THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Unquestionably the most stylish EV to date.
- What’s Bad: Doesn’t give much feedback on driver behaviour and efficiency.
AJAC Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. AJAC Canadian Green Utility Vehicle of the Year. World Green Car of the Year. World Car Design of the Year. World Car of the Year.
Man, that’s a lot of accolades.
There’s little question that the Jaguar I-Pace has made a bold first impression with the people who analyze cars for a living, in Canada and around the world. Is this the Tesla-fighter that will finally bring electric crossover motoring to the mainstream – or at least, with an as-tested price of $103,110, the high-rolling portion of it?
Initially, I thought I’d be the perfect test subject. I live in a house on the fringes of Canada’s largest city, meaning that I have free access to a standard household plug – not ideal for a car with a 90 kWh battery and an estimated 377 km range, but it’s better than the nothing that many downtown condo dwellers can access – and pretty well everything I do in an average week is within easy commuting distance. As I’m preparing to spend a week in it, I figure I’ll probably drive it around on errands, plug it in overnight once or twice, and never give range anxiety an ounce of thought.
When I first pick it up, the I-Pace is showing an estimated range of 429 km. My time with it happens to be during the best time of year for EVs: it’s mid-spring, which means that the snow is gone, and it’s neither so cold that the heat needs to be on full blast nor so hot that the kid complains if the air conditioning isn’t running. This all seems too easy.
Except that by Friday I’ve used up around 100 km worth of charge – but I haven’t driven 100 km. It’s been closer to 70 km. My kid can’t survive without the radio and won’t stop playing with the fancy HVAC controls. They’re an excellent visual evolution from the Range Rover Velar’s layered screen design, but it’s eating away at my charge. Still, I think I’ll manage to get through the weekend without an issue.
That is, until I’m cruising Facebook on Friday afternoon and discover that one of the best cheesemakers in Ontario is having a weekend sale on my all-time favourite cheese.
A Black Truffle Gouda-Motivated Charging Strategy
Mountainoak Cheese is in New Hamburg, south of Kitchener, about 120 km away. The upside: in a gas-powered car, the cost of the fuel needed to get there would have kept me at home. The downside: plugging in at the house overnight won’t allow me to recover the charge I’ve already burned through – if you’re considering a long-range EV, you absolutely need to factor a Level 2 home charger into your budget – so I suddenly need a charging plan.
I decide I’ll plug in at my local mall while I get some errands done, until I get there and discover that it has twenty – twenty! – Tesla superchargers but only one universal Level 3 charger, and it’s occupied when I arrive. So, I finish up there as quickly as I can and head to Ikea. Fortunately, that charger is available, and I top up the battery for the cost of buying my daughter a lingonberry ice cream. (This setup surely won’t last forever, but I certainly appreciate it while it’s still around – and feel fortunate that I hit a rare moment when there isn’t a line-up for it.)
On Saturday morning, we head out. The radio stays on but the HVAC system is left alone and we get by with only the included seat heaters. Delicious cheese is acquired. (Hooray!) We continue on to dinner with family, and then we head home. Overall, we cover just under 250 km – but we arrive home with only 30 km of range left after starting with over 400 km of range and a near-100 percent charge. I’m left puzzled and plug the car in all day on Sunday and overnight to Monday, about 20 hours in total, which gets me up to 115 km before I have to return it on Monday morning.
Beauty is Only Skin-Deep
Now, to be fair, a good chunk of this is my fault: I enjoy driving it too much. In every way, the I-Pace drives just as beautifully as it looks. The amount of power and instant torque feel phenomenal. Steering and handling are close to performance car-calibre. Punch it to make a pass on the highway and you think you might be sent to hyperspace. It’s also got some nice tech features like real-time range adjustment based on feature use and a range map that shows the available driving distance on the current charge level. These things, no doubt, are why the I-Pace made such a profound first impression with the driving enthusiasts who make up the world’s car-of-the-year juries.
On the other hand, there’s also nothing built in to discourage going to the wall with this thing. It’s got dynamic mode – and racing is an actual thing that’s being done with these, by the way. But in Comfort or Eco mode, which are presumably more about range preservation – and the latter isn’t exactly a front-and-centre priority – there’s neither a whole lot of dulling of throttle response nor much feedback from the car on what kind of difference softening your inputs or using the regenerative braking are making on energy use. The digital needle moves when I lift off the throttle, but is it actually doing anything? I never see the range increase or feel like I’m making much in the way of gains with it, and there’s no on-the-fly adjustability for the degree of regeneration as in other electric vehicles. Basically, energy efficiency doesn’t appear to have been built in as a priority.
The NRCan figures support this real-world experience: the I-Pace tests at a combined 27.5 kWh/100 km. That compares to 17.4 for the Hyundai Kona Electric, 20.0 for the Nissan Leaf Plus, and 24.6 for the Tesla Model X P100D. Yikes.
Also, the I-Pace is very nearly capable of one-pedal driving, but once the braking gets the car down to zero, it still needs a foot on the brake pedal to hold in place. If you just want a stylish EV that’s fun and energetic and doesn’t require much thought, then the I-Pace might be for you. But I don’t know very many electric car drivers who want to operate that way, and there are EVs on the market for half the price that offer more interaction and performance feedback.
A Little More Grumbling
There are two more points worth considering.
One: I’m not so sure the I-Pace meets the definition of what most people would consider a utility vehicle. Yes, it’s all-wheel drive; one 150 kW motor drives each axle. This tester also has the optional air suspension equipped, which helps. But it only takes one glance to see that the ground clearance and interior floor are low relative to most crossovers. Jaguar hasn’t published official figures, but it’s been widely reported that ground clearance is just over 14 cm with the air suspension at its lowest setting and 20 cm at its highest. There’s some pretty sensitive stuff under there you wouldn’t want to scrape across rocks or an icy snow drift willy-nilly, so it might be best to think of it more as a wide-bodied hatch.
Two: In the seven days I spent with this car, I encountered several glitches. For the first few days, the sensors insisted that the frunk cover wasn’t latched correctly when it was. Once, when it was raining, the wipers didn’t work and I had to cycle the car to get them to start up. Another time, I put it into reverse and the camera didn’t come on. I can only report on my own experiences. These issues may only be with this specific unit, or they may not.
I’m not about to declare my colleagues wrong. The I-Pace is a beautiful car that drives extremely well and marks an important turning point in the automotive industry that, frankly, is desperately needed. And it did get me to the cheese, albeit with a little bit of work and some discovery of how EV charging infrastructure is still lacking even in big cities – that’s not a Jaguar-specific issue, but it’s one worth considering if you’re going to make the leap into fully electric motoring.
As for the I-Pace itself: is it the most stylish EV on the market? Unquestionably. Does it come across as the most luxurious with the best build quality? Almost certainly.
But is it the one EV on the market that’s the best at being an EV? I wouldn’t say so. And when a car bearing a mainstream badge is thrust into the spotlight and is pushing or over six figures in price, it probably ought to be. Let’s hope there’s plenty of opportunity for some ongoing evolution.