Car Culture: Jaguar's I-Pace juices electric vehicle market

John McCormick
Special to The Detroit News

The launch of Jaguar’s I-Pace marks the start of a new, post-Tesla phase in the era of the modern electric vehicles.

While Tesla deserves credit for kick-starting the modern electric-vehicle revolution; now it’s time for the longer established automakers to pick up the EV ball. And first to market, beating the German luxury automakers to the punch, is Jaguar with its I-Pace.

Stylish and practical, the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is a strong performer with decent, 250 miles range for an electric vehicle.

Several years ago I tested a Tesla Model S for the first time and was shocked by how well it drove and performed. It’s a similar story with the I-Pace. I expected it to be good, but I am surprised by just how good it is.

Surprised because Jaguar, now 10 years under Tata ownership, is still a relatively small company — and building a new electric car from scratch is no simple task.

Despite the challenge, Jaguar has come out swinging with an electric vehicle that ticks all the boxes: good range, performance, comfort, practicality and stylish curb appeal.

Jaguar bills the I-Pace as a sport utility vehicle, but it is really more of a crossover in character than a full-blown SUV. As crossovers go, it is strikingly good-looking, with a progressive, modern profile that marries form and function.

Driving through the hill country and towns of southern Portugal, the I-Pace rarely put a foot wrong. It felt remarkably normal to drive, just like a conventionally engined crossover, but with some interesting advantages. First, if you want maximum acceleration, the combined 400-horsepower output of the Jaguar’s front and rear electric motors will pin you back in your seat, with 0-60 mph taking just 4.5 seconds. Second, the weighty battery is packaged low and flat (think giant skateboard chassis), which keeps the center of gravity low. That’s a good thing for handling, especially in a crossover, which typically sits high off the ground.

Just how good is the I-Pace’s handling? Good enough to tackle Portugal’s demanding 2.9-mile Portimao race circuit, where I pushed the car through corners at a pace I never expected to experience in an electric vehicle.

So the I-Pace is fast and handles well. What about crossover-like functionality? Again, I was surprised when Jaguar directed us to a rutted, rocky and steep off-road course, with a stream-fording exercise for good measure. Ground clearance is good, especially with the giant 22-inch wheels on the test car, and the I-Pace didn’t miss a beat through the water challenge or the hill climb.

Like other EVs, the Jaguar can be driven in one pedal style, meaning the "throttle" pedal is all you need, because it also slows the car when you lift off. This occurs when full regenerative braking mode is selected, and the effect takes some getting used to, especially because you tend to slow down more than expected.

The low "regen" braking mode is more natural and familiar, and still uses the electric motors to slow the vehicle, thus recharging the battery.

Inside the Jaguar feels spacious for a vehicle roughly the size of a Porsche Macan, with good headroom and legroom front and rear. The sharply angled rear window does reduce rear vision to a narrow slot, but at least the airflow over the glass means a rear wiper is unnecessary.

In terms of instrumentation, driver aids, safety systems and fit and finish, the I-Pace is well ahead of any Tesla model and competitive with other conventional vehicles in its class.

With about a 250-mile range the Jaguar I-Pace should alleviate the dreaded EV range anxiety issue for most buyers, and charging to 80 percent capacity can be done in as little as 40 minutes with a rapid charger (or overnight with a regular wall outlet).

The I-Pace will appear in Jaguar’s U.S. showrooms later this year, starting at $70,495. Our test car was the $86,895 First Edition model.

It’s likely that the forthcoming EVs from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche will be impressive, but for now Jaguar can be proud of being the first to follow Tesla to market with a world-class electric vehicle.

John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Consumer and can be reached at