2019 Jaguar I-Pace
In January 2007, Jaguar dropped a bombshell, in the form of the C-XF concept sedan it unveiled at that year's Detroit auto show.
The sleek, fastback shape, simple rectangular grille with recessed mesh, and swept-back cat's-eye headlights yanked Jaguar design out of its fusty retro-traditional straitjacket and catapulted it into the 21st century.
The concept was a thinly disguised 2008 Jaguar XF, and its highly praised lines set the style for every Jaguar that followed over the following 10 years.
WATCH THIS: Jaguar I-Pace electric concept at LA Auto Show: video walkaround (Nov 2016)
The small British maker unveiled a second, equally startling design at the 2016 Los Angeles auto show, another all-but-finished concept for what will launch this summer as the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace all-electric crossover utility.
That design too received rave reviews, winning plaudits for its sleek, cab-forward shape that takes full advantage of the added cabin space allowed by an underfloor battery pack and very compact front and rear drive motors.
Now we learn that the I-Pace may be as much of a trendsetter for future Jaguar designs as that first XF was a decade ago.
2007 Jaguar C-XF Concept
Jaguar E-Type Zero
2010 Jaguar C-X75 Concept
I-Pace designer Wayne Burgess suggested as much to Motor Authority in an interview last week on the sidelines of the New York auto show.
"The opportunities are huge with electric," he said, saying it would have felt "disingenuous" to design an electric car with the long hood and wide shoulders over the rear wheels of its conventionally powered vehicles.
His decision to push the front passengers forward, as they are in a mid-engined supercar, was intentional—as was a nod to the short nose of the company's 2010 turbine-range-extended electric supercar concept, the C-X75.
CHECK OUT: 2010 LA Auto Show: Jaguar C-X75 Concept, Up Close & Personal (Nov 2010)
But as Motor Authority notes, form followed function in the I-Pace design. Elongating the cabin on the wheelbase offered interior volume without making the car taller, reducing its cross-section and hence its aerodynamic drag.
Sure, the window line of the I-Pace may nod to current Jaguar sedans and the successful new F-Pace crossover.
But its flat body sides—without a trace of the decades-old Coke-bottle upsweep over the rear wheels—keep air close to the surface and reduced energy-sapping turbulence as airflow leaves the rear of the shape.
2018 Jaguar F-Type
Burgess said he expected pushback from current Jaguar owners over the radical new shape of the I-Pace, but got very little.
He revealed very little about plans for additional electric models in the Jaguar lineup, saying only that the company was "considering" electric versions of some existing models.
Industry rumors suggest that the next generation of the top-of-the-line Jaguar XJ could be a larger and more luxurious high-performance battery-electric hatchback that would face off directly against the Tesla Model S.
When it launched in 2012, the Tesla Model S had relatively traditional proportions for a large luxury sedan. But the company's recent Model 3 has a long cabin and short nose more similar to the proportions of the I-Pace.
Could a new all-electric Jaguar XJ derive its styling from the I-Pace? We wouldn't bet against it.
The raves received by the Jaguar I-Pace concept and production versions, incidentally, have been conspicuously absent from designs for the Audi e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC all-electric crossover utility vehicles.
2019 Jaguar I-Pace
2019 Jaguar I-Pace first drive
Audi e-tron quattro concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show
Mercedes-Benz EQ electric car concept [photo: Axel Harries]
Those two German electric SUVs will compete head to head with the I-Pace, though the British entry will go on sale in Europe several weeks before deliveries of the Audi are scheduled to begin.
But the conventional proportions of the Audi and Mercedes stand in sharp contrast to the short-hood, long-cabin look of the I-Pace.
They could, in fact, be conventionally powered crossovers and no one would know the difference—not likely something you'll hear said about the electric Jaguar.