currently on the market.

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