Jaguar I-Pace first impressions: Hands on with Jag's $69,500 EV

Jaguar I-Pace first impressions: Hands on with Jag's $69,500 EV

We take a seat in the car Tesla should be most worried about today

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Tesla's days as the only premium electric car company are numbered, as the Jaguar I-Pace prepares to land in dealerships this summer, priced from $69,500 before tax incentives.

The big news is that this undercuts the Tesla Model X by $10,000 — and the I-Pace will likely remain cheaper for a long time. Federal US tax credits currently only apply to the first 200,000 electric cars produced by each manufacturer. Once this number has been reached, the discount halves every six months until reaching zero.

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Tesla has sold approximately 170,000 cars in the U.S. So very soon — unless the legislation changes — incentives applied to new Tesla purchases will decrease. Jaguar, on the other hand, is new to the EV market so has time to sell many of the new I-Pace cars with the full tax incentive attached. Tesla itself says it will cross the 200,000 barrier in 2018.

Back to the Jag...

First revealed as a thinly-disguised concept back in November 2016, the I-Pace was shown as a production-ready vehicle at the Geneva Motor Show this week. The electric SUV has a range of between 240 and 298 miles depending on which test cycle you use, can accelerate more quickly than the Tesla Model X 75D, and looks superb.

The I-Pace's interior is recognizably Jaguar but with modern details like the floating central 'flight deck'GearBrain

Having seen the concept in person back in 2016, we can say that seeing the production I-Pace this week feels very familiar. The car retains its sharp creases, cab-forward stance and short overhangs, plus the traditional Jaguar headlines and grille. We shouldn't be too surprised that this car looks the same as the one in our memory; Jaguar says the production I-Pace is just 12mm narrower and 12mm lower than the concept.

The I-Pace is almost as striking on the inside, with a Touch Pro Duo infotainment system similar to that used in the upmarket Range Rover Velar, but given an even more futuristic makeover. The central 'flight deck', as Jaguar calls it, houses a secondary touch screen which is controlled by prodding at the interface, but also with two rotary dial. This approach feels safer and less distracting than the huge touch screens used by Tesla, yet looks just as modern and appropriate for an electric car.

Jaguar's design director Ian Callum regularly voices his concerns over fitting car interiors with too many screens and touch-sensitive controls. Where adjusting the cabin temperature on a Tesla requires a precise tap of the touch screen, the I-Pace uses a large, tactile rotating dial.

The I-Pace's battery pack is in the floor, while compact motors mean small overhangs compared to combustion carsGearBrain

The Concept's sports seats will be available as an option, Jaguar says, and so too will the huge panoramic glass roof which floods the cabin with light. Jaguar claims it filters out infrared light to keep the interior cool; this means less use of the air conditioning, which in turn helps to boost range.

From behind the wheel (albeit while stationary in a Swiss convention center), the I-Pace feels like a normal car and we mean that in the best possible way. This is not the product of a new car company trying to wow the world with spaceship-like electric cars; it is an 83-year-old luxury car maker offering a vehicle with a new power source.

It's a bigger step than the first step into diesel or hybrid power, we admit, but it feels like a sound and logical step forward rather than a giant science fiction-inspired leap into the unknown. Where Teslas — especially the Model X - bombard owners with elaborate doors and gimmicks, the I-Pace feels more refined. For Jaguar customers this is important; the I-Pace feels fresh and new, but comfortably familiar.

Sitting in the back of the I-Pace is a similar experience to sitting in the back of any mid-size SUV or large crossover. There is adequate leg space, but not quite as much as we had expected given Jaguar's claims of an electric drivetrain freeing up aces of cabin space. We'll need to drive (and ride in) the I-Pace to really comment further on this.

Rear space is good, but not quite the revelation we were expecting. However, here is space under the seats for laptops and tabletsGearBrain

Also retained from the concept is the I-Pace's flat floor, which like those in a Tesla, is made possible due to there being no transmission tunnel to fit between the seats.

The reduced packaging constraints of electric cars also means there are trunks in both the front and back. Although the front trunk is much smaller than that of the Tesla Model X (and only really suitable for charging cables), the Jag's rear trunk is larger, due to it not containing the Model X's optional third row of seats.

Comparing the two cars make sense today, but once the EV market has grown they will be slotted into different categories. Being a foot longer and available as a five, six or seven-seater, the Model X is more of an MPV than the Jag, which is something of a mid-size SUV with a strict five-seat layout.

Charging screen looks similar to that used by TeslaGearBrain

That said, being electric and having more space than a conventional car of the same size, Jaguar claims the I-Pace has the interior space of a Porsche Cayenne (the company's flagship SUV), despite being closer in terms of exterior measurements to the Macan, Porsche's small SUV.

Jaguar has opted for an all-wheel-drive setup for the I-Pace, whereby the front and rear axles are each powered by their own electric motor. Total power output is a healthy 395bhp and 513lb ft of torque; these translate into a 0-60mph time of 4.5 seconds, despite weighing 2,100kg.

As for embedded technology, the I-Pace uses artificial intelligence to estimate the remaining range of its 90kWh battery. This computer intelligence takes into account the weather, topography and traffic conditions, plus your driving style based on previous journeys. The car knows this because each driver has their own key, which once programmed automatically adjusts the car's driving seat, climate and media as you approach. The AI also knows how many people are in the car and adjusts the climate control so not to waste energy heating or cooling an empty seat.

The I-Pace is more compact than a Model X, but while the EV market remains small it will likely appeal to the same buyersGearBrain

Continuing the high-tech theme, the car is Jaguar's first to receive over-the-air software updates, which will be used to keep the navigation and infotainment system updated, as they do in Teslas. There are six USB ports in the I-Pace's cabin, plus a 4G-powered Wi-Fi network and stowage under the rear seats designed to hold laptops and tablets.

The I-Pace order book is open now and deliveries will begin in the summer. Jaguar expects the I-Pace to be very popular in California, Europe and China — and specifically in EV-loving Norway, which placed more pre-orders than any other country.

Finally, to show just how similar this car is to Jaguar's concept, here is a photo we took of that car in November 2016:

The Jaguar I-Pace Concept at its launch in Los Angeles in 2016GearBrain

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