Jaguar surprised everyone this week in Los Angeles by unveiling the I-Pace, a production-ready (they carefully called the concept shown a “production preview”), all-electric SUV.
The Coventry cat has properly stolen the cream with this car, and it showed on the beaming faces of company executives at the LA Auto Show on Wednesday. They know they have peaked at just the right time, catching simultaneously the huge global public waves of desire for sporty SUVs, electric cars and Jaguars. “We’re harnessing where the growth is” said a Jaguar exec, although a more accurate description of it all came from a disgruntled PR from a rival car marque, who told me at the show, in bemusement: “Jaguar can do no wrong at the moment.”
It’s true - global Jaguar sales are up 74 per cent year on year, and jet-lagged executives from Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche and Tesla will have woken up a little grumpy on Wednesday morning, Western Seaboard time. For here is an SUV that will go on sale in 2018 (for the first time ever, Jaguar has a button on its website called “I Want One”, which is ready to take your order for this car), with pure electric propulsion, as per the Tesla Model X, and yet the sex appeal of an E-type. Design Director Ian Callum says it is the most important car for Jaguar since the E-type.
And so you have, in no particular order: a total power output of 394bhp and 516lb ft of torque from the electric motors driving the front and rear axles, a 0-60mph time of around 4.0 seconds, and a predicted range of 220 miles. It will take an 80 per cent battery charge in just 90 minutes using a typical 50kW DC public charging point, and is ready to use the more powerful superchargers that are coming down the line.
And all of this sits on brand new architecture, designed in-house by Jaguar for this car, and future electric cars that both Jaguar and Land Rover will build in the next few years. This is why the I-Pace is such a significant car, for here are the building blocks of JLR’s immediate future. “The F-Pace has helped us be confident that the Jaguar brand is scalable”, a marketing executive told me at the show.
The term “architecture” for car companies means not just the chassis, but the powertrain too (and many other components aside), so the 90kW lithium-ion battery pack and motors, as well as the frame, have been designed and developed by JLR and a lot of thought has been given by Ian Callum’s design team into how best to use the space that the lack of an engine provides.
Their answer has been to convert that extra space into a more sporty, dynamic, premium feel. And so you have the “cab-forward” design, with a raked windscreen delving into the bonnet, and short front and rear overhangs. This means that, despite the I-Pace being 15mm shorter than the F-Pace, Jaguar’s current SUV, it has a longer wheelbase and more room inside, they claim, than a BMW 7-series.
The innovative design extends under the bodywork. One challenge (although Jaguar prefers to talk about the “opportunities” and “freedoms” an all-electric car has presented them) has been keeping the battery at the right temperature. Jaguar answered it by integrating the cooling channels into the frame, which, alongside motors that are 500mm wide with a concentric transmission, means the architecture is as compact in height as possible.
The batteries are packaged between the axles, and the whole car sits 120mm lower than the F-Pace, meaning less body roll and near 50:50 weight distribution. All of which should make for impressive handling.
We’ll have to wait for the first drives next year, and for public reaction when it goes on sale, with a likely price tag of about £55,000, but right now, if I’d just bought an F-Pace, which is Jaguar’s fastest-selling car to date, I might just be kicking myself.