A few years ago, Elon Musk told the world he welcomed competition from other companies. In fact, he begged them to build “compelling electric cars.” The Jaguar I-PACE is a compelling electric car. It is faster, sexier, and more sophisticated than any gas-powered premium SUV on the market. But is it better than the Tesla Model X? That’s a question we will examine in detail below.
More than anything, it is a giant leap forward for the electric car revolution. The fact that it is electric is nice, but what makes it compelling is that Jaguar basted it with a healthy dollop of awesome sauce during the creation process. It is not just another car. It is a delicious blend of comfort, eye appeal, and blazing performance that should please everyone who drives it or rides in it. In North America, it starts at $69,500 before federal and state incentives. Customers can order the car now at their local Jaguar dealer. Deliveries are expected to begin in September.
Every Jaguar I-PACE comes with dual electric motors developed and built in house, a 90 kWh pouch cell battery, and 240 miles of range. The car has 394 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque — enough to blast it to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Range is listed as 240 miles. An 80% charge takes 40 minutes when using a 100 kW DC fast charger or 10 hours if “level 2” home charging equipment is used. The I-PACE supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also is the first Jaguar automobile capable of over the air software updates.
The I-PACE has the expected driver assistance features for its class, like lane keeping, blind spot detection, and adaptive cruise control. It does not have any “level 3” self steering capability at present, but its emergency forward braking system is able to detect pedestrians — a first for the marque.
Driving The I-PACE
I was invited recently to come to Portugal to drive the I-PACE. But it wasn’t just paved roads and highways. The route took me up into the mountains above the Mediterranean city of Faro, where switchbacks and hairpins were abundant. I was in a group of 4 other drivers and we took turns pushing each other to explore the car’s limits. The I-PACE excels in that type of driving. With its low center of gravity and all-wheel drive, it dug its claws into the corners before rocketing away toward the horizon.
Again and again, we mashed the go pedal to the floor. The I-PACE never faltered, never overheated, and never signaled it had had enough frolicking for one day. It just delivered abundant, seamless power whenever it was called for. Impressive stuff.
Jaguar is part of the Jaguar Land Rover group, and some of the off-road competencies associates with Land Rovers leaked into the DNA of the I-PACE during development. The route included traveling up a stream bed filled with flowing water, then up a 30% incline on a rutted dirt road. Here is where one of the features of the I-PACE came into play.
Facing uphill on gravel, simply set the controls on the steering wheel to the speed you wish, release the foot brake, and marvel at how the drivetrain sends precisely the right amount of power to any wheel with traction. With the windows down, the driver can hear first the right front, then the left rear, then the left front wheel scrambling for grip as the car serenely powers its way forward. Most other vehicles would be spinning their wheels helplessly in similar circumstances.
Once over the crest, the same system will drive the I-PACE downhill at whatever speed the driver selects. The suspension soaks up ruts and rocks with ease as the car goes serenely about its business. The same skill on gravel is applicable to snow and ice as well, which provides a sense of assurance to the driver and passengers.
Taking The I-PACE On Track
One of the characteristics of the I-PACE that sets it apart from ordinary vehicles is its superb handling. The Jaguar people took us to the Algarve racing circuit, a thoroughly modern FIA certified track not far from Faro. There, we got to put a collection of I-PACE vehicles to the test. I saw 200 km/h on the display in front of me on the front straight, so we weren’t just playing boy racer here.
The professional driver next to me was urging me to go deeper into the turns and get hard on the accelerator sooner. Ordinarily, I would have been happy to comply, but this track has two turns that follow blind crests. I have issues with charging headlong over a rise into a corner I can’t see, which is one reason why I am not a professional racing driver.
Prior to taking the I-PACE out on the circuit, we took a few laps in a Jaguar F-Type, the company’s two-seat sports car. Perhaps it was my ham-handed driving, but I found it harder to balance the F-Type than the I-PACE. The electric SUV was less tail happy. During hard cornering, the Jaguar likes to sink its claws into the pavement so it can find the most grip and sling the car down the track toward the next apex. It is very stable and predictable at speed, which is very confidence inspiring. The I-PACE makes everyone a better driver.
What Makes A Compelling Electric Car?
The first question everyone asks is, “Is the I-PACE better than the Tesla Model X?” The question actually misses the point. The goal is to expand the number of electric cars available to the public. Just as a BMW is different from an Audi or a Mercedes, the I-PACE and the Model X are also different. Each provides its own answer to what defines a premium electric SUV.
One difference that may be important to some is that the I-PACE will accept a roof rack for carrying kayaks and surfboards. It also will have an available bicycle rack that includes an extra pair of tail lights to warn drivers following behind not to get too close.
For some people, having falcon-wing doors makes a statement about them. For other people, not having falcon-wing doors makes the statement they want to make. The Jaguar folks in Portugal were careful not to cast aspersions on Tesla. That being said, when the subject of falcon-wing doors was raised, there was a polite silence and not a little rolling of eyes.
Whether the I-PACE is better than the Model X or not will be for each individual to decide. I have driven both, and for my money, the I-PACE is the car I would choose. It left me thinking, “That is one fine automobile,” and that is compelling enough for me. It’s hard to imagine anyone not being smitten by the overall goodness of the car. If an electric SUV is in your future plans, you owe it to yourself to drive the I-PACE before making any buying decisions.
All photos by the author.