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Jaguar I-Pace review: Silent and scintillating

The I-Pace is scintillating, speedy, yet silent, but is it a credible alternative to today's sporty SUVs?

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Jaguar I-Pace EV400 First Edition.

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Jaguar I-Pace EV400 First Edition.

BT_20190208_JAGUAR2_3689841.jpg
Jaguar I-Pace EV400 First Edition.

Singapore

LET'S be honest for a second. Saying you want an electric Jaguar that surges to 100km/h in only 4.8 seconds so you can save the Earth is like claiming you used to read Playboy for the articles.

The I-Pace is the kind of raunchy car the keen driver can buy into, even if they believe in climate change about as much as Donald Trump does.

It may have batteries and motors instead of a fuel tank and engine, but it delivers a raw thrill that's as tough to describe as it is to stomach. Pin the accelerator, and the I-Pace commences a violent lunge at the horizon that gives you some idea of what it's like to be biffed in the solar plexus.

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Lots of cars can get to 100km/h in less time, but hardly anything does it this instantly, and with the same disorienting lack of noise. There's no waiting for a gearchange or for a turbo spool up or for the engine to hit its sweet spot. It just goes, as if propelled by ghosts.

That's electric power for you.

Jaguar's take on a Tesla-killer takes the form of a five-seat Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), with a 200 horsepower motor at each end and a tray of lithium-ion batteries under the floor. Rated at 90 kilowatt-hours, they take roughly 12 hours to charge via a wallbox that comes with the car, and deliver up to 470 kilometres, although with the air-con blasting away in our climate you would more realistically expect about 320km.

That entails charging the Jaguar once a week or so, since drivers here typically do a little over 40km a day on average. Public stations will dot the island by the hundred in a couple of years' time, but the target buyer is unlikely to feel secure owning an I-Pace without having a charging point to call their own. That's just the way it is.

If you can get over that largely mental hurdle, the I-Pace is lots of car for the money. The cabin is a lovely blend of sleek looking touchscreens (albeit sometimes befuddling ones) and "olde worlde" charm, courtesy of the polished wood trim that's part of the S$23,000 First Edition options pack, along with extras such as four-zone air-con, air suspension and humongous 22-inch wheels.

Because electric motors take up little space, the I-Pace has room for a large cabin that's made to feel extra airy by a glass roof. It feels bigger inside than, say, a BMW X3, even though it's slightly smaller on the outside.

Less welcome are a tiny rear screen (a consequence of the Jaguar's wind-cheating shape) and brakes that sometimes feel weak, most likely because the I-Pace has to manage a transition between regenerative braking and friction pads, which it does admirably smoothly.

In terms of the experience behind the wheel, there's a video game-like quality to the way it drives. The warp speed acceleration is one thing, but the Jaguar can hook around bends at an eye-popping pace, too. At 2.1 tonnes in weight, it's never going to feel like a sports car, but a low centre of gravity lets it resist body roll heroically for an SUV. Problem is, there isn't much feedback from the steering, so to go fast you end up putting a bit of blind faith in the tyres.

Audi's e-tron, a direct rival, is rolling into Singapore later this year, but why not think of the I-Pace as an alternative to existing sporty SUVs, like the BMW X3 M40i, the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4Matic, or perhaps the Porsche Macan? It's easily as thrilling to drive, if not more so, and the lack of any exhaust or engine howl certainly makes it novel. Whatever is in your driveway now, with the I-Pace you simply haven't been here or done this.

What's most remarkable about the Jaguar is not so much that it feels like a car of the future, but that it makes you think your current one is a thing of the past.


Jaguar I-Pace EV400 First Edition

Electric Motor 200hp, 348Nm x2 (one per axle)
Battery Lithium-ion, 90kWh
Charge Time / Type 12 hours / Wallbox
Electric Range 470km
Top Speed 200km/h (limited)
0-100km/h 4.8 seconds
Efficiency 23kWh/100km
Price S$369,999 with COE
Agent Wearnes Automotive
Available now