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We drive the new SA-bound I-Pace SUV: Silent Jaguar with the biggest growl…

2018-06-04 08:25

Ferdi de Vos

Image: Jaguar

The success of luxury automaker Jaguar over a period of more than seventy years can largely be attributed to the illustrious and versatile XK6 engine range. 

Used in models such as the XK 120 of 1948, the Mk VII Saloon, Mk I and II Saloons and XK 140 and 150, it was also employed in the legendary E Type, and in Twin OHC form in the XJ6 saloon from 1969 to 1992.

The biggest growl...

Few other engines have shown such ubiquity and longevity; and besides being a game-changer for Coventry, it produced the euphonious and sonorous six-cylinder growl that cars with the Leaper on the bonnet have become associated with…

READ: Jaguar reveals SA-bound I-Pace: Here's all you need to know about the new electric SUV

So, it was somewhat ironic to find myself sitting in a Coventry Cat with no voice – no roar, no howl, nothing – not even a whimper. Yet this silent vehicle may be the model with the loudest growl, and huge noise, in Jaguar Land Rover’s long and illustrious history.

Why? Well, just like the XK engine family guaranteed Jaguar’s prospects for over forty years, the new all-electric I-Pace could be the, uhm, pace-setting vehicle assuring the automaker’s sustainability into a very uncertain future.

It will be available in the UK priced from R1 074,757 (at current exchange rates), including an eight-year battery warranty, and is scheduled to be made available in South Africa from mid-2019. No indication of pricing is available at this time.

But first, a disclaimer; while I have experience of hybrids from Toyota, Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, range-extenders and BEVs such as the BMW i3 and EVs like the Nissan Leaf, I’m still an old-school internal combustion guy; the bigger and more powerful, the better.

Having grown up with cars sans fancy systems such as ABS or EBD, without airbags or GPS, I value cars that give a good driving experience; something lacking in the majority of hybrids and EVs. So, it was with a healthy dose of scepticism and mistrust that I went to Portugal to meet the new I-Pace.

Over a period of two days, driving the new Jaguar EV on an extensive selection of Algarve road surfaces – ranging from the technical corners on the flat asphalt of the international Algarve racetrack, the twisting and winding road sections between Faro and Lagos, and even a challenging off-road course, including a massive climb and a water crossing – my opinion changed. Quite dramatically so.

So good was the driving and overall experience, that I must admit: the I-Pace helped to change my perception – not only on electric cars in general, but also on the driving experience in the dawning age of EVs. 

So, by stating five reasons, let’s unpack why the I-Pace is such an exciting newcomer to the market, and a worthy contender for the much-lauded Tesla Models S and X.

Practical design

The first thing you realise when you see the new I-Pace in the flesh for the first time, is that it’s bigger than you have anticipated. The simple, elegant lines of the cab forward design, its long wheelbase and its huge wheels all contribute to the illusion of being smaller, while in reality it is slightly larger than an E-Pace, albeit incrementally lower.

In terms of dimensions Tesla’s Model S and X variants are slightly longer (4.9 and 5.1 metres respectively, versus 4.6 metres for the I-Pace) and the Model X is much higher, yet the I-Pace has a 30mm longer wheelbase than both – giving it an advantage in terms of interior space and packaging.

This is also the reason Jaguar’s design team went for a SUV-type look, as they could thereby take full advantage of its electric powertrain and maximise the potential of the packaging benefits it brings.


The Ian Callum design has another advantage (or perhaps disadvantage?). The I-Pace doesn’t look outlandish or strange, as some other EVs do, and this makes it immediately recognisable as a Jaguar. However, being part of the Pace-family, it has a strong resemblance to the E-Pace – and on our drive we found many people confused it with the normal compact Jaguar SUV. 

The I-Pace’s coupe-like silhouette is influenced by the Jaguar C-X75 supercar, with a short, low bonnet, aero-enhanced roof design and curved rear screen. This contrasts with its squared-off rear, which helps reduce the drag co-efficient to just 0.29Cd. 

To optimise the balance between cooling (of the interior, as well as the electric motor and battery pack) and aerodynamics, Active Vanes in the “grille” open when cooling is required, but close when not needed, redirecting air through the integral bonnet scoop (that looks very much like the air scoops found on endurance racing cars) to further help smooth the airflow.

                                                                      

Inside, the layout optimises space for passengers and luggage. While classified as a mid-sized SUV by Jaguar, it has interior room comparable to that of large SUVs. Sitting in the rear is super comfortable, as you have a whole 890mm of legroom, and there are stowage places for your tablet or laptop beneath the seats,
With no transmission tunnel, a useful 10.5-litre central storage compartment is available, and the rear luggage compartment offers a 656-litre capacity with the seats up – and 1 453-litres with seats folded flat.

Electrifying performance

So, let us run the numbers. The I-Pace has a state-of-the-art 90kWh Lithium-ion battery comprising 432 pouch cells that drives two Jaguar-designed synchronous permanent magnet electric motors, one on the front axle and one on the rear axles.

Each motor fits concentrically around a compact, single-speed epicyclic transmission and differential, enabling instant and precise distribution of torque to the wheels, while producing exceptional combined performance of 294 kW of power and 696Nm of torque, and all-wheel-drive, all-surface traction.

As we experienced on the track, the high-torque density of the motors delivers sports car type performance. With the instantaneous torque delivery inherent to an EV, you had to brace when you floored the accelerator, as the zero-emission Jaguar took off like a scalded cat, sprinting from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds.

                                                                          

That’s as quick as a BMW X3 M40i or an Audi Q3 RS!

However, the real beauty is in the way this is achieved. There’s no drama. No noise. No whining gears or turbo whistle. It is smooth and linear, yet to feel that surge, that swoosh, is strangely exciting.

Top speed has been limited to 200 km/h (probably to save on battery power) as driving it at full, uhm, throttle all the time is very detrimental to the battery pack’s range, but by using Eco mode, which turns off non-essential systems (but also influences its performance), the I-Pace can deliver a range of up to 480km (WLTP cycle) before recharging, according to Jaguar.

                                                                             

The automaker also claims it will be possible to achieve a 0-80% battery charge from empty in just 40 minutes, using DC rapid charging (100kW), or top up an additional 100km in as little as 15 minutes. 

Alternatively, home charging with an AC wall box (7kW) will take the I-Pace from empty to 80% in just over ten hours – ideal for overnight charging – while a suite of range-optimising features and smartphone apps can monitor vehicle charging from home or confirm available range mid-journey. 

So, for example, one can automatically pre-condition the battery temperature to maximise range, and heat or cool the cabin before a journey. Using mains power to warm or cool the car when plugged in, means the range is unaffected.

Low centre of gravity

Conceived as a high-performance EV from the outset, Jaguar’s engineers have placed the battery as low as possible between the axles, providing a low centre of gravity and 50:50 weight distribution. These inherent advantages are allied to a stiff aluminium EV architecture which delivers torsional rigidity of 36kNm/degree – the highest of any Jaguar.

“We set out with a clean sheet approach to harness new battery electric technology with an architecture engineered from the outset to optimise performance, aerodynamics and interior space,” said Ian Hoban, Vehicle Line Director for the I-Pace.

                                                                   

However, the SUV is still quite heavy, weighing in at over 2 tons, but on road it felt lithe, composed and planted, thanks to a compact and lightweight suspension with aluminium suspension links and knuckles to reduce un-sprung weight.

The advanced double wishbone front and integral link rear suspension delivered the lateral stiffness needed for high-velocity cornering, ably assisted by (optional) air suspension with Adaptive Dynamics, variable damping and self-levelling, while the electronically controlled drive system ensured optimal grip.

While the I-Pace’s sporting agility and balance was a surprise, its ride comfort, even on 22" rubber, was a revelation. This was in part due to its long wheelbase, but apparently Jaguar collaborated extensively with tyre manufacturers to produce a tyre with wider shoulder and higher profile to improve ride comfort.

                                                                     

An electric booster gives the I-Pace’s brake system more flexibility when blending regenerative and traditional mechanical braking. It provides consistent and precise pedal feel, but you need to get used to the higher level of deceleration inherent to this system.

It also enables you to select either high or low levels of regenerative braking. The high mode, with a maximum regenerative braking force of 0.4G, reduces reliance on the brake pedal when slowing down.

In heavy traffic, you can also turn off the vehicle’s creep, slowing the vehicle down by just easing off the accelerator pedal, with no need to use the brakes to hold the car stationary, even on an incline.

So good is this Jag’s dynamics, ride and handling that if I had to choose between a 308 kW Mustang V8 and an I-Pace to do the windy, undulating and rolling route from Faro to Vilamoura, I would probably go for the electrified Cat…

Great technology

Beside its dynamic traits the electric I-Pace also brims with new technology. It is the first Jaguar to incorporate the Touch Pro Duo, ‘Flight Deck’, infotainment system, which uses an innovative combination of touchscreens, capacitive sensors and tactile physical controls to operate key functions.

This new human-machine interface (HMI) design features two touchscreens on the centre console, designed to minimise driver distraction by separating information and interactive controls logically. Rotary controllers provide an essential physical connection between car and driver.

                                                                        

The interior layout is reminiscent of the E-Pace and sophisticated materials – including the option of a premium textile Kvadrat interior – is used throughout the cabin. A full-colour head-up display (HUD) projects key information such as vehicle speed and navigation instructions onto the windscreen, and this is supported by a 12-inch Interactive Driver Display behind the steering wheel.

A new EV Navigation factors in the topography of planned routes with insights from previous journeys and individual driving styles to calculate the available range, and the advanced nav system can sync with a multi-mode smartphone travel app, making it easy for customers to plan journeys.

It is supported by Arrival Mode, which can suggest the nearest available parking space in networked car parks or direct the driver to the closest charging point at the end of a journey. 

The I-Pace also uses Smart Settings technology to learn your driving habits and anticipate your needs. By using the key fob and smartphone Bluetooth signal to recognise a driver, the I-Pace will learn his or her preferences and ensure their usual climate control, infotainment and seat settings are ready every time they get behind the wheel.

                                                                        

Intelligent Phone Reminder will also tell you if you leave your smartphone behind, while the Predictive Call List learns patterns of ’phone use to cue up popular contacts at the appropriate time. 

Amazon Alexa Skill is also available. This means you will be able to ask an Alexa enabled device for information held in the Jaguar InControl Remote app, such as: Is my car locked? What is the charging level? Do I have enough range to get to work?

InControl Remote also allows owners to pre-condition the battery and cabin temperature before a journey, and the I-Pace is also the first Jaguar able to receive software updates wirelessly. Customers can also use their favourite apps with Jaguar Land Rover’s InControl Apps service, while there is 4G Wi-Fi and USB charging points for all five occupants.

Versatility

The final attribute making the I-Pace an attractive proposal is its five-seat SUV practicality, combined with its on-road, off-road versatility. It has been engineered for hot and cold climates, operating at temperatures as low as -40°C: 10°C lower than conventional EVs.

According to Coventry, the low resistance of the pouch cells, the battery pack’s insulation and an advanced thermal management system work in harmony to ensure the I-Pace delivers in all conditions.

In moderate temperatures, the battery uses a cooler to maximise energy efficiency, while a refrigeration unit linked to the main air conditioning system activates only at higher temperatures to control cell temperatures and maximise available power.

In cold conditions, a heat pump helps to maintain optimum operating conditions for the cells and the interior. 

The I-Pace has also been tested over 1.5-million km by more than 500 test engineers around the globe, it has done over 400 testing laps on the Nardo track and Nürburgring, and more than 11 000 hours of rig testing was done on its chassis and bodyshell, Oh, and it is quite capable off-road, as we found out on a carefully laid-out gravel route.

Selecting the drive mode settings for off-road driving (lifting the body), the all-wheel-driven I-Pace negotiated a water obstacle with ease, thanks to a wading depth of 500mm.

With its short overhangs and relatively good turning circle, it also confidently negotiated the tight sections on the snaking dirt track, but perhaps the most impressive was the ease with which it climbed up a steep incline – its huge torque and fully independent all-wheel drive system making it simple.

                                                                  

The I-Pace, built in Austria as part of a manufacturing partnership with Magna Steyr, is now available in the UK and Europe in S, SE and HSE trim, alongside a First Edition derivative.

The new all-electric I-Pace is an exciting vehicle and one that puts Jaguar ahead of its competitors. It is well conceptualised and engineered, delivering thrilling performance, practicality and zero emissions. 

And while it does not growl, this silent Jaguar can be the biggest gamechanger in the history of the company. It deserves to succeed.

Technical Data

Jaguar I-Pace EV400

Electric Motors

Configuration Two permanent magnet electric motors; synchronous Single-speed epicyclic transmission; concentric with motor
Power: 147kW
Torque: 348Nm
Total system power: 294kW
Total system torque: 696Nm

Drivetrain

Configuration Motor and transmission integrated into front
and rear axles; Electric all-wheel drive

Battery

Configuration 90kWh Li-ion; liquid-cooled; pouch cells
Number of cells/modules 432/36
Charging 0-100% on AC 7kW 12.9 hours
Charging 0-80% on AC 7kW 10 hours
Charging 0-80% on DC 100kW 40 mins

Performance
0-100km/h: 4.8 seconds
Top speed: 200 km/h
Range (WLTP): Up to 480km

Chassis

Front suspension - Double wishbone
Rear suspension - Integral link
Front brake diameter - 350 mm (ventilated)
Rear brake diameter - 325 mm (ventilated)
Springs Air or coil
Dampers Continuously variable or passive
Steering Rack-and-pinion; electromechanical

Dimensions

Length: 4 682mm
Width incl./exl. mirrors: 2 139mm/1 895mm
Height: 1 565mm
Wheelbase: 2 990mm
Front track; 1 624–1 643mm
Rear track: 1 647–1 663mm
Weight; EU Unladen From 2 208kg
Weight; DIN From 2 133kg
Luggage compartment volume: 656 litres, plus 27 litres (front)

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