Written by Marcus Amick
In recent years, I’ve grown to think that the term “revolutionary” is one of those well-worn clichés. The ease with which many of us toss the term around tends to dilute the effect when describing anything truly worthy of the accolade.
In fact, I’ve found myself trying to refrain from even using “revolutionary” in the context of anything tied to an automobile, regardless of how tempting it might be. But after having a chance to experience the all-new 2019 Jaguar I-PACE, I’ve developed a renewed appreciation for the concept, realizing at times that there’s just no other way to sum up how something completely rattles the idea of convention.First unveiled as a concept in 2016 at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the highly anticipated I-PACE is the first all-electric full production Jaguar in the 83-year history of the British nameplate. The sleek, low-profile vehicle is also a breathtaking study of the possibilities when the traditional principles of automotive design are allowed to really be pushed to the extreme.
A drastic departure from the typical EV design, the I-PACE is arguably one of the hottest-looking vehicles of any kind to take the road in years. The idea that the new Jag’s styling cues have been crafted around an all-electric propulsion system simply adds to its design allure.
Wayne Burgess, Jaguar Production Studio Director, tells Playboy that the nature of the I-PACE as the brand’s first electric vehicle allowed his team to stretch the boundaries of automotive design.
“When we started working on I-PACE, we said, ‘Okay, we’re going to be able to work on an all-new architecture SUV; we’re really going to maximize every opportunity this gives us to do something different and something new’,” says Burgess. “We knew that we weren’t going to do something that looks like it has an IC [internal combustion] engine in the front. We want it to look like it actually doesn’t have an engine.”
As the design director goes on to explain, it was really the lack of a conventional engine compartment that birthed a lot of the I-PACE’s sporty styling elements. “Very early on we said, ‘Well, if the engine and gearbox are gone, let’s make it cap-forward because you can,’” Burgess tells Playboy. “Then we looked and said, ‘What are cool cap-forward cars?’ And they are basically mid-engine supercars. So, we started thinking about Jaguar’s history with Le Mans racing and Group C racing. And that kind of gave us the aesthetic around the architecture.”
The I-PACE’s race-inspired features aren’t just limited to the SUV’s supercar-like styling, which gives the EV its striking road presence. Powered by a lithium-ion battery system that generates an equivalent of 394 horsepower, the I-PACE also radically flips the script on how’d you expect an all-electric SUV to perform. You get your first dose of those performance attributes the second you hit the I-PACE’s accelerator and feel the EV’s 512 lbs.-ft of instant torque racing through your chest.
That instant adrenaline rush, one of the coolest features of electric propulsion vehicles, is even more thrilling when putting the I-PACE through the paces on the track, which we had a chance to experience first-hand at Portugal’s Algarve International Circuit. The SUV is so impressive on the raceway that you tend to forget it’s a luxury EV—aside from the absence of some high-revving engine howling through the cockpit.Our I-PACE test drive also allowed us to muscle the SUV on an off-road terrain, which included fording through a roughly 13-inch riverbed and trekking up a steep, rugged hill.The Jag was quite impressive there as well. Let’s be clear, however: It’s the I-PACE’s on-road performance capabilities that leave you completely rethinking the idea of what an electric vehicle can be.
Simon Patel, Jaguar I-PACE Powertrain Senior Program Manager, credits the EV’s performance capabilities with a no-compromise approach taken when engineering the SUV.
“Our team of engineers want the car to drive exactly the same, regardless of the propulsion system,” Patel tells Playboy. “Whether it’s internal combustion engine or an electric motor, the customer doesn’t care. They just want the same feeling, the same feedback, similar drivability, and it’s the same when it comes to vehicle dynamics. We want it to have great handling, inspire confidence to the driver.”
The I-PACE, which starts right under $70,000, has an estimated range of up to 240 miles per charge. It’s also capable of being able to achieve a 0-80 percent battery charge in 40 minutes using 100kW DC fast chargers, making the SUV quite practical as an EV.
The fact that the I-PACE is Jaguar’s first electric vehicle also pushed the carmaker to stretch the boundaries of innovation in other ways. “It’s a new technology, therefore we wanted to make sure we were on the forefront of in-vehicle technology and out-of-vehicle technology,” says Matt Waller, Entertainment and Productivity Lead at Jaguar. “We’ve got an updated telematics application, an updated infotainment system that takes into account some of the electric vehicle—all of it tailored toward the experience.”
The I-PACE’s new infotainment system, Touch Pro Duo, utilizes a combination of touchscreens, capacitive sensors and tactile physical controls to operate key functions while reducing the visual clutter in the cabin. But one of the I-PACE’s most intriguing vehicle technologies is a system called Smart Setting; driven by algorithms, it’s capable of identifying driver preferences, and then intuitively tailoring the SUV’s setting by learning an owner’s routine.
For example, if the I-PACE starts to recognize that the driver calls their spouse every day when driving home from work, the system will start asking the driver if they would like to call their spouse at the routine time. The system also has the capability to simply make the call for the driver.
The I-PACE also features an Amazon Alexa Skill, which enables owners to be able to ask an Alex- enabled device for information held in the Jaguar InControl Remote app, such as “Is my car locked?” or “What is the charging level?”
“The idea is: How can a vehicle become an extension of your own mind?” says Waller. “Smart Setting is one of those [features], so that the car can become an actual extension of the human brain, and therefore think for you.”
It’s the kind of tech advancements you can only appreciate when you’re in the driver’s seat of the Jaguar I-PACE, notes Waller. And we couldn’t agree more, given all the thrills that come from being behind the wheel of the new Jag.