An Electric Feel – Jaguar iPace 400PS HSE

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Before I go off and talk about the new Jaguar iPace, I want to make it clear that this isn’t coming from a die-hard combustion engine fanatic -it also isn’t going to be some preachy piece about how this is the future and we all need to get on board or we will definitely die in a 500-degree snowstorm. It is quite simply a review of a car that I lived with for a week, just like any other car.

When I found out I was going to be testing the new fully electric offering from Jaguar, I didn’t really know how I felt. I’ve driven electric cars in the past and some of them were terrible, and some were alright, but none of them have wowed me. This isn’t because they were electric, though, it was more because the cars just left me feeling a little numb or underwhelmed. Even the “all-singing, all-dancing” Tesla Model X felt more like a new phone than a car. It was great to play with but the drive offered little to the soul. So, as a big lover of Jaguar, am I going to be pleasantly surprised or left feeling a bit empty and disappointed?

The new iPace was delivered on a Friday to my office which is always exciting but also a bit frustrating as the first time I would properly get to drive the car would be on the rather mundane 10-mile drive home at the end of the day. Fortunately, we had made plans to drive into the City (London) the next day and stay at a hotel that had assured me they had electric charging points. My first impression of the car as it rolled off the back of the truck was one of reserved excitement and optimism. Had Jaguar done it, had they made an electric car that actually felt like a car? As far as looks went, it was safe to say that the iPace was a handsome brute. That unmistakable open-mouthed grill and its sweeping roofline made it look undeniably Jaguar and the huge 22″ wheels gave it a sort of “Hot Wheels” toy car look as they filled the 4 corners of the body.

Inside, it’s also exactly what you would expect from this marque. Vibrant but soft red leather and dark wood and all the fancy new tech that is slowly creeping its way into all the JLR cars. The only thing that wasn’t present that I think should have been was the rotary gear selector, I know it makes sense and saves space to just have buttons for selecting drive, reverse, neutral and park, but it would have been nice to keep as it’s a nice little quirk in so much of the range. On the flip-side, it did create some extra room for my phone which seems to get bigger and bigger every time I upgrade!

Like so many other new cars, screens are the most prominent features upfront. Everything is now powered through three screens on the dash. A nice wide binnacle, an infotainment touchscreen and the new lower touchscreen for all your convenience and comfort settings like climate control and heated seats. I didn’t like it in the Range Rovers I’ve driven, but in the iPace it felt more relevant, although this might change as soon as the sun reappears and highlights all the finger smudges on all the displays. One other thing worth noting about the interior compared to the exterior is just how compact it feels. From the outside, the car is huge. It dwarfs all the hatchbacks in the office car park and felt nearly as wide as the Range Rover, but inside, it all feels much smaller. The black headlining and tinted glass roof probably played a part in this too by making the cabin feel darker. It wasn’t bad, just not as airy and spacious as the exterior suggests.

Jaguar has also done a great job combating the legroom issue that has always bothered me about the Tesla Model S. Due to the floor being used to house the batteries, you essentially lose a good few inches of legroom and if you sit in the back, you tend to end up with your knees up by your ears and on a long drive, it really isn’t a comfortable experience. In the iPace, however, the rear seat bases seem to be a bit more sloped back, lifting your legs a bit and giving you a hint of more space.

The main factor that has put me off electric cars in the past has been the way the lackluster drive has been overcompensated by gimmicks and pointless “easter eggs” – I get it, it’s cool to have a fireplace option on the dash for a bit of fun, but if I’m parting with a sizeable amount of cash, I want to drive it every day and get the same special feel it gave me on day one, and I’ve just not had that yet. With the iPace it’s already on to a good start as there don’t seem to be any of these gimmicks. It’s all very much the same as the other road cars JLR produces, which is what I want.

On the road there is definitely a difference, the main one being the obvious – the sound, or should I say the lack of it. It must be so difficult to design a car that is essentially silent as you need to find a way to reduce all the other exterior noises that are normally masked by a combustion engine. Road/tyre noise and wind noise are the two main contributors that come to mind. Fortunately for this car, the combination of double glazed windows and a fantastic Meridian sound system means it is wonderfully peaceful inside and you can crank up your favourite Opera and enjoy the tranquility. There’s also some rather nice mood lighting that can be customised to your liking that gives night drives a rather zen-like feel.

This particular iPace is the 400PS HSE AWD, meaning “the one with all the bells and whistles” and a part of that is a 90kWh battery pack producing 400PS of power that will literally catapult you from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and provide a claimed range of up to 292 miles, but this really does need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Acceleration-wise, I’ve driven plenty of faster cars in my days but none of them has planted me back into my seat the way an EV does. The thrust is so instant that it’s like a boot to the chest as you’re pinned back, it’s an incredible feeling that never gets old, no matter how detrimental that may be to your battery range! On the motorway the iPace behaves just as you would expect any Jaguar too, it’s quiet, civilised and comfortable and cruises along with no drama at all. It’s only really on those twisty roads where the differences between the EV and conventional ICE cars appear. Obviously, the car is heavy. the entire floor is batteries, but this creates a bit of a conflicting sensation for the driver – on the one side, there is a lot of weight to shift in the corners, so obviously it’s never going to corner like a Caterham, but on the other side, there’s a low centre of gravity and some pretty even weight distribution so you don’t get extreme body roll like in a full-sized SUV, it sort of messes with your senses but also makes it a surprising amount of fun. The only real issue comes when it’s time to stop. The braking is good, but there is an obvious amount of force to deal with.

All-in-all, Jaguar has done a great job here. They’ve done something no other manufacturer has been able to do in my opinion, and that is they have created an EV that feels like a car to drive. This, to me, is big, as it proves that the drivetrain isn’t everything when it comes to making a car. I thought I would miss the grumble of a proper Jag V8 under the bonnet but they have done such a great job creating a typically luxury car inside that it didn’t feel any different to a well kitted XF or even XJ. It says a lot that Jaguar didn’t throw in loads of token EV toys and features and instead focused on making a very good car as, until the release of the Porsche Taycan, it is the only one that seems to have stayed true to its roots.

It’s not all sunshine and happy faces though, there are still some issues that bug me. Admittedly, most of these issues can be remedied with better infrastructure and if the government really wants to ban the sale of ICE vehicles in 2035, they are seriously going to need to dip their hands in their pockets and make some drastic changes. I said earlier that I was going to drive the iPace to London for the weekend – a 140 mile round trip for us. Now, I know the car claims to return 292 miles to a charge and I am also aware that the more realistic average range is claimed to be 258 miles, but after doing the trip and driving in what I consider to be 100% normal driving conditions (light traffic, a bit of motorway and a bit of city) the overall average range was a worrying 180 miles. This was not remedied at the hotel either when it turned out there were no charging points, despite being told there were over the phone. Fortunately, we managed to do the journey there and back in one charge but when I got home there were only 20 miles of range left. I plugged the charger into my garage 3-pin socket and left it for 11 hours – this managed to charge the car up to 55% – claiming just over 120 miles.

Now, first off, if I owned an EV, I would have a proper charger installed that would solve the latter of the issues, but I’m fortunate to have a garage and have off-road parking, but what are the people who only have on-street parking going to do? Run extension cables across the pavement? The city I live in currently has 6 public charging stations. 6. Wow… The other thing that really winds me up, probably rather irrationally, is the battery saving “eco” mode in the car, designed to get the most out of your range. Basically, this switches off all the lovely electrical functions you paid extra to have in your car. Heated seats, climate control, heated steering wheel etc… Manufacturers need to be a lot more honest with their range claims and if you’re speccing up all these lovely options, the average range needs to be representative of this. I do think there is a positive future for both EVs and, more specifically, the iPace, but there are still a lot of external factors that need to be addressed if the masses are expected to adapt and adopt. The issues aside, the Jaguar iPace really is a great car and, in my opinion, leagues ahead of Tesla when it comes to creating a proper car.

As always, a big thank you to Jaguar UK for the car – you can read more about the iPace and build your own on the online configurator HERE

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