2019 Jaguar I-Pace real-world review: 3 days with the sexy electric crossover

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To the world’s surprise, the first all-electric luxury utility vehicle to follow the Tesla Model X into production did not come from the German makes of Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz.

Instead, it arrived from that trio’s smaller, scrappier British rival, Jaguar Land Rover. The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace will arrive in dealerships for demonstration drives next month, with U.S. customer deliveries expected to start in November.

By contrast, first deliveries of the 2019 Audi e-tron will come between April and June next year, and the BMW iX3 and Mercedes-Benz EQC won’t follow until sometime in 2020.

DON'T MISS: Jaguar launches roadshow for 2019 I-Pace

We recently spent three days with a 2019 Jaguar I-Pace HSE, in and around New York City, and we conclude that it offers an attractive alternative to all of the vehicles cited above.

Compared to the Model X, the I-Pace is smaller inside and out, slightly less expensive (it starts at $69,500), and suffers from the lack of high-speed “fast charging” offered by Tesla’s Supercharger network.

The Jaguar I-Pace succeeds admirably in several areas but falls short in a few. Regardless of the pros and cons, however, we think Jaguar will likely sell every one it decides it will send to the U.S.—at least until it’s got more competitors than simply Tesla.

PRO: Style and design

Perhaps nowhere is the I-Pace as clearly superior to its competitors as in exterior design. Its long-cabin, short-nose design evokes nothing so much as the Tesla Model 3, which has similar proportions, albeit with a sedan back end. The I-Pace is really more of a long hatchback than a utility vehicle, but whatever you call it, the overall effect is coherent and fresh.

While the I-Pace remains indisputably a Jaguar, the shape signals it’s clearly a different species of cat than its F-Pace and E-Pace siblings. It works on the street, too. People walked up to ask questions, flashed thumbs-up on the highway, and otherwise signaled their approval of Jaguar design head Ian Callum’s stylistic risk.

READ MORE: Electric I-Pace may lead Jaguar design, style into the future

The Model X has demonstrably more interior space, flexibility, and functionality. But it’s never had the sleek grace of its Model S sibling, demonstrating in sheet metal how hard it is to make a utility vehicle both aerodynamic and functional.

The Audi e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC, on the other hand, have the proportions of entirely conventional SUVs. Show them to shoppers and we’d bet most won't know they’re powered by electricity. That may be deliberate, but it leaves the Jaguar I-Pace as the most adventurous and best looking of the class to our eyes.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace First Edition

2019 Jaguar I-Pace First Edition

Inside, the I-Pace is far more conventionally Jaguar. At a glance, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish its interior from that of various other Jaguar Land Rover products, from the higher-volume F-Pace to the more fashion-forward Range Rover Velar. The rear seats are reclined to fit under the falling roofline, but leg room is sufficient for U.S.-sized adults.

One grace note on the I-Pace is door handles that present themselves as the driver gets closer to the car, echoing Tesla. The effect is cheapened, however, by the fact that they’re matte-black plastic except for the body-color panel on the outside—a visual letdown.

PRO: Acceleration and regeneration

Jaguar quotes a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of 4.5 seconds from its pair of 147-kilowatt (197-horsepower) motors, one per axle. While we didn’t test it with a stopwatch, we enjoyed using it.

A toggle setting within the drive controls menu lets the driver set the default regeneration level to high (up to 0.4G), which proved strong enough to make one-pedal driving possible. Another setting lets the driver opt for conventional idle creep, or no movement at rest (we chose the idle creep).

2019 Jaguar I-Pace electric car (crossover SUV)

2019 Jaguar I-Pace electric car (crossover SUV)

Handling and roadholding was surefooted and crisp. It’s not a light car, but with the battery weight under the cabin, the I-Pace tracked around corners with assurance and absorbed most bumps and imperfections with poise—though the handsome 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires likely gave a harsher ride than the 18-inch rims that come standard on the base S trim level.

Between powerful off-the-line acceleration, one-pedal driving ability, and good roadholding and ride, the I-Pace was everything we’d hoped for behind the wheel.

CON: That last few percent of development

Jaguar noted that our I-Pace was a very early-production car (Number 0582) whose software had already been updated a couple of times—and likely needed a further update after we returned the car to its maker.

That might explain the variations in readings for remaining range (see below), along with a couple of other issues we noticed:

- The friction brakes occasionally produced a groan or a clunk when bringing the car to rest from 5 mph or so, after the regenerative braking ended;

- The vehicle electronics sometimes produced noticeable feedback when the radio was set to an AM station, including a general hiss and whirring through the speakers on deceleration; and

- We’ve never been overly fond of Jaguar Land Rover’s corporate interface for entertainment, mapping, audio pairing, and so on. In the I-Pace, the navigation was consistently slow and laggy, and the cellular connectivity icon showed “3G,” which Nathan Hoyt, JLR spokesman, said was attributable to an incorrect software setting. The I-Pace, he assured us, is 4G-capable.

That’s the hazard of a testing a new model that won’t start customer deliveries for two more months: It may not be quite fully baked. We trust JLR will address these issues by the time production cars reach paying customers.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace First Edition

2019 Jaguar I-Pace First Edition

PRO: Build quality

While it may have been an early-build car, the assembly quality of our I-Pace didn't indicate it.

Body panels fit properly, no squeaks, buzzes, or rattles revealed themselves, and overall, we gave high marks to the I-Pace assembly team at the Magna plant in Graz, Austria.

CON: Not-very-fast “fast charging”

The Tesla Supercharger network remains a unique asset and a major reason to buy a Tesla over any other electric car. A year from now, however, when the Audi e-tron goes on sale with 150-kliowatt fast-charging onboard, at least 500 sites that provide CCS charging at that rate will be completed or under construction by Electrify America.

On that front, the Jaguar lags behind. Practically, its CCS fast-charging is limited to the 50-kw rate of today’s CCS hardware, and its stated maximum charging rate is 100 kilowatts. We fast-charged the I-Pace at ChargePoint stations at JLR U.S. headquarters in New Jersey and at one EVgo charging site in Katonah, New York.

In a 45-minute EVgo charging session that cost $14.95, our stated range climbed from 82 miles to 209 miles, which was shown as 96 percent of full charge. Jaguar says fast-charging for 85 minutes will recharge the battery to 80 percent.

UNKNOWN: Effective range

The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace, fitted with a 90-kilowatt-hour battery and all-wheel drive, has not yet been rated for range by the EPA. Jaguar says it’s capable of 240 miles. Our general experience has been that high-speed travel can impose a penalty of up to 30 percent, though careful use in low-speed travel may let a driver better that total.

So we were eager to test out the real-world range by running the I-Pace around the New York City area.

Mother Nature intervened, however, in the form of daytime temperatures above 90 degrees, and occasional outside-temperature readings from the car itself that hit 100.

CHECK OUT: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace electric crossover debuts in production trim; estimated 240-mile range

That required use of air conditioning, of course, though we kept the car in the “Smart Climate” mode that directed cool air toward only the occupied seats (in this case solely the driver) and didn’t attempt to cool the entire cabin.

To reduce the energy load on the AC, we spent a good five minutes searching for the button to move a sunshade over the full-length glass roof, which in that heat was literally too hot to touch on the inside.

Lo and behold, there is no sunshade, just a coating on the glass that’s supposed to block ultraviolet rays. That’s a notable omission, and a puzzling one given the strength of the sun in California, one of this car’s primary markets.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace, 3-day test drive - range in very hot weather fell precipitously

2019 Jaguar I-Pace, 3-day test drive - range in very hot weather fell precipitously

High temperature vs. battery range

The high temperatures proved to have a startling effect on the car’s estimates of its remaining range.

Starting with 150 indicated miles of range, we drove 48 road miles and burned through 68 miles of indicated range. At that point, with 82 miles to our destination in the mountains, we stopped for the 45-minute fast charge that brought range up to 209 miles—plenty to get us there.

Then it all went south. Just 65 road miles later, range had plummeted to 77 miles remaining, meaning we’d burned through 122 miles, or roughly twice our road distance. The outside temperature was indicated at 104.

READ THIS: JLR to pump money into electric cars instead of diesel

Thirty miles later, range was down to 60 miles—so we’d gained some, theoretically—with battery capacity showing as 46 percent. At that point, we abandoned our intended route, turned off the car, and paused for a large bottle of cold water. After restarting the I-Pace, the range showed 94 miles.

At our request, Hoyt reached out to the company’s British-based engineers for more information on how range was calculated.

The response was that the algorithms are “extremely complex” but factor in the last 500 miles of driving-style data, ambient temperature, and battery temperature, along with a predicted base load for climate control to keep occupants comfortable.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace S

2019 Jaguar I-Pace S

We surmise that at temperatures above 100, the battery management system reserved a much greater portion of remaining energy toward cooling the battery to ensure it didn’t overheat.

Over three days, having canceled the mountain portion of our trip, we put 230 miles on the car. Over the 67.3 miles that followed our last recharge, the car’s trip computer indicated energy usage of 35.4 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, or just under 3 miles per kwh.

We hope to re-test the car in somewhat more “normal” ambient temperatures.

Conclusions

The Jaguar I-Pace hasn’t been rated by either the NHTSA or the IIHS for crash safety, and given the expected low volumes, that may not happen for a while, if ever.

Because our car was an early vehicle used for press testing, it didn’t come with a build sheet specifying the mix of features and options. We can say, however, that the metallic Caesium Blue paint was striking, especially combined with the “Style 5068” 20-inch alloy wheels fitted to the top-end HSE trim level.

Overall, we loved our time with the I-Pace and hated to give it back. We hope to retest a slightly later version once customer deliveries have begun.

It seems fair to say that while the I-Pace is smaller and less capacious than the Tesla Model X, this is the first luxury electric car that can reasonably be considered a direct competitor to the California carmaker’s groundbreaking products.

 
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