2019 Jaguar I-Pace First Drive

The Next Four-Wheeled Step in a Paradigm Shift

The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is hard to pin down. Incorporating SUV, hatchback and sports-car design cues, the brand's first all-electric vehicle is a sort of automotive jazz fusion.

But let's step back from the subjective world of design and consider the practical. The all-wheel-drive I-Pace is a four-door, five-seat luxury electric vehicle with 394 horsepower and an estimated 240 miles of range. And our time behind the wheel during a day in Portugal demonstrated that its allure is not difficult to comprehend.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Outside the Lines
Given how many heads turn to watch our red 2019 Jaguar I-Pace cruise by town centers, the design successfully stands out. The I-Pace is similar in length to compact luxury SUVs such as the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3. But it's wider and shorter in height, and its wheels sit farther apart, giving it a sleeker, tauter appearance. Its headlights and arcing fenders are unmistakably Jaguar, though brand aficionados might chuckle at the stubby hood relative to the endless nose that defined the classic E-Type.

As is typically the case with vehicles designed from the start to be fully electric, the I-Pace's 90-kWh battery pack is located under the floor. Jaguar says it takes a little less than 13 hours to fill with a 240-volt charger, though you can get an 80 percent charge (around 190 miles) in 10 hours. If you connect to a DC fast charger, that 80 percent takes 40 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on output.

The low-hanging battery configuration allows for a front trunk, albeit one with negligible storage space, and 25 cubic feet of cargo space available behind the rear seats (51 cubic feet with the rear seats folded). When it comes to cargo volume, the I-Pace falls within the realm of those aforementioned compact luxury SUVs, but it isn't as accommodating as the larger Tesla Model X.

Pull the pop-out door handle, duck your head as you slip inside, and you find a nicely sized three-spoke steering wheel, bits of aluminum and gloss-black panels covering the center console. (Keep a microfiber towel handy, neat freaks.) The roofline appears low, making the interior look deceptively compact, but there's an excess of headroom for front and rear passengers. You could sit four full-size adults in the I-Pace without complaints.

A standard fixed sunroof stretches nearly the length and width of the I-Pace. It's tinted to reduce glare, but there's no retractable shade. On a hot day, you can feel the heat radiating through the glass when you put your hand nearby. We'd prefer a metal roof.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Cut and Thrust
Press the start button — to Tesla, a remnant deemed unnecessary — and the I-Pace does little more than make a few beeps and flash up some pretty graphics on its three digital displays. In the old days of classic Jaguars, hearing silence after twisting the ignition key would bring about immediate dread of a bill from the mechanic. In the I-Pace, silence is expected. A welcome change, that.

Once underway, the I-Pace's immediate power delivery serves as a reminder of why electric propulsion works great for luxury vehicles. Its two electric motors — one driving the front tires, the other the rears — make a combined 394 hp and 512 pound-feet of torque. Those are impressive figures for any car, but the I-Pace's immediate power delivery is something traditional gasoline engines can't match. Dig into the accelerator at any speed and that satisfying sensation of propulsion arrives without the delay of a downshift.

Beyond just sheer acceleration, Jaguar has also designed the I-Pace to have some personality. The high-pitched whine of electric motors and components isn't as satisfying to the ear as the sounds and exhaust from one of the company's throaty V8s. To compensate, the I-Pace has a feature called Active Sound Design. In the highest of its three settings, stomping the accelerator generates a low thrumming sound that's reminiscent of a gasoline-burning engine. It's subtle enough to be enjoyable, and most people might not recognize it's fake.

Jaguar claims the I-Pace does 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds. There are quicker luxury vehicles for the money, but many of them require optimal conditions and launch control procedures. The I-Pace's instantaneous power means it's quicker in the real world.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Personality Adjustment
The roads in Portugal oscillate between smooth and gravel or dirt, and the I-Pace takes nicely to both extremes. The steering is weighted appropriately to convey precision on twisty sections. And the standard air suspension falls on the firm side of the spectrum, owing to either the brand's sporty intentions or the combination of 4,800-plus pounds and optional 22-inch wheels.

The air springs reduce the ride height automatically at speed, but you can opt to lower the I-Pace when you park or lift it to 7.8 inches for additional ground clearance. (Tight approach and departure angles and the normal 5.6-inch ride height make off-roading a questionable endeavor.)

Beyond the usual drive mode settings and sound enhancement, you have a few other adjustments at your disposal. As in other electric vehicles, you can change the level of regenerative braking, which affects how much the vehicle starts slowing when you release the accelerator. When using the most aggressive regenerative braking setting, you can largely drive the I-Pace with the right pedal alone and only apply the mechanical brakes when you need to stop very quickly. You can also decide whether the I-Pace creeps forward when you release the brake pedal (like a regular car does) or stays stationary until you press the accelerator.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Touch and Go
The I-Pace has a new dual-screen infotainment system that's unlike the systems in the brand's other current vehicles. The top display handles music, navigation and vehicle settings, and the smaller lower screen hosts climate and seat controls. Though it's an attractive setup, the main screen can be slow to react to inputs, and you'll find your eyes leaving the road to make adjustments as you gain familiarity.

The lower screen sits on a floating panel that permits a small storage space underneath. It's good for a phone or a small handbag. On the connectivity front, there are six USB ports throughout the cabin. Jaguar does not currently support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in any model, but a representative says it will do so in the very near future. 

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Vote of Confidence
The I-Pace starts at $70,495 (including destination and before federal and state rebates), but we figure most shoppers will option theirs similarly to the kitted-out $86,895 First Edition pictured here. That price lines up with the Tesla Model X, but comparisons aren't so simple. The smaller I-Pace only comes with one seating and battery configuration, but it offers a wider assortment of comfort options. And while the I-Pace is available with adaptive cruise control and steering assistance, it stops short of selling the promise of full self-driving capability as Tesla does.

It's strange that it's taken years for another luxury electric vehicle equal to a Tesla's performance and range to come to market, but our day with the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace indicates it was worth the wait. Its classification remains inscrutable, but the I-Pace is as enjoyable to drive as it is striking to look at, and we're eager to perform a deeper analysis once it's available in the U.S. in the second half of 2018.

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