Electric car range put to the test
1. The I-Pace purrs
Jaguar's first electric car is a little different to rival machines. For starters, the propulsion is more audible than others, producing distant Star Trek sound effects through the cabin when accelerating or braking. It also hums on the outside to warn pedestrians of its approach and serves up an electronically synthesised rumble inside the cabin when you stamp on the throttle, sounding like the digital fusion of a throbbing subwoofer and small-capacity V8.
Do so and the I-Pace leaps forward with sports car intent. Jaguar claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds but it feels faster - the initial throttle response rivals a sportsbike.
2. It has cat-like agility
The I-Pace is fun to drive thanks to taut suspension and direct steering. All-wheel drive, low centre of gravity and reasonably well-controlled weight (it's 325kg lighter than Tesla's Model X) make the Jag fun when whizzing about. Among dynamic criticisms are the inconsistent brake feel - a side effect of the car storing energy as you slow down - and the ride on low-profile tyres, which feels brittle in urban areas.
3. Strong impressions
Our fully loaded First Edition I-Pace ($159,700 plus on-roads) made a million-dollar impression on passengers. Its enormous panoramic sunroof feels like an IMAX screen compared to the iPad-like apertures in some luxury cars, joining beautiful ambient lighting with Jaguar logos projected on to the ground, comfortable heated and cooled seats and a powerful stereo. Multi-function pull, push and twist dials for the climate control, fan speed and seat temperature can be tricky, joining digital displays that aren't the most intuitive in class. But the swoopy styling, vibrant orange paint and carbon fibre-clad 22-inch wheels of our test example wowed friends and family.
4. Maths is not a strong point
The I-Pace report card might show strong marks for sport, design and hospitality but barely a pass in mathematics. The important sums never seem quite right. We collected the car with a full charge and 438km of indicated range on the dash. Our first day involved 55km of driving for a loss of 130km in range. A couple of days later, 123km of driving left us with an indicated 224km of juice in the battery, suggesting Jaguar's 470km claim might be optimistic.
Colleagues test-driving other examples reported similar issues when trying to plan travel - you simply don't know how far it will go. Plugging into a regular power point at home or the office gives you 8km of charge per hour, a figure that rises to 35km if you spend $2280 on a high-voltage wall box. Public fast-chargers expedite the process, though these are few and far between.
5. Rivals are coming
A big part of the I-Pace's appeal is that it is the first electric SUV from a mainstream manufacturer. For now, the only battery-powered alternative is the Tesla Model X.
But Audi's e-tron and the Mercedes-Benz EQC are just around the corner and Porsche's Taycan and the BMW iX3 will be here soon. Is it worth jumping on board the battery bandwagon now? Or is it better to wait for improved charging infrastructure and see which is the best of the bunch?
Jaguar I-Pace First Edition
Price: From $159,700 plus on-roads
Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist
Engine: Dual electric motors, 294kW/696Nm, 90kWh battery
Range: 470km range (22kWh/100km)
Spare: Optional space-saver