I have a confession. I do not like the idea of electric cars one bit. Personally, the thrill of driving is fed through the interaction between a car and the drivers senses – the more visceral the better. I digress, it is time for me to pop the cherry and drive my first electric car since a bumper car back in 2002. I have avoided previous opportunities like they were a tornado of locusts, Teslas and disease charging towards me, the Jaguar I-Pace being the electric vehicle that caught me off-guard. That’s not to say I haven’t driven hybrids before and not thoroughly enjoyed myself. No, not the mighty Prius but the savage beast that is the Porsche 918 Spyder. See, I’m willing to give the Eco friendly malarkey a fair chance…
Back to the Jag. The I-Pace is the first fully electric car to come from Jaguar and they’ve kicked it off with an ‘SUV’ which is dubbed a ‘pure BEV’ – Battery Electric Vehicle. To say that this is a market that is critical to any mass production manufacturer is a mighty understatement following the chaos Mr. Musk has caused with his futuristic technologies and mass market appeal, it is only logical for everyone to join in and jostle for a slice of the electrified pie. SUVs are the flavour of the decade so it already seems logical for Jaguar to have begun their endeavour with the I-Pace.
I’ve stepped into the I-Pace and it all feels very conventional by fossil fuel burning standards. It’s actually a very pleasant place to be with gorgeous digital displays. Hit start and things change quite quickly. Well, hit start and nothing really happens which is a little odd. Drive off and aside from the lack of sound or the feeling of gear changes, it’s just like driving another traditional vehicle – until you take your foot of the erm, electricity. This is where we as humans have to learn to adapt to the future and electrification. Regeneration through to brakes mean the car begins to brake without depression of the brake pedal. This is incredibly bizarre – if you want to coast around the corner or lift your foot off the throttle to gently roll up to a red light you’ll stop well before you expect to. This requires re calibration of the brain, something I didn’t have time for. Fortunately you can disengage the regenerative feature. This means that you can brake as you have been doing so for your entire driving life and is the start of another thing I absolutely detested about the I-Pace, brake feel, or thereby lack of.
I am reliably informed that this is a ‘feature’ that plagues all electric cars, the brake pedal has next to no feel and it is terribly alarming for the first few kms. I ventured further into the German countryside in search of the kind of roads I would seek in fire powered sports cars and was not disappointed. Stunning scenery unveiled twisty roads draped over hillsides. I put the eerie silence into the back of my mind and forgave the appalling brake feel in the quest to turn my frown upside down on some fabulous tarmac.
I immediately found the benefits of AC and DC. Mash the fast pedal and you are shocked (pardon the pun) time and time again as the mammoth 696Nms of torque travel through the front and rear drive shafts and challenge the tires to do all they car to immediately fire you up the road with reckless abandon. The numbers build FAST considering that this I-Pace EV400 weighs in at almost 2.2 tonnes. The 395 silent horses at 90kWh really work to launch the SUV to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds.
When testing such performance stats the I-Pace will struggle to reach half of its claimed 480 kilometre range which will take a full 10 hours to charge up to 80% with a conventional 7kW household charger. This falls to an impressive 45 minutes if you can get your mitts on a 100kW DC supply. Accelerating is the strangest sensation and there is an odd satisfaction to the way the I-Pace just blasts towards the horizon when you pin the throttle out of a bend with such poise. Things are a little less joyful in the bend itself. There is a wodge of body roll when you’re really moving. It’s not chronic, but it’s not a nice feeling being made aware of the rather hefty weight transfer with quicker steering inputs. The weight also shows the brakes up as being a little too underpowered to handle the weight of the beast. Back to the steering inputs, there not much weight to be found in any of the three driving modes. You would imagine such a car to feel a clinical, it is.
The seating position is perfect, and the controls are all well thought out and logically placed. It’s when you come to start fiddling around with settings in submenus where the touch screen shows itself up as being somewhat annoying. There is a reason that BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, et al, all still have some variety of physical wheel that you can use – it’s just easier, less distracting and more intuitive. There is still room for improvement inside the Jag, particularly when you consider the €70,000 price tag.
My criticisms of the Jaguar I-Pace are somewhat unfair as many report very similar drawbacks within every electric car on the road today. That brings me onto a more central issue with the concept of electric cars – how can the driving experience become unique to a single car? If you drive any two petrol/diesel cars even weeks apart you can feel and remember fundamental idiosyncrasies and characteristics. Will such traits come to electric cars? Will the driving experiences ever differ from car to car or are traits such as sound, gearbox, steering feel and throttle response things that will be homogenised with the introduction of electricity?
Don’t get me wrong, the I-Pace is an extremely capable car. It is huge inside, comfortable, quiet and I have no doubt that it will sell extremely well, and for good reason. For the average person that is not a ‘petrolhead’ there is much to be desired as it very much covers the requirement and demands of consumers today. It is the tiny minority of people such as myself, and probably you reading this, that love cars for the interactivity and enlightenment of just driving for the thrill and the freedom.
I guess it didn’t help that I spent the seven days prior to driving the I-Pace behind the wheels of the mighty McLaren 720S and magnificent Morgan 3 Wheeler.