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Jaguar I-Pace review: Better than a Tesla?
IF any car can appeal to petrolheads without actually using petrol, one made by Tesla ought to do it. But so too should this, the Jaguar I-Pace.
Like Elon Musk's futuristic electric cars, the I-Pace runs on battery power, and runs fast. The Jaguar leaps to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds, so while it may not burn fuel, it sure burns rubber.
Unlike Musk's Teslas, however, the I-Pace is made by a profitable, established car company that doesn't assemble its products in the factory carpark.
It's also one that has an authorised dealer in Singapore. Wearnes Automotive intends to start selling the I-Pace here in November, with an obvious target market in mind: anyone who fancies the bold and new, and is well-heeled enough to pay for it.
No pricing information for Singapore is available yet, but S$400,000 (inclusive of Certificate Of Entitlement) would be a safe sum to put aside for your I-Pace, if you ask us.
That's no small amount, so Jaguar is hedging its bets with the I-Pace by making it fit into two booming segments.
Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are hot, with global sales expected to reach 24.3 million units a year by 2020. Electrified vehicles are hotter still, with their sales forecast to grow 56 per cent this year, to 1.9 million units.
Given that Jaguar-Land Rover, the brand's parent company, built just over 600,000 cars last year, those are the sorts of figures to make any product planner there rub their hands together with anticipation.
Inadvertently, Jaguar also ended up with a machine that could plausibly appeal to one more demographic: the sports car buyer.
It looks the part, anyway, with the sort of stylish, coupe-like profile that defines the new BMW X4.
More important than that, when you stretch your right foot in the I-Pace, the result is a breathtaking burst of instant and violent acceleration. There's no waiting for a gearbox to futz about, no need for a turbo to spool up or an engine to build revs. It just lunges ahead and builds speed rapidly, until the speedo is showing you a number that would turn a traffic policeman all kinds of colours with rage.
Electric motors are supposed to respond immediately, but the Jaguar's does so in a way that would raise even the most Botox-crippled eyebrows.
The I-Pace springs into action with a weird absence of noise, too. I can't say I wouldn't have preferred the howl from a mammoth V8 engine instead, but the eerie way the Jaguar just starts to whoosh along at speed is nothing if not novel.
Beyond Singapore-legal speeds, you do hear a rustle of air and plenty of noise from the tyres, but riding in the Jaguar is otherwise like being at a silent retreat on wheels.
It even comes with a sound generator that uses the cabin speakers to pipe in a bit of noise, in case you find the silence unnerving.
The I-Pace's quietness also has the effect of making it a tricky car to drive around corners, at least until you get used to it. That's because you end up arriving at bends far faster than you think you were going.
Just as well, then, that it's a well-balanced car with superb body control and enough grip from the tyres to see you through to the other side, even if you did pile in a bit hotter than intended.
In fact, the Jaguar is an exemplary car both in terms of ride quality and cornering behaviour. At 2.2 tonnes, it's a hefty thing, but all that weight allows it to glide calmly over bumps as if it were smooshing them flat.
Meanwhile, the car's layout allows its major components to be sited in a way that benefits the handling.
The I-Pace may have the height and presence of an SUV, but it's anything but a normal one under the skin.
At its core is a bank of lithium-ion batteries, arranged into a broad plank on which the body sits. At both ends you'll find the electric motors, each one sending 200 horsepower to the wheels. Decentralising the drivetrain this way means the car's front/rear weight distribution is an even 50/50, so the Jaguar feels neither nose-heavy nor tail-happy.
The motors each have a transmission built into them and are surprisingly compact, each one no bigger than, say, a seriously well-fed baby.
That means they take up very little space at either end of the I-Pace, which leaves plenty of room for cabin and cargo. There's a sizeable boot in the back that offers 656 litres of room (rising to 1,453 litres when you fold down the rear seats), and even a 27-litre boot up front, which Jaguar insiders jokingly call a "froot".
The electric drivetrain also means there's no tunnel running through the cabin for an exhaust pipe or driveshaft, which is why there's an enormous centre console box that can swallow a large handbag (or 10.5 litres, if you size your things up in liquid units).
Also, there's no fuel tank under the rear seat like in a normal car, so Jaguar put some handy slots there for laptops or tablets.
Yet, it's passenger space that impresses the most. The I-Pace isn't a big car, but it's large inside, with the same amount of rear legroom as a long wheelbase version of the XJ, Jaguar's flagship car.
In fact, the I-Pace is shorter overall than a BMW X3, but its wheelbase is much longer. For that you can again thank the electric hardware's compactness.
But while the I-Pace makes the benefits of going electric pretty clear, there are still questions about what it would be like to live with one in Singapore.
There's the age-old question about where to charge it, for starters. Would you buy a petrol car if filling stations were rare and scattered, after all?
That said, there are more than 70,000 landed properties in Singapore, meaning there are quite a number of people who could install a home charger at their porch. It's also possible to have a charger set up in a condo carpark or commercial building, assuming you can talk the management committee into allowing it.
SP Group, the country's power grid operator, is also building a network of 500 charging points around the island, more than a hundred of which will be the kind of fast charger that could fully charge an I-Pace in less than two hours.
Mind you, the Jaguar wouldn't even need a top-up all that often. Jaguar says its 90 kilowatt-hour battery can deliver 480 km of range, and even if you chopped a hundred kilometres out of that to be conservative, it would still take the average driver here more than a week to use up all that juice.
Jaguar says each full charge is like topping up a thousand iPhones, but that's not as bad as it sounds; it would cost around S$20 at today's electricity tariff.
Because there are relatively few moving parts in an electric car, the I-Pace should be a headache-free car to own, too.
The motors will apparently last five times the lifespan of the car itself, and in other markets, Jaguar guarantees the batteries will retain 70 per cent of their capacity for eight years or 160,000 km. It's not uncommon for conventional cars to need major work by then.
But to anyone who likes to travel by road, there's an obvious barrier to owning an I-Pace. Unlike the simplest petrol car, it's not going to be able to take you and the family to Genting Highlands and back.
That's either a deal-breaker or non-issue, depending on how you use your car (or how many cars you own).
Used within Singapore, however, the I-Pace is an intriguing prospect. It's roomy, silent and looks distinctive, and the way its motors unleash their thrust is downright addictive.
In fact, it's novel and exciting enough to make even the most jaded driver pay attention. Drive one, and the question that arises isn't really whether you want a Tesla after all, but whether you want to go back to a normal, fuel-burning SUV.
JAGUAR I-PACE EV400 FIRST EDITION
Engine 2 x permanent magnet motors
Gearbox Fixed reduction ratio
0-100km/h 4.8 seconds
Top Speed 200km/h (restricted)
Efficiency 18.75 kWh/100km (estimated)
Agent Wearnes Automotive