It’s the EV of the moment, having just swept the 2019 World Car of the Year (WCOTY) Awards by winning in three categories. The Jaguar I-Pace won not just the World Car Design and World Green Car awards, but also the main World Car of the Year award. This is the first time an EV won the top WCOTY prize and it certainly won’t be the last. Sign of things to come? Sure. But it’s not just for its eco credentials that the jury (myself included) scored the I-Pace highly. The fact is, unlike most EVs, which are boring and similar to drive, this one puts a big smile on your face.
We knew the I-Pace was brilliant to drive when we first sampled it (July 2018 issue), but what’s it like to live with? That’s the question I am hoping to answer after a week with the I-Pace in London.
The plan was to pick up the I-Pace straight after landing at Heathrow but the car wasn’t waiting for me at the airport parking lot. Instead, I am transferred (in an E-Pace) to a nearby hotel, where the I-Pace is being charged. Hmm, not exactly convenient, is it? Anyway, that extra little trip is forgotten the minute I clapped eyes on the I-Pace. It’s a gorgeous-looking car that has, deservedly, won all kinds of design awards. Just looking at the car warms your heart, which then starts to thump the moment you prod the accelerator. But, the I-Pace also got my heart beating for the wrong reason. It’s called ‘range anxiety’ or that nagging fear that the car doesn’t have enough charge to get you home. This is actually the main reason why mass adoption of EVs hasn’t happened globally.
A faulty charger at the airport hotel, where the I-Pace was plugged in and waiting for me, meant the lithium-ion battery pack wasn’t fully charged by the time I arrived. Thankfully, it still had a range of around 160km, which was more than enough to get me home, but any plans of enjoying the car in the countryside that Saturday afternoon were shot and the only thing on my mind was to find a socket to fully charge the I-Pace. The hunt was on.
That’s when I discovered that, even in London, charging an electric car isn’t as easy as I thought. Firstly, the really quick 100kW charging points are far and few between, and secondly, it’s a real hassle to figure out how to use the multitude of charging stations that, depending on the service provider, have different apps and pay-as-you-charge cards to access the service.
A 30-foot extension cable from Sainsbury’s saved the day.
Finally, it was a bit of improvisation, or jugaad as we call it, that worked out best. A 30-foot extension cable from Sainsbury’s, plugged into a domestic socket at a home, long enough to reach the I-Pace parked outside, did the trick. It’s just that charging any EV this way takes an excruciatingly long time, but the next day, with a fully topped-up battery that translated to a range of around 350km, I was all charged up too and all set to enjoy the I-Pace.
The instant power delivery is simply staggering. There is no delay, no wringing the engine to rev limit or selecting the right gear. Just press your right foot and the I-Pace takes off like a scalded cat (it is a Jaguar after all) and it’s so easy to zap through traffic. The pair of electric motors, which produce a combined 394hp, catapult the 2.1-tonne I-Pace from 0-100kph in 4.8sec – very quick by any standards. And all this performance is silently and efficiently delivered without the noise and drama of a high-performance engine. That’s not necessarily a good thing because the absence of sound, and the utterly linear way in which the I-Pace accelerates, has a synthetic feel and robs the car of some character. And to be honest, most high-performance EVs deliver the same sort of thrust and in some cases, more. But what sets the I-Pace apart is how it steers and rides.
The steering has a lovely heft to it and none of that disconnected EV feel, which, along with the taut chassis and well-judged damping, makes the I-Pace, despite its heavy weight, pretty good fun to flick through corners. No doubt, the massive 90kWh battery pack weighs down the I-Pace, but as it’s placed in the floor, it also pulls down the centre of gravity and this high-riding SUV doesn’t feel top heavy in the least. In fact, the I-Pace is genuinely fun to drive, offering agility and a level of driver involvement you don’t associate with this genre of vehicles.
You always have one eye on the range when driving an electric car.
It’s rare for an EV to make you smile but the I-Pace certainly can, though you do have your moments of angst when the range drops suddenly after you’ve been hoofing it. The thing is, even with a full charge and enough range to get you home, you always end up having one eye on the range indicator. I just couldn’t get rid of that underlying worry of running out of juice and getting stranded, which always lingered. Which is why, to make that smile permanent, the charging infrastructure needs be sorted out first.