Jaguar I-Pace EV400 electric (2019) review

Jaguar I-Pace EV400 electric (2019) review

Jaguar's first BEV is loftily priced but shows the way for others in how to drive nicely.

Jaguar was among the first of all traditional luxury brands to come up with a battery-electric vehicle competing in a burgeoning sector triggered off by new-age carmaker Tesla.

Like the Audi E-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC, the Jaguar I-Pace is an all-electric SUV that hopes to steal some attention from punters of the Tesla Model X and Y crossovers.

And having just arrived on the scene in less than a year, the I-Pace has already scooped a number of awards around the world for being able to deliver a convincing statement in the game of BEVs.

First things first. Jaguar is a premium automotive brand with upmarket pricing. As well, the I-Pace comes to Thai shores with normal import tax. Hence, the price range of 5.499-6.999 million spread over three grades.

So don’t go wasting your time comparing the I-Pace with the just-launched MG ZS EV because the latter is a mass-market brand with more reachable prices and doesn’t face any duty at Thai Customs; Chinese-made BEVs can come to Thailand tax-free.

So if judged purely on the product itself, it appears that the accolades the I-Pace has been receiving are well-justified. Punters of combustion-engined SUVs like the BMW X4, Porsche Macan or Range Rover Evoque should continue reading on to see if they can really convert to something as advanced as the I-Pace.

Take the design, as an example. It looks nicely compact and sporty from the outside thanks to relatively shallow windows, raked roofline and short overhangs. The I-Pace actually looks more like a pumped-up hatch than traditional SUV.

The I-Pace does look elegant in the Jaguar fashion, although designers could have arguably been a little more adventurous in making the details look more distinctive than in the ICE-powered E- and F-Pace SUVs.

But where the packaging has really paid dividends is in the cabin. The axles are placed as far as possible from each other to create that near-3m wheelbase. As a result, accommodation is generous and shouldn’t necessarily scare away owners of the F-Pace. 

Jaguar has even managed to create some space under the bonnet for small stuff. This shows how well the electric system and batteries are placed lowly within the I-Pace’s package. It’s one of an engineering feat, so to speak.

While Jaguar may not have been that attentive to details on the exterior, it certainly has so in the driving cockpit. The steering wheel has been meticulously sculpted with a three-dimensional feel and the surrounding functions are distinctively designed and ideally placed. 

It’s certainly a nice place to spend time in. And this surely continues to hold true when you start to drive off. The I-Pace may just be like any another BEV in the technical context, but it’s how Jaguar has managed to effectively hone the driving manners.

Broadly speaking, the I-Pace has an electric motor on each axle making it all-wheel drive. Power of some 400hp is channeled via single-speed automatic making it a direct rival for the E-tron and EQC.

The I-Pace is a rapid car at all times with a kind of immediacy not that readily available, as say, in the EQC. Apart from feeling delicately responsive, the amount of engine-braking effect upon throttle liftoff feels just right enough that you’d probably won’t bother in adjusting it. In short, there’s a nice one-pedal driving experience.

There are some modes to adjust various driving parameters, but the default settings already do a sufficing job. With this kind of power on tap, there’s rarely anything lacking.

The steering is a touch heavy at low speeds but largely compensates for crisp handling elsewhere. As well, the ride is generally taut and quiet easily feeling like in an XE or XF sedan. Yes, the E- and F-Pace tend to roll more than in the I-Pace.

The comfortable ride comes amid the use of 22in wheels fitted to our test car (Hong Kong-spec); Thai versions get 20in ones in all grades. Speaking of that, it’s the amount of convenience items that separate the S, SE and HSE trims; driving aids are available in all three.

To describe the I-Pace’s road manners in another way, it feels more like a sports car to drive than its SUV competitors. Power is always readily available and the handling feels mostly sharp and engaging. You can even make the electric motor sing like a petrol V6 via a sub-menu on the main screen, but sometimes a gentle woosh makes the driving experience more new-age.

Despite the I-Pace being billed as an SUV in marketing terms, the depth of engineering clearly shows that Jaguar can easily build an all-electric version of the F-Type two-seater any day. 

But before that will happen, Jaguar has just announced recently that the next all-electric car will be the XJ replacement, a fighter for the Mercedes-Benz EQS luxury sedan due in 2020. It appears good days are lying ahead.

As said earlier, it’s just a pity that the I-Pace is in another realm of pricing. Mass-market brands should really benchmark the I-Pace for how it manages to deliver a nice driving experience without being compromised by the presence of all that electrical stuff.

Owners of conventionally powered SUVs and sedans in the five million baht range should take a look at the I-Pace. Maybe this is the kind of cars Jaguar should be selling in Thailand from now onwards: appeal to new minds rather than traditional ones who’d conveniently settle for a Bimmer or Merc.

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