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Driven: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 SE AWD

2019-03-01 11:19

Sean Parker

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Image: Supplied

More than 400km range (when fully charged), 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.8 seconds, a network of charging points in and around the country's major hubs to switch off any fears of range anxiety: these are the headlines Jaguar screamed ahead of their new all-electric vehicle, the I-Pace, hitting the South African market.

Yes, Jag took a huge gamble of creating a 'Power Highway' along major routes in Mzansi, fitted with 82 charging stations.

The cost? An eye-watering R30-million. That's how much the automaker is investing to ensure that I-Pace owners and other EV owners aren't caught in the dark. 

The recent announcement by rolling blackouts by Eskom, would have only made the naysayers 'switch off' even more about the future of electric vehicles in South Africa, of which only two models were locally available: BMW's i3 and the Nissan Leaf. 

Sean Parker drove the electric vehicle (EV) in Johannesburg to find out how the 2.2-ton SUV feels on the road. 

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                                                                                   Image: Supplied 

What has Jag got us all charged up about? 

Jag is marketing the I-Pace as a proper alternative to other luxury cars on sale in South Africa. They claim the fully-charged 90kWh lithium-ion battery delivers up to 470km range. 

They are also at pains to label it an SUV. Granted we waded through a section of the Jukskei river at the launch and it handled gravel roads with aplomb. Don't worry, electricity and water don't mix in this instance. 

It can seat five adults with ease and has all the luxury toys one would expect at this price range. And that price range starts from R1.6-million. It's aimed at wealthy individuals, there's no doubt about that. 

It is worth pointing out that Mercedes (EQC) and Audi (E-Tron) are reportedly launching EV SUVs to the local market later this year.

Is it electrifying to drive? 

Like an ordinary car, in absolutely no way at all. The torque, close to 700Nm, is instant from the two electric motors mounted to each axle. 

Power? Well there’s enough of that too, 294kW in fact. It’s not delivered in a ferocious manner, but in a way, that’ll snap your head back and wide-eyed. 

The steering is electric power-assisted and offers little feedback and little understeer is evoked when pushed into a corner at swift speed. 

The I-Pace feels settled on the road mainly because of where the batter is placed, between the two axles, and almost as low as the cat’s eyes. 

The positioning of the battery translates into a low centre of gravity and 50:50 weight distribution. Did I mention it weighs around 2.2 tons? But on the drive, I felt it really did a fantastic job of hiding its heftiness. 

The model I drove on the launch was fitted with the optional air suspension (a touch less than R17 000).

During a brief off-road challenge the elevated ride height came in handy over rocks and through a 400mm bath of muddy water.  

My last point on how the I-Pace drives is about braking. A system called regenerative braking (which I first experienced on the i3) is used to channel power to the battery to be charged. 

This happens by lifting off the accelerator and the car reduces speed quite dramatically. I altered my driving style to the point where I hardly used the brake. 

Where can it be charged? 

A few places in fact. The I-Pace can be plugged into your normal AC plug socket at home (most likely in a garage). Jag says a 0-100% charge will take around 24 hours. 

The best option for owners to charge the 90kWh battery is by using a 7.4kW wall box unit which can be installed at home. 

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Image: Supplied 

Pricing to install the unit starts from R25 000, however your I-Pace will be fully charged from 0% in 12 hours. And when you’re not at home? Well, Jaguar in partnership with GridCars, has set up 85 charging stations around the country at what they deem as major hubs and shopping centres.

Most charging stations along the public network are 60kWh fast chargers, meaning 100km of range will take around 20 minutes and a charge from 0 to 80% will take around one and quarter hours. Not bad.

Will it work in South Africa?

Yes. However, it’s not a car that’s going to save you tons of money, mainly because of the massive entry price. 

There's space for a family of five and a boot capacity of around 650 litres, although it is impeded somewhat by a spare wheel which is offered in our market for just over R2000. 

For the rich, it can be used as a daily mode of transport. You’re unlikely to be affected by load shedding because you’ll most likely charge your car overnight or if you’re on a long road trip at one of the charging stations along the Power Highway. 

After my drive at the launch there was still around 100km left after driving relatively hard for over three hours. Jag backed up their range claims well. 

How often does the I-Pace need to be serviced? 

Jaguar offers an eight-year or 160 000km warranty on the battery. The I-Pace must be serviced at the two-year mark or every 34 000km. 

Pricing: 

S - R1 687 200

SE - R1 745 400

HSE - R1 820 900

First Edition - R1 920 700 

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Image: Supplied 

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