For the better part of a decade, Tesla has had the luxury EV market more or less to itself. Sure, other startups like Fisker and Faraday Future have trotted out high-spec machines to challenge Silicon Valley's automotive sweetheart, but the former's Karma only spent two years in production, and it's yet to be seen if the latter will ever be able to produce a consumer-ready vehicle.
That has put Tesla in a favorable position versus mainstream automakers, as the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf are designed for a different set of buyers, while BMW's i8 and i3 EVs are aimed at low-volume targets. And while the technology behind the Model S and Model X has impressed consumers and journalists alike, Tesla's slipshod assembly practices and all of the baggage that comes along with the name has raised more than a few objections in recent years. But for folks seeking to ditch internal combustion engines while maintaining the practicality, range, and luxury experience they've come to expect, Musk's brand has really been the only game in town since 2012. That changes now.
Jaguar's I-Pace is the opening volley in a forthcoming onslaught from mainstream automakers looking to find a foothold in the increasingly-relevant EV market, and it's an ambitious one at that. The I-Pace looks like no other car on the road while abstaining from garishness or gimmickry, and the 240-mile range provided by its 90-kWh battery pack puts it on par with a Tesla Model X 75D while costing ten grand less. The EV400 spec—the sole configuration of the I-Pace for the time being—also boasts 394 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque from a pair of identical motors that motivate all four wheels, which equates to a conservative official 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds, or nearly half a second quicker than the aforementioned Model X.
But a good car isn't just a collection of statistics. To see if the I-Pace has what it takes to lead the... charge, Jaguar tossed us the keys to this Proton Red example so we could live with it for a week. Here's what we discovered.
INSIDE AND OUT
With the I-Pace, Jaguar has clearly made an effort to develop a vehicle that maximizes versatility. Creating a platform that delivers a premium experience in day to day use as well as in performance and off-road contexts is a tall order, and that ultimately landed the British automaker on a five-door crossover configuration.
Crossovers have never really had a reputation for stylishness, but the cab-forward design of the I-Pace turns heads. Rather than coming off as a hatchback with a lift kit, Jaguar's EV has a purposeful aesthetic that seems baked-in from the ground up, and the wide, raked stance somehow reminds us of the Local Motors Rally Fighter from a decade ago. This is no one-off rally prototype, though, and the Jaguar's impeccable fit and finish is a reminder that dubious build quality isn't supposed to be par for the course in luxury EV manufacturing.
The athletic posture is bolstered by the curvaceous sheet metal, a collection of hips and scoops with the overhangs pushed into the corners to give the car a sculpted, sporty look. And while the sloping roofline does require compromises in terms of headroom, rear visibility, and cargo capacity, it also contributes to the SUV's reasonably low 0.29 drag coefficient.
The cabin of the I-Pace is downright posh, boasting a sharp 10.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display in the center stack as well as a secondary 5.5-inch screen below it that's primarily used for climate control. Without an engine hogging the space at the nose it's roomy by nearly every measure up front, and with the pair of touchscreens on hand to handle most tasks, the uncluttered, minimalist vibe feels completely on-point and looks great.
ON THE ROAD
While the I-Pace has the bones of a truly outstanding EV, the execution is a bit of a mixed bag. Let's start with the infotainment—one of the first things a new driver will interact with when they hop behind the wheel.
Although the big display looks lovely, the overall experience is spoiled by slow input response that regularly causes inadvertent double-presses, and that kind of thing is especially hard to tolerate when the majority of the industry has moved beyond those kinds of issues. If there's ever been a Jaguar that needed to have a truly excellent infotainment system it's this one, and the lack of wireless CarPlay—a feature now found in garden-variety BMW and Mercedes-Benz models—is another disappointing omission. But the 825-watt Meridian audio system did soften the blow a bit, and the near-total silence of the I-Pace's cabin provides a level of clarity and detail that's exceedingly rare in car audio systems due to the noise typically generated by internal combustion.
Up in the hills the car's air suspension does an admirable job of hiding the 4,800 pounds of girth it's tasked to manage. Dynamic mode stiffens things up noticeably without introducing harshness into the ride, and our tester's all-season rubber gave up much earlier than the chassis did. Summer tires are available, but only with the optional 22-inch wheels, which this particular I-Pace did not have. And although the electric motors deliver instantaneous throttle response, neck-whipping levels of torque, and no shortage of hustle on the way to the car's 124 mph top speed, the pronounced torque steer we encountered when dropping the hammer from a standstill detracted from some of the fun.
The car fares better in other contexts, though. Without a clunky gearbox mucking up the proceedings, the I-Pace glides through traffic effortlessly, and both low-speed and highway passing is an effortless affair. Here, in everyday use, the I-Pace's Jag-ness is on full display—comfort and luxuriousness abound while potent capability remains at the ready just below the surface. Considering the fact that this is where most I-Pace will spend the majority of their time, it's reassuring to see that the fundamentals are indeed sorted.
THAT EV LIFE
With an as-tested price of just over $88,000, there's an inherent assumption that I-Pace buyers are well-heeled. That's an important distinction to make here, because the purchase price of the car isn't necessarily the only significant expense involved in owning an I-Pace. Jaguar includes a charger for a standard 110-volt outlet, and we discovered that it is all but useless in most situations. After plugging the I-Pace in with 53 percent of its charge left, or about 125 miles, we were a bit stunned to see the readout estimate that a full charge would require more than 43 hours.
Obviously a standard wall plug isn't ideal for charging an EV, but when 115 miles of range requires nearly two days of charging, it's clear that using an I-Pace as everyday transportation will ostensibly require owners to install a Level 2 charger in their homes. Jaguar recommends a ChargePoint CPH25 Home Charger, a 32-amp, 240-volt charger that can be installed inside a garage or outdoors. The CPH25 can charge the I-Pace from 0 to 80 percent in roughly ten hours, or all the way to 100 in just over twelve. This makes it a viable solution for overnight charging, especially when you consider the fact that most owners won't be starting the charge process with a completely dead battery, but you can also expect it to add a couple grand to your bottom line.
While not without its flaws, the I-Pace makes good on the promise of Jaguar's luxury experience in the context of an electric vehicle, offering levels of refinement and style that were lacking in this realm for some time. The I-Pace may not be the last word in EVs, but it adds quite a bit to the conversation.