JAGUAR I-PACE first electric car has me excited. The carmaker is surrounded by heritage and holds a special place in my heart: dad had a XK120, Mk V, Mk VII plus many other Jags over the years and I have always been involved in one way or another with the brand, whether it’s visiting heritage centres, attending race meets, or going to the seemingly infinite number of specialist engineers who work on Jaguar classics. And so when Jaguar announced their involvement with Formula E, the I-Расе and complementary I-Расе racing series plus an electric classic E-Type and the bizarre ‘Future- Type’, my interest was piqued.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) isn’t wholly new to electrification. The company has produced a number of concept cars over the years, perhaps most notably the stunning С-Х7Б that almost made it to production, a hybrid XJ luxury saloon that strangely met the same fate and an electric Range Rover Evoque; a stretched version of which also served as the original I-Расе concept underpinnings.

In contrast to those vehicles I-Расе isn’t a derivation of an existing model, but rather its own thing. Jaguar is going down the same path as BMW did with the i3 – purposely styling it to be different and not offering it as anything other than electric. More interior space due to a lack of internal combustion engine and additional creative freedom are just two of the more obvious benefits of designing a dedicated EV platform. In I-Расе, this includes a 530-litre luggage compartment and additional storage in the front, similar to Tesla’s ‘frunk’ or ‘froof (front-trunk/ front-boot) plus a spacious cabin and SUV looks.

I-Расе is nearly ready for serial production by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, where it will be built on the very same production line as E-Pace. This is significant, as the electric I-Расе must be built at the same speed as a more conventionally powered car so as not to slow down production.

Being granted permission to ride on-board one of the development mules, I was given a rare insight into what this car is all about, it’s development and how Jaguar is approaching and revolutionising the way it makes cars. The I-Расе may just be another electric car, but for Jaguar it really is the start of a new era.

In the beginning

Making an electric car from scratch comes with its own difficulties, especially for a company that up until now has squarely focused on petrol, with a touch of diesel. What batteries will be used? Which electric motors? How will it be made efficient, safe and most important for the company, sell?

Safety is of paramount importance for any electric car design. Jaguar was keen to ensure the I-Расе would be the safest Jaguar ever made, but with development costs for this topic amounting to millions extremely quickly, another tack had to be taken: enter the worlds of virtual reality, 3D modelling and simulation.

VR provided an ideal way to create a near-perfect life­like 3D model of I-Расе, which could be edited, adjusted and modelled with metallurgy, materials, paint and finish.Thesedetailed models were then used notonlyfor the development of the design itself, the creation of the battery housing, where the motors would be mounted and so on, but also by the crash safety engineers.

Putting the I-Расе through more than 9,000 different situations in a digital environment meant the car could be crashed, smashed and crushed repeatedly without a physical model ever having been created. The benefits are clear: if a change had to be made after, say, finding that when driving the car through water it would flood the battery, alterations could be made before any expensive physical tooling has ever been constructed. The same process continues until the design is ready and the engineers are satisfied that the car will perform in the real world as close as possible to how it did in the virtual one. Of course, once virtual testing is complete, physical testing is still necessary, but the engineers are that much more confident and so fewer development cars are needed, at least in theory. For I-Расе, Jaguar built no less than 200 production prototypes, covered 1.5 million miles and completed more than 11,000 hours of component rig testing – the company wasn’t taking any chances, but then it was a wholly new approach and powertrain.

Computer modelling also played a large part in the development of l-Pace’s handling dynamics, and I was treated to a first-hand experience of Jaguar’s state-of- the-art computer simulator. Using some eye-wateringly expensive computers linked to a three-screen setup and electric rams (hydraulic rams aren’t as quick to react) plus a real car seat with steering wheel, pedal and controls, I was able to experience what I-Расе will be like at speed. As a demonstration of the accuracy of the software, after having ‘almost1 mastered a few flying laps with a production-ready setup (that expectedly tended to understeer) a tiny alteration to the rear anti-roll bar transformed it to being near- uncontrollable – oversteering all over shop and succeeding only in giving me a fuzzy head. The point was made, however, that computer simulation offers engineers a method of setting up a car before a single real-world lap has been completed. Jaguar trains its engineers to use the simulators over many hours, but my 15-minute introduction was enough to glimpse at its impressive potential.

The cost savings of using VR and simulation engineering are enormous, as is the time saved. Jaguar’s development engineer said that in a matter of three to six weeks, they’d been able to conduct hardware tests using software that traditional techniques would have required three to six months to complete. Multiplied by many hundred scenarios, that’s huge.

Importantly, following the success of the technology, this is how all new Jaguar’s will be designed moving forwards and crucially this allows the company to be flexible and bring products to market far quicker than previously possible. And despite the time saved, perhaps Jaguar’s engineer summed it up best when stating that I-Расе is “better than anything we’ve ever made before”.

Powering the future l-Pace has a lot to prove. Tesla has become the established household EV name for performance and technology (rightly or wrongly), Nissan’s Leaf is now on its next generation and is the world’s best-selling EV, BMW has a large presence with its BMW i sub brand and range of plug-in hybrids, Volvo was first to announce electrification plans and Toyota is the market leader for hybrids plus aims to sell millions of EVs by 2030. That’s a lot of competition to contend with and so Jaguar has to pull something out the proverbial bag.

Performance wise, Jaguar has gone for “frighteningly quick”, rather than competing with Tesla’s ludicrous insanity, though 394bhp and 700Nm torque is not to be sniffed at. In practice, that translates to 0-60mph in a more than adequate 4 seconds and onto an as-yet unknown, but doubtless plentiful, top speed. Drive is sent to all four wheels from two motors, one front, one rear and a single-speed transmission.

Range is copious thanks to a 90kWh lithium-ion battery and the vehicle’s weight is some 400kg less than a Tesla Model X. This should equate to around 310 miles (500km) NEDC. Charging is supplied via CCS, which Jaguar has confirmed should provide a 0-80% charge in around 45 minutes using a 100kW rapid charger. However, with CCS 2.0 supporting up to 350kWh charge rates, the lonity network currently being rolled out across Europe and Tesla already providing more than 150kW at their Supercharger sites, as well as the next generation of rapids from the likes of Chargemaster likely to support 150kW, it seems an oversight if l-Pace doesn’t at least support 150kW, especially considering its large battery. Jaguar is, however, yet to confirm exactly what the maximum charge rate for the 1-Pace will be, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Jaguar also intimated that further battery options may be offered in the future, though not from launch. The LG-Chem supplied battery is installed in 36 modules (432 cells, 400V total, 960A peak), making it reasonably simple for Jaguar to offer different capacities. Jaguar’s engineers were also keen to stress that “customers shouldn’t notice battery degradation”. A blend of nickel, manganese and cobalt has been used, which makes the difference between it and other cells used by other manufacturers.

Likewise, with the flexibility of the synchronous electric motors (made by AAM and LG) Jaguar may wish to offer different power outputs. It’s not a wild supposition that there’ll be a more powerful variant offered too, considering the I-Расе racing series due to complement the Formula E Championship.

On the road

Stepping up and into the I-Расе for the first time, the cavernous interior is the first thing to take notice of. The seats are comfortable, as one would expect, and hug the body in a sporting manner, hinting at the vehicle’s power potential.

Drive is selected using buttons, rather than Jaguar’s familiar pop-up drive selector, and as the throttle pedal is stamped the car launches itself without even the vaguest hint of wheel spin. A Jaguar engineer tells me a story of Land Rover’s engineers not being too interested in electric propulsion, but having now discovered the benefits of near-instantaneous response from the electric motors, grip and wheel control are transformed from what can only be called slow mechanical systems by comparison. In I-Расе, this offers huge confidence on the road: entering a roundabout too fast, encountering black ice, running half the car on a slippery surface – pretty much any difficult traction scenario you can think of – it copes with impressive ease. This is thanks to instant torque control and torque vectoring by braking, despite the vehicle’s rear-wheel drive bias. The car also has a lower centre of gravity than F-Pace by a considerable 120mm, making it handle like a true sports car rather than the SUV it appears to be.

Being thrown about on country lanes that had not been de-iced was a slightly unnerving experience, but the poise and sure-footedness of the car gradually instilled confidence and it’s easy to see why Jaguar is so keen to express their new-found appreciation for electric power. The car was so competent that even when a pheasant dived out from a hedge in front of us, a sharp jab of the brake and twist of the wheel, edging into the on-coming lane and tipping over the adverse camber didn’t faze the car whatsoever.

Since my trip in the car, Jaguar invited others to test the vehicle in near-arctic conditions and needless to say, they were impressed.

Despite the ferocity of the I-Расе, its real party trick is its ability to tone back the 13,000rpm motor and cruise. Jaguar’s engineers have had to go the extra mile with sound insulation and it shows. The interior is whisper quiet making for a relaxing ambience. Four bypass ducts improve the drag coefficient, making the body slippery and therefore quieter. The gearbox has literally been musically tuned to emit a different pitch to other components, so that there’s an acoustic harmony in the cabin, none of which you’d be able to hear in a typical petrol or diesel vehicle.

Two different regen modes offer either gentle coasting action or single pedal operation at the flick of a switch, similar to Nissan Leafs new e-Pedal. Every so often the regen is switched off and the hydraulic brakes are used to keep them clean and operational. Jaguar says, thanks to proprietary i-Booster technology.

At speeds up to 18mph, I-Расе emits an audible external warning of its presence in a similar manner to Renault’s Z.E. Voice.

The driver is treated to a 12-inch interactive display instead of a traditional instrument cluster, as is fast becoming the norm, which displays speed, range and a host of other information from sat nav to the tyre pressure monitoring system and infotainment. The central display shows a simple speedometer with a circular gauge around it and a needle pointing north.

When this sways to the right, it indicates the level of power used, while to the right the regenerative braking force.

The centre console was largely covered in black cladding, though certain controls were visible such as the climate controls and ride-height buttons. In addition to these, a pair of buttons indicating simply “mode” and a chequered flag with arrows up and down respectively may offer sports, normal and economy driving modes.

It seems that Jaguar will use a similar twin-screen setup to that seen in other JLR products, one to control passenger comfort options and the other for multi- media and navigation. However, as this car was very much a test-mule, the interior layout could be wholly different by the time the finished product rolls off the production line.

With a cluster of sensors including stereoscopic cameras above the rear-view mirror, it’s fair to assume Jaguar will likely introduce level 3 autonomous functions with I-Расе, such as adaptive cruise control and lane- keep assistance. Whether higher levels of autonomy will be offered, we’ll have to wait and see but Jaguar won’t want to be left behind.

Initial impression

l-Pace lives up to the hype. I’ve been left reassured by the level of detailed engineering that’s gone into its development. No corners have been cut, yet Jaguar has cleverly used the latest sim and VR technology to expedite the car’s production. And it shows: although I was only able to go out in a test-mule as a passenger for an hour’s drive, it was enough to provide a first impression of what Jaguar’s electrification future will be like. Put simply, Jaguar has done more than enough to warrant the likes of Tesla and BMW i taking notice.

However, there’s one small but significant caveat. No matter how wonderful I-Расе is, if the current CCS infrastructure isn’t there to support it andjag drivers end up spending 90-minutes at a current generation rapid, that’s going to be a difficult sell. Perhaps Jaguar will join the lonity network, which is the most logical partnership move, so I-Расе may benefit from the 350kW country crossing rapid charging network and keep up with Porsche’s Mission-E, the Polestar 1 and Volkswagen’s I.D series of electric vehicles.

Ultimately, it’s too early to tell, but whatever the outcome Jaguar should be immensely proud of l-Pace, as the company is about to introduce a world-beating car, let alone an electric one.

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