Driving a Photon Red 2019 Jaguar I-Pace for a week will have you fielding all sorts of questions. What is that thing? How much does it cost? What's it like to drive?
Yet the question that comes up more than any other is the one you're probably wondering, yourself: Is it better than a Tesla?
The I-Pace is Jaguar's first fully electric production vehicle, a crossover that boasts usable interior space and more than 200 miles of driving range. It's a key rival to Tesla's family of electric vehicles, but it's also the first of many new EVs to launch from European automakers over the next few years.
So in order for the I-Pace to succeed, it needs to be more than just a proper Tesla rival. It has to have what it takes to stand tall against the forthcoming Audi E-Tron, Mercedes-Benz EQC and Porsche Taycan.
For starters, the exterior design is clean with a low hood, slick roofline and squared-off rear contributing to a slippery 0.29 drag coefficient -- aerodynamics that help give the I-Pace the longest driving range possible. There's a lot of aero aid going on here: The grille channels air through a hood scoop and over the top of the car, the door handles suck in flush with the body and the air suspension lowers the car by nearly half an inch above 65 miles per hour. Depending on whom you ask on the Roadshow staff, its looks are either funky and attractive or flat-out ugly, proving once again that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The inside is typical Jaguar, too, with a simple layout. Soft leather lines the nicely bolstered yet cushy seats, as well as the door panels and dash. Attractive charcoal ash trim and a suede-like cloth headliner also provide a premium touch. The standard panoramic glass roof also keeps the cabin light and airy with adequate space for adults in both rows of seats. Both front and rear passengers will find ample space to get comfortable, and cargo space is generous, with 25.3 cubic feet available behind the second row, or 51.0 with the seats folded down.
As in other new Jaguar Land Rover products, an InControl Touch Pro Duo system overlooks infotainment. In the I-Pace there's a 10-inch upper touchscreen and 5.5-inch lower screen to control navigation, a great 15-speaker Meridian audio setup, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Disappointingly, response to commands and switching between the numerous menus is laggy.
The safety menu has all the usual suspects you'd expect from a luxury automobile, including automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, rear cross traffic alert and a nifty traffic sign recognition system as standard. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and a 360-degree camera are also included on my First Edition tester seen here.
Obviously, things deviate from standard protocol when it comes to what motivates the all-wheel-drive I-Pace. Two electric motors -- one at the front axle, another at the rear -- together churn out 394 horsepower and 515 pound-feet of torque. Power comes from a 90 kilowatt-hour battery pack mounted flat in the floor, which gives the I-Pace a low center of gravity.
Jaguar quotes a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds, which I have no qualms believing considering how rapidly it gets going off the line. All-wheel-drive power delivery and the 245/50R20 Goodyear Eagle Sport all-season tires have no issue putting the power down, slamming occupants into seatbacks under hard acceleration. Merging onto the expressway, passing slower traffic and demolishing expressway speed limits are all effortless tasks with the I-Pace. The regenerative brakes do take a little getting used to with abrupt initial engagement, but offer good modulation overall.
Driving like you stole it isn't ideal for driving range, which according to the EPA is 240 miles on a single charge. That falls behind the Tesla Model X 100D's 295-mile rating, but slightly betters the 75D's 237-mile range estimate. I manage to use up half a battery charge in just 90 miles, so even getting to 200 miles on a charge would be challenging for my admittedly enthusiastic driving style. There's no doubt a more ginger right foot would eke out more miles, but getting to the EPA range rating seems difficult without busting out some hypermiling tricks.
On the charging front, juicing up a fully depleted battery to 80 percent using a 100-kilowatt DC fast charger takes about 40 minutes, roughly half as quick as an average Tesla when hooked up to a Supercharger. With a 240-volt Level 2 home charger, you're looking at a little more than 10 hours to do the same.
Once you get past the electric powertrain, the I-Pace behaves like a Jaguar. Activating Dynamic mode sharpens throttle response, stiffens the air suspension and ups the steering weight, yielding a willing partner-in-crime to tackle your go-to interchange ramps and back roads. You feel the 4,784-pound curb weight under braking and at turn-in, with the suspension doing a good job coping with the mass and only giving way to a little dive and roll. Clawing through corners exposes fairly high grip limits before the front tires begin to scrub, alerting you to back it down. Steering is weighty and briskly alters the Jag's direction, making it fun to chuck around.
For normal commuting, switching to Comfort simmers down throttle behavior, lightens the steering and programs more give into the suspension, which comes in handy over broken pavement. As advertised, the I-Pace is more comfortable and compliant, which isn't bad for battling through traffic as you run errands. The fat tires transmitting thuds into the cabin over bumps and expansion joints are the only things that disturb the peace inside.
For my I-Pace, I would start with a base model that begins at $70,495, including $995 destination. I'd resist adding any of the exterior styling packages and stick with the standard-issue 18-inch wheels. Inside, I'll throw in heated leather seats, the nice suede-like cloth headliner and heated steering wheel because Midwest winters. I'd also spring for the Drive Pack for adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring system and 360-degree camera. All of that brings the sticker price of my electric Jaguar to $77,360. In comparison, my well-equipped First Edition tester wears an $86,895 price tag.
So is the I-Pace a proper Tesla rival? Definitely. The real-world range could be a bit better to really match something like the Model X, but for folks who want a sharply styled EV that's entertaining to drive and has tons of functionality (and no gimmicks like, you know, falcon doors), the I-Pace is absolutely worth a look.