When it comes to electric cars, most probably think of one company: Tesla the brand which seemingly came from nowhere and made the electric car market what it is today.

This month we are trending everything electric cars. Tesla Model 3  we shall be driving it real soon. And can the four circles take on these two brands, Audi E-Tron we shall find out too.

It’s fair to say, they somewhat caught the established guard of automotive manufacturers with their pants down. Whilst the big players may have years of experience building automobiles, their reliance on traditional combustion engines has meant they‘ve been frantically playing catch up since. Until the I-Pace that is. Jaguar have beaten their combustion-reliant rivals to launching a fully electric vehicle, but have they managed to bridge, or even overcome, the technological gap to the market leaders?

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I-Pace on paper

On-paper pedigree for the I-Pace is certainly impressive. Debuting in the second half of 2018, the I-Pace quickly racked up awards all over the globe – becoming one of the most highly decorated production vehicles ever. A haul of 62 awards in its debut year is no mean feat, especially when you consider that includes the European Car of the Year award.

It’s fair to say then, Jaguar’s first effort made quite the splash. An initial look down the spec sheet reveals a little more of how Jaguar achieved this; 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, 400 PS (395Hp), a 90kWh battery and permanent 4 wheel drive via a twin-motor drive. Numbers wise, this throws if firmly within Tesla territory, although the Tesla’s outright numbers win the ultimate top trumps – Ludicrous mode 0-60 times just can’t be beaten.

However, it’s not all about the numbers – those awards were given for a reason. With all their years of automotive knowledge, it’s safe to assume Jaguar will have applied more than a mild helping of their secret sauce. Time to dig a little deeper.

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In the flesh

The styling of the I-Pace is more evolutionary rather than revolutionary – it’s undoubtedly a SUV of the modern century, but with the proportions all receiving a tweak rather than space-ship overhaul. Thanks to the front-end being combustion engine free, the front wheels can be moved further forward and the bonnet line lowered – advantageous to both aerodynamics and handling. The aero side is further enhanced with numerous scoops and ducts, including a large central scoop which re-directs air along the bonnets length.

The rear is less curvaceous, perhaps struggling to live up to the design creativity of the front, with its edges a little boxy by comparison. For a company which has delivered truly stunning cars through the years, from the E-Type of yesteryear to the F-Type of today, the I-Pace was always going to be hard pushed to live up to the standards of Jaguar’s heritage. Whilst it’s a shape which struggles to create as much instantaneous wow factor as its predecessors, it’s certainly one which grows on you and will no-doubt mature very nicely in the coming years.

In terms of accessibility, the I-Pace uses standard, front-hinged doors, with 4 flanking the vehicle and a boot at the rear. Opening of the doors is a manual operation (not quite the automated, falcon door, Tesla Model-X experience), but that doesn’t mean the I-Pace lacks tricks of its own. The door handles are concealed flush within the door, reducing aerodynamic drag when on the move and only presenting themselves when required. A puddle light projection, including the important Jaguar name, is emitted from beneath, aiding night time accessibility and increasing the sense of occasion.

5 seats fill the spacious cabin, with a large boot taking up the rear most section of interior. It’s safe to say then, that as an automotive manufacturer, Jaguar have stuck to their guns and designed a car in their traditional way – sticking to well proven methods and layouts to create an interior instantly comparable with the rest of their modern fleet. A (very) small ‘frunk’ underneath the bonnet is perhaps the only quirk afforded by the use of electric motors, with room for a shoe box or two should the main boot prove insufficient.

Then we get to the central dash area; whilst Tesla stripped back the buttons and put all their faith in a single touch screen, Jaguar have made an evolutionary step with their well-proven interior methods. Twin screens adorn the central section, with a myriad of buttons and dials flanking their sides, offering easy adjustment of the climate control and driving modes. We’ll go into more detail on the tech later, but aside from driving the I-Pace, it’s safe to say it’s essentially as per any other Jaguar out there.

Drivetrain

So whilst evolutionary rather than revolutionary steps have been taken with the exterior and cabin, under the skin it’s a very different story. Instead of a fuel tank and combustion engine, batteries and electric motors are the order of the day. Petrol station visits are no more – power sockets are your new best friend!

Jaguar only offers a single configuration for the motors and battery sizing, resulting in a 90kWh capacity and drive to all four wheels as standard. Driving all four wheels gives the car superb traction in slippery conditions, which is further aided by the very low centre of gravity afforded by the batteries-in-the-floor layout. These aids to traction are very welcome given the vehicles overall mass – 90kWh of batteries don’t come light and the I-Pace tips the scales at 2.1 tonnes.

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The battery size does at least give the I-Pace a decent range – official WLTP figures put it at 292 miles, although real world figures during my time with the vehicle were a fair bit lower. No doubt this is partly due to my driving style not being entirely suited to maximising range, but the ~230 miles achieved is a little daunting and whilst I reckon 250 would be possible, the 292 claimed seems a little ambitious.

Nevertheless, find a potent charge station and the I-Pace will hit 80% charge in ‘just’ 45 minutes. This relies on a 100kW DC feed, for which charge points are currently scarce but becoming more readily available. I was fortunate to find a 50kW DC charger close by during my time with the vehicle, which increases the charge time but even so, was easily enough to fill the vehicle whilst busying myself walking the dog (the fill cost just under £10 too). For those without access to a DC feed, you’ll have to rely on an AC supply instead. These are very common and can even be fitted at home, but sadly the I-Pace is limited to just 7kW of supply on AC, necessitating a lengthy (overnight) charge.

Driving the I-Pace

Use of secret sauce was mentioned earlier, and it’s safe to say it becomes very evident where it’s been applied once you start driving the car. The moment you put the car into drive and pull away, the level of refinement in the driving experience is beyond anything I’ve felt before. The I-Pace pulls away with such grace and smoothness, picks up speed so readily and glides along the road in a simply superb way.

The weight of the steering is perfectly suited to the vehicle, whilst the tailored driving modes (such as eco & dynamic) adapt the ferocity of the accelerator pedal to a considerate degree. The brake pedal feels a little mushy at first, no doubt due to a lot of the ‘braking’ being performed by the electric motors, but you quickly get used to this.

Despite the pedal lacking a little feel, the brakes themselves are incredibly potent, stopping the vehicle far quicker than the 2.1 tonne mass would allow you to expect. Cornering is handled with similar above-expectation competence, enabling the I-Pace to cover ground at a vast rate of knots. As with any car though, push it hard and the energy consumption goes up dramatically, with range quickly becoming a concern.

Overtaking has to be my favourite part of the electric car experience however, with the instantaneous performance offered by the motor-drive absolutely magnificent. The I-Pace continues this trend, with huge amounts of shove available at the touch of the throttle. When overtaking slow traffic the difference this makes versus even the most potent of combustion cars is breath-taking; even cars like the mighty Audi R8 Performance (review here) can’t dispatch traffic with such aplomb.

Technology

Technology wise, there’s obviously plenty of it stuffed into the floor of the I-Pace. However, Tesla set themselves apart by also cramming plenty of tech into the in-car experience, with their self-drive feature a particular headline grabber. Sadly this is the one area where I really felt the I-Pace let itself down.

The disappointment isn’t even because the I-Pace can’t self-drive. Yes, that’s an impressive feature on the Tesla’s but realistically it’s not an essential feature. A responsive user interface is though, which is where the Jaguar sadly falls short. You see, when the car is fired up the central infotaintment takes a while to get going, but even when it has, it just lacks anywhere near the levels of fluidity expected from a car in 2019. Heck, even 5 years ago the Jaguar would have been a little questionable for fluidity and responsiveness.

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This is a real shame, as it’s actually got a healthy spread of features, great Carplay/Android Auto integration and the mixture of buttons and touch screens hits a nice balance. The pre-condition menu was particularly user-friendly and intuitive, allowing you to set a departure time for your next journey, which the car will then use to ensure the interior is acclimatised before departure.

Connectivity is also a big plus on the I-Pace, with both the front and rear peppered in USB ports, affording plenty of mobile device and gadget usage when travelling. No gimmicky features are present (Tesla’s fart mode, I’m looking at you) – Jaguar have clearly gone down the grown-up route here, but it’s a shame that few technological barriers have been pushed.

Conclusion

Whilst Tesla may grab headlines with their fancy features and quirky styling, Jaguar’s I-Pace is the strongest case for an electric future I’ve driven yet. It’s hard to put into words just how nice this car is to drive – there’s no vibration or noise from the engine, the ride and handling are superb and the calibration of the electric motors and brakes spot on. Jaguar really, really nailed this area of the car.

Range anxiety remains an issue, particularly with charge times still in the ~1 hour range even on the fastest plugs. No doubt time and technology will help cure this problem, but an electric car remains a lifestyle decision for now. Those that jump on the bandwagon of bashing electric cars need to remember – these are just the first generation. Imagine where we’ll be in a few years?!

The only real downside with the I-Pace was the in-car technology, which sadly let the rest of the car down. For a car competing with Tesla and costing the best part of £70,000, it really should (and needs to) be better and the lack of basic interface fluidity is a shame. Hopefully Jaguar can fix this, as the rest of the car is a superb advertisement for electric vehicles as a whole. We can’t wait for gen 2!

Menstylefashion would like to thank Jaguar UK for providing us with the review car. I-Pace prices start from £64,495 OTR.