2019 Jaguar I-Pace.
2019 Jaguar I-Pace.

Is this the world’s best electric car?

The electric vehicle is on track to become the next big thing in mainstream motoring. What sort of numbers EVs will sell runs to ambitious possibility rather than calculated probability.

Price is the key. You can't get into a new EV today for less than $45,000. When the $19,990 drive-away, no-more-to-pay battery on wheels arrives from China - and you can place your bets on when, not if, that happens - they'll sell as many as they can get.

Jaguar's I-Pace EV400 is absolute state of the art EV, for now. The SE model we're testing today costs $135,070.

Jaguar beat all the big German makers to market with its first electric car.
Jaguar beat all the big German makers to market with its first electric car.

Value

The I-Pace is a sizeable five-seater. Its interior design isn't overtly sci-fi, because that would scare people away, but when you climb into its exquisitely crafted cabin it still feels as though you're sitting in tomorrow's car.

You operate it with just the steering wheel and four buttons: Park, Neutral, Reverse and Drive. There's no gear lever because it doesn't have any gears.

Standard are lush leather, all digital dials and infotainment, premium audio, power tailgate and 20-inch alloys.

The I-Pace is all-wheel drive. An electric motor at each axle, powered by an 85kWh lithium ion battery pack, does the work.

If you could plug this battery into your house, it would provide power for up to a couple of weeks.

Recharging it from zero to 80 per cent capacity takes a couple of days with the supplied charger on a 10amp household power point, 10 hours using an optional 7kW wall-mounted charger (about $1800 plus fitting) or 40 minutes (claimed) at a 100kW DC charging station, of which there are still few in Australia.

Jaguar wants an extra $425 for the fast charging cable. Is there no shame?

Five years' servicing is included in the price. Any EV should cost peanuts to service - an electric motor has one moving part and no filters or oil.

The I-Pace is powered by two electric motors.
The I-Pace is powered by two electric motors.

Comfort

Occupants enjoy luxurious, supportive seating, plenty of legroom and a beautiful sense of space and light in the cabin.

It's also super quiet. You don't realise how much ambient noise, vibration and harshness there is in a petrol or diesel car until you drive an EV. The I-Pace generates a synthesised, faint whizz that rises in volume under acceleration. If you want the full EV cone of silence effect, you can switch it off.

Jaguar's touchscreen infotainment isn't particularly intuitive or responsive and the heating and cooling controls are also unnecessarily complicated.

Weighing in at 2130kg, the I-Pace is quite stiffly sprung. The ride, though firm, is comfortable and absorbent. On undulating surfaces at speed, it can become a touch unsettled and floaty.

The I-Pace has a spacious cabin.
The I-Pace has a spacious cabin.

Safety

All the must-have driver assist safety tech is included. Surround cameras would be nice at the price.

Driving

Jaguar's claimed maximum range of 480km is close to achievable around town, where you're using no power when stationary and regenerative braking - the electric motors act as generators when coasting or decelerating - keeps the battery topped up.

You can, with practice, drive the I-Pace around town in maximum regenerative braking mode using the accelerator alone, applying the brake only if you need to make an emergency stop.

On the open road, with cruise set at 100km/h, the motors suck power at a much greater rate and the realistic range is about 300km.

The I-Pace is fast. It reaches 100km/h in 4.8 seconds - matching the Porsche Macan Turbo - and because an electric motor produces maximum torque the moment it begins to spin, you get an immediate, forceful, supremely smooth surge when you squeeze the accelerator.

On the road, the I-Pace feels heavy, though in a completely different way to an internal combustion-powered SUV.

Its 603kg battery - nearly 30 per cent of the vehicle weight - lives under the cabin floor, so its centre of gravity is much lower than other SUVs and its mass is concentrated in the middle rather than at each end.

The I-Pace is also very fast for a car that weighs more than two tonnes.
The I-Pace is also very fast for a car that weighs more than two tonnes.

This means the Jaguar can get away with relatively sharp steering and is remarkably well-balanced, stable and planted in corners.

Software synchronises the two motors and sorts out how much torque is required at each wheel, so you can power out of a bend with amazing pace, control and grip.

Only the best go-fast SUVs such as Porsche's Macan and Alfa's Stelvio will outrun the I-Pace.

Heart says

I'm fascinated by pointy-end technology and as far as the EV is concerned, this is where it's at.

Head says

Range isn't an issue for me. When I leave town I go via an airport. I don't want a Tesla, because that company's future viability is increasingly doubtful.

The SUV shape gives the I-Pace greater flexibility.
The SUV shape gives the I-Pace greater flexibility.

Alternatives

Mercedes-Benz EQC400

Due by year's end, the brand's first EV is a direct rival to the I-Pace. Electric motor on each axle with combined outputs of 300kW/765Nm and 80kWh battery. 0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds. Claimed range is "more than 450km".

Tesla Model X from $154,356

Ballistic performance from 100kWh battery and two electric motors. 0-100km/h in 3.0 seconds. Seriously. Weird gullwing side doors and poor build quality, with excessive body flex. Claimed self-driving capability is a myth.

Verdict 4/5

EVs are about to be much more affordable but if you're an early adopter and you want the best, the I-Pace is as good as it gets. For now.

Jaguar I-Pace

Price: $135,070 (expensive)

Warranty/servicing: 5 yrs (average); Servicing included

Motor/usage: Twin electric motors, 295kW/696Nm (ave), 84.7k Wh battery

Range: 480km (above avg)

Spare: None; repair kit (not good)

Boot: 683L (average)

Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise, head-up display (average)


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