When you think of Jaguar, what do you envision? You might think of woodgrain and supple leather seats. More recently, your thoughts may include their thundering, supercharged V8 engines with gobs of torque and horsepower. While those things still exist throughout bits of the Jaguar lineup, the company stepped way out of their comfort zone when they created the I-PACE (annoyingly capitalized for no distinct reason).
What Is It?
The I-Pace is Jaguar’s first fully-electric vehicle, and they haven’t strayed as far away from their other offerings as the term “electric” makes it sound. Jaguar advertises the I-Pace as an SUV, which is fair. But… it’s hard to say where exactly it belongs.
The 2020 I-Pace functions like a crossover thanks to its hatchback rear and plenty of space within. It’s also all-wheel drive thanks to electric motors mounted at the front and rear axles. Those two motors work together to create a total of 394 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque. That instant, electric torque makes the Jag pounce to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds – just half a second slower than their supercharged F-Type R! The acceleration of the I-Pace is intoxicating, and never got old during my week with the car. Gaps in traffic are filled with ease, and merging on any highway is effortless.
On the move, the 2020 Jaguar I-Pace looks like a quirky, low-riding crossover. Its smooth ride and chunky-enough tires mean you don’t have to worry about big bumps, potholes, or rough roads. Jaguar has plenty of footage of the I-Pace off-roading through water, sand, and mud, which inspires confidence for handling a generally-calmer daily existence.
Given the I-Pace is a versatile vehicle that does so many things well, it’s hard to place it in just one box. And I think that’s okay. Who needs labels anyway? What we actually need are more quirky cars like this one.
Driving the 2020 Jaguar I-Pace
When I first opened the door of the I-Pace, I was greeted by bucket seats covered in bright red leather. The seats more closely resemble a set of Recaros than what you’d find in most EVs. They’re power-adjustable, heated and ventilated, and hold you in place just right. Jaguar has even included some small detailing and emblems to subtly remind you that you’re driving *Jeremy Clarkson intensifies* in a Jaggggggg.
You may be wondering why an EV labeled as an SUV would even need seats that hold you in place. Well, the I-Pace is an absolute riot in the corners! With the battery packs placed down low in the floor, the center of gravity is noticeably, equally low. This makes for a chassis that is more lively and controllable than its size would suggest.
When the roads are wet, the I-Pace is a better-balanced chassis than most sedans I have driven. Switch stability control off, drive it hard into a corner, and take delight in the need to feed some opposite-lock into the steering wheel! Slight understeer transitions beautify into sweeping oversteer. “Off” does not truly mean off for the stability control in this car. It does reign in the fun a bit quickly, but is probably for the better considering the I-Pace’s weight.
The I-Pace is a 4700 pound vehicle, so the fact that it can do fun things in the corners and leave me laughing hysterically is an achievement not to be dismissed. The air suspension on the I-Pace allows for three different height options. Stock ride height is roughly 5.6 inches and the “Off-Road Mode” adds another two inches of ground clearance. There’s also an ingress mode that lowers the ride height from stock to allow passengers to enter. Within the regular height mode you also get four drive modes (Dynamic, Comfort, Eco, and Snow/Ice).
Paired perfectly to the handling dynamics is light and direct steering. Being just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, it’s indeed a very sporting ratio. While the I-Pace won’t change directions like something half its weight, it provides you with everything else you need to make spirited driving enjoyable.
Regenerative braking can be set at two modes of resistance. I chose the more aggressive mode for most of my driving. If you time it just right, you can completely come to a stop without touching the brake pedal at all. I don’t know if the feel of the actual brake pedal was inconsistent in just my vehicle, but it wasn’t the most confidence-inspiring based purely on pedal feel. It was quite soft with long pedal travel. In practice, however, the brakes always hauled down the I-Pace’s 4700 pounds with ease.
The I-Pace has three screens in the cabin, including the digital gauge cluster. The other two are found in the center console, controlling infotainment and climate. With the I-Pace being such an impressive display of driving technology, you would expect the same of the technology on the inside. While those screens may be beautiful to look at, this is a system similar to other 2020 model year Jaguars and Land Rovers, which is laggy at times. Simple tasks wind up being more of a distraction as the touch screen slowly catches up with your inputs. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both available.
Charging the I-Pace
I’ve thought long and hard about what to say about charging. The simple conclusion I’ve come to is if that you’re going to own any EV, you really need to invest in higher level charging at your house. Plain and simple. It’s worth mentioning that this was my first electric vehicle experience, so much of this applies to any EV, not just the I-Pace.
The I-Pace offers 234 miles of range at a full charge. If I were to charge it just half way on a regular (110V) house plug, it would take over three days to fully charge. Unless you install a higher-speed home charger – which any EV owner would do – the experience forces you to use public charging stations. Most public chargers I used would have been able to fully charge the car within 4-5 hours at most, though most of them accomplished charging in roughly 2 hours starting from a 20-30% charge.
I live on the outskirts of Philadelphia where there is a growing amount of infrastructure for EVs, so finding a charger nearby was never too much of an issue. However, finding the exact location using Jaguar’s navigation was almost impossible. I had the I-Pace hooked up to a charger five times over the course of seven days. Four of those times saw the navigation dropping me in a location not even within sight of a charger. In Center City Philadelphia, I drove in and out of 3 different parking structures that showed up in the navigation, but none of them were actually home to a charger anymore.
The infrastructure is not clear and uniform, and each charging company, along with each charging station, is a little bit different. The chargers most local to me required a phone call each time I went to initiate a charge due to issues with the stations. Another one, connected to a hotel, had dedicated charging hours. Guess who showed up outside of those hours?
None of the infrastructure problem is Jaguar’s fault. Even their own navigation’s shortcomings are once again mitigated by Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Google Maps guided me accurately to stations each time. The bigger issue is the inconvenience of public charging. With certain states and whole countries vowing to be fully electric within the next decade, the work needs to start now if Americans don’t want to be inconvenienced by using their cars. Again, none of this is Jaguar’s issue, it’s just an unfortunate side-effect of being an early adopter of EVs.
The Electric Future (and Present) Is Pretty Bright
If 500+ lb-ft of torque and handling reminiscent of rally cars is the future of commuting, I can fully get on board with cars like the 2020 Jaguar I-Pace. The I-Pace brings a level of fun and performance that would satisfy anybody who calls themselves an enthusiast – it’s an EV that still feels familiar. You still interact with it how you would a gasoline-powered car, and it doesn’t feel completely foreign to somebody who has never driven an EV before… I’m looking at you, Tesla.
The I-Pace is a perfect middle ground of modern technology, mixed with traditional interior layouts and features. I was truly sad to give the I-Pace back, because it proved to me that EVs don’t have to be totally soulless when it comes to driving dynamics. Some manufacturers who call themselves enthusiast-oriented have vehicles that could learn a thing or two from this all wheel drive, 4700 pound electric crossover. And I can’t think of much higher praise than that.
Am I at the point where I want to give up my internal combustion engine for good? Never! But as a quiet, comfortable, and most importantly fun electric vehicle, the I-Pace is a serious contender.