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A sports car hidden inside SUV clothing...

Up until the last few years I had always considered Jaguar a bit of an old-school, old-England, senior executive car brand. One that you are driven in, rather than drive. I guess this perspective stemmed from my days at The National Bank, working for the late great Sir John Anderson. Jaguars were for the refined man and were a status symbol of luxury, rather than performance.

Jaguar has of course been working hard to change this view, with such stunning vehicles as the F-Pace, F-Type, and their special vehicles. I will admit I have driven none of them. In fact, my first experience of Jaguar is the I-Pace, which Ben Montgomery and the team at JLR were kind enough to lend me for the long weekend. This is my perspective as an outsider experiencing the brand for the first time.

Now in our fleet, we have a Hyundai Kona Electric and a Model 3 standard long range+. I've owned and loved an Audi S4, and still to this day lament selling my Subaru WRX STI Version 6 Type R. Yes I will admit that I am a lover of fast (and sometimes loud) cars. EVs of course are not loud. They are however very very fast.

So after grabbing the keys off Ben, the following day we went to visit family friends in Tauranga.

I was expecting the I-Pace to be a pretty quick car (all EVs are), although dressed up as an SUV I must admit I didn't expect it to be this fast. It really does live up to its namesake. While all elements of the car are refined and elegant, it suddenly turns savage and snaps your head back when you need it (or just for fun). "That hurt my brain" my wife informed me when I decided to mash the accelerator, and it really does. When I took Jock Massey, great-grandson of the late William Massey for a spin I couldn't get the smile off his face

But the acceleration is not the only thing that stands out. In a Hyundai, you know when you're going fast. Likewise in the Model 3 because it's so much closer to the ground. But in the I-Pace you look down and have to double-take. The I-Pace cruises so smoothly and deceptively quickly that you could easily get yourself in trouble without even realising it. Handling wise it is a joy to drive and belies its bulk when you throw it into corners. The team at JLR told me this was a sports car and inwards I scoffed a little, but they are on the money. Rapid acceleration, high-speed cruising, and the handling of a car half the size, it is in a class of its own (as the 62 international awards would attest).

And that is why comparing it to our Kona or Model 3 is not fair - it is not designed to appeal to these segments of the market. With a sticker price over $149,900, you could now buy almost two Model 3's. But if you're in the market for a Jag you wouldn't. And if you're in the market for a Jag, or a high-end BMW or Audi, then you should definitely consider the I-Pace.

Charging at 99kW at the Bombay Hypercharger

So as an experienced EV owner and driver what did I think of the I-Pace purely from this perspective? Here are some of the main features I loved and areas I think need some focus:

  • Drive: Deceptively quick and handles like a car half it's size. While all EVs are fast, this is next level and it will literally snap your head back. A sports car feel in an SUV body and a true drivers car. Want to pass? It's completed in a heartbeat - just be careful you don't drive up the bum of the car in front when you pull out. I drove the speed limit on rural roads with a bar of chocolate balanced on top of a dozen eggs and it was only when I got home I realised it hadn't moved (and the eggs were in one piece!).

  • Design. Driving in our Kona I will admit it's not a head-turner. While the front grille gets a few comments, you expect most traditional Kona drivers to be much greyer than I am. In the Model 3, it is much much different - this is a car that young people aspire to own and it really stands out. The I-Pace, while beautifully designed doesn't scream electric which is actually a negative in my view because, well OK, I want to virtue signal to everyone I'm driving an electric car. Many however would quite rightly see this as a plus.

  • Interior. The I-Pace cockpit is a lovely place to live and there is so much room for everyone. Cruising in this vehicle is a joy and long distances just melt away. Jumping from a Model 3 to the I-Pace is not recommended though - where one takes minimalism to a new level the I-Pace has three separate screens, lots of buttons (like a traditional Jag) and one screen is split into 3 (so 5 in total). Like anything though, everything falls into place easily, and someone transitioning from a petrol/diesel Jag to an I-Pace will feel completely at home.

  • Battery range and size. The range on the I-Pace at ~380kms real-world is more than enough. We drove to Tauranga, out to the beach and back to Matamata with a couple of test drives thrown in. One issue, however, is battery size for that range - it is a 90kW battery so it will take time to fill it. The Model 3 has a similar range but its battery is only 50kW. What this means is you can charge the Model 3 much faster. The reason for the shorter range for a much bigger battery is the weight of the car. While the Tesla is 1,687kg unladen (EU), the Jag is 2,208. So you have to get a fast home charger (at least 7.4kW, 11kW if you're lucky to have 3-phase). From empty, you can charge the I-Pace in just over 9 hours and it can charge at 104kW on a hyper-charger. JLR is focused on making vehicles lighter and this will have a massive positive impact on their EV range.

  • Infotainment. OK so in my view this is an area that needs a little focus. While there are a vast number of options, and unlike a Model 3 you get Apple Carplay, it was a little laggy. Now for context, I am a tech nerd who picks things up really quickly and has little patience for even the slightest amount of lag so if that's not you, I'm sure it will be fine. I do note that the latest models have had a refresh so this may now be a thing of the past.

  • Space: So much space. The back seating is outstanding, and there is heaps of room upfront. Plenty of room for luggage with more than 500L of boot space - enough for long trips or 4 sets of clubs.

Jaguar has always been an aspirational brand in my opinion, and the I-Pace continues this tradition. It has however reframed my mental image of what a Jag represents. I now see it as the embodiment of the animal namesake it was built upon. Sleek and refined on the outside, but responsive, fast and a drivers car when you choose. I didn't think I would love this car as much as I did, but I reluctantly handed Ben back the keys.

Thanks to the team at Giltrap and JLR for the opportunity to drive the I-Pace.

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