LOS ANGELES—Just before the official start of this year’s LA auto show, Jaguar fired a cannon across its competitors’ bows. Its I-Pace concept SUV breaks the electric barrier for Jag with pure electric drive from a pair of 200hp (149kW) motors, a 36-module battery pack totaling 90kWh, an operating range between charges of over 220 miles (500 km under the EU’s standards of calculation), new-for-Jaguar design proportions, and seriously rapid acceleration of 4 seconds (estimated) from 0-60 mph (100kph). Jaguar’s been working on electrification for some time, and the I-Pace will go into production in 2018, less than two years away.
Those two independent motors tally up 400 hp and 516 ft-lb of torque (298 kW and 700 Nm) divided up between both axles, allow varying power distribution front-to-rear. That’s essentially the same torque output as an F-Type SVR.
The I-Pace’s battery pack is being designed in-house at Jaguar, not brought in from outside, and is integral to the car’s body structure. By making the battery pack flat, Jaguar says that it’s lowered the I-Pace’s propulsion system’s center of mass by 120mm (4.7 inches) compared to an internal combustion engine’s center (though since the I-Pace was never conceived with a conventional engine, we’ll have to take that claim on faith). The battery pack’s compactness also yields a larger interior volume; essentially that of a slightly larger SUV. The battery pack can be recharged to 80 percent in 90 minutes via 50kW fast DC charging, though it also accepts 120-volt charging.
Inside, the I-Pace combines traditional and new materials in a very open-feeling space. Since the overall proportion is not just cab-forward, but unconstrained by an internal combustion engine and transmission beneath, it opens up a greater possibility for interior volume. Aside from being a five-seat vehicle, this was the only real design brief. And since both rows of occupants sit further forward relative to the axle lines and overall mass, the luggage space is opened up to the tune of nearly 19 cubic feet (530 liters), despite the sloping rear roofline.
Peering over the interior, simple dials and smooth surfaces mingle with tablet-style displays. The dashboard uses natural and seemingly bleached wood at either end for a Nordic, even aged look that contrasts the more modern aluminum accent materials. The front seats are thin. From the back seat, they seem to hover as if they have no tracks beneath them. Everything hints at futurism.
The center console floats as much as the seats. Vital information is presented in monochrome and simple, modern typeface. Straight ahead, a 12-inch virtual instrument panel can be custom-configured, and a head-up display beams onto the windshield. The dashboard’s center houses a 10-inch TFT screen, while below that sits a 5.5-inch touchscreen with aluminum dials that themselves house HD displays. This controls infotainment and climate control adjustments.
The I-Pace suspension is based on Jaguar’s F-Type sports car with upper and lower control arms connected by a gooseneck upright. The spring/damper unit connects to the upright in a mostly strut-type arrangement.
While the I-Pace’s proportions are strongly cab-forward, with a gently sloping rear, fender peaks (or “haunches,” as Jaguar Design chief Ian Callum calls them) sit at all four corners and evoke a familiar Jaguar theme.
It’s a natural evolution for Jaguar to create the world’s most desirable electric car. And this is the most important car at Jaguar since the E-Type. With an electric car, you have a bit more packaging space, so I actually prefer to design for electric drive.
He also recognizes that designing a compact utility vehicle is a different form than the grand Jags of the past, but that the ethos of Jag has to evolve. “All Jaguars are exciting to look at and simple in their line and form; the values remain the same. Those will never change even as the packaging changes markedly.” Jaguar paid attention to aerodynamics, and the .29 drag coefficient testifies to that.
There’s an illusion out there that electric cars don’t need cooling. Believe you me, they need cooling, and the I-Pace has a real radiator behind the grille. This car is a new proposition from Jaguar, unlike much of what’s come before. But we can’t be sentimental about our heritage when it comes to new cars. Sir William Lyons [founder and initial design chief at Jaguar] was never sentimental about design, and we shouldn’t be, either. He wanted to change things all the time. We always have to belong to the present with new cars.
I always ask myself before releasing a new design, ‘Would Lyons have approved of this?’ In the I-Pace’s case, yeah, of course he would. He might’ve gotten here before us, actually.
Listing image by Jim Resnick