Six years after we first saw it as a concept car and four and a half years after the first one rolled off the assembly line, it's the Jaguar I-Pace's time. I think the world has finally come around to this thing, a V-8 muscle car trapped inside a silent, leather-lined luxury car with a hatchback.
The I-Pace was an oddball when it first showed at the 2016 LA Auto Show, something in between an SUV and a wagon, an electric and avant garde breakout from one of the most stuffy, wood-and-leather car companies around.
At the time, Jaguar's top cars were its R models, often with all-wheel drive, always with supercharged V-8s with automatics. They were an old-school bunch, all about boosted torque and a thuggish, brutal drive. That was annoying in something like the F-Type R, a car you wanted to be light and nimble.
But that's what's funny about the I-Pace: All of its instant torque from its electric motors makes it feel like a blown V-8 that's always in boost. Translating electric power figures into our usual internal-combustion specs never quite works, but Jag claims 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque. It also weighs 4784 pounds and hits 60 in 4.5 seconds. As I said, the specs don't tell the whole story for the performance. The car uses two electric motors, one front one rear, each making nearly 200 hp, and they draw their juice from a 90-kWh battery pack. Working everything together, the Jag doesn't accelerate so much as GHRROMMMP pin you to your seat as it hurtles down the road.
In a sports car or sports sedan, focusing on acceleration kind of misses the point. In a medium-size crossover with a big back seat and a usable trunk, though, it's hilarious.
The other problem that the I-Pace faced when it was a new new car in 2018, the first mainstream luxury rival to Tesla (beating even the Audi e-tron to market), was that electric cars at that time were thematic. Buying a Tesla was buying into the future. You were getting Autopilot, you were buying an independent car company's product, the creation of a California tech bro upstart. Everything was minimalist. A Jaguar didn't fit that mode. A Jaguar was a wood-grain dashboard. It was a stuffed leather chair. It was neither ascetic nor aesthetic. The vibe was off.
Again, time has caught up to the Jaguar. We are in the Rivian era of EVs. The Hummer EV. These are vehicles you buy not because they are good for the environment in any realistic way. You have to dig up half of Chile to get enough lithium to power a single Rivian. The electric drive is about the experience behind the wheel, and that's where the I-Pace excels. Again, this RAV4-shaped car drives like a Scat Pack Dodge in the best way. Cornering is something that happens between the straights, more about grip than handling. Flat as the car stays even as your neck strains to stay upright, it's not like this is a nimble machine. It is a brute. It is rude. It just doesn't look like it to the rest of the world. To get the performance of this car with an internal combustion engine is to be blaring and booming wherever you go, shooting flames out the exhaust. A Scat Pack Dodge is an antisocial car. The I-Pace, to borrow an old ad slogan, has grace to match its pace and space.
I have never felt so right about a car in driving it, never so immediately attached. And why not? I am a hopeless romantic, a moron. Nothing could validate my view more in the I-Pace's absolutely tragic sales. Its best year, 2019, saw all of 2,594 cars finding owners. In 2021, Jaguar moved 1,409 of these things, per CarSalesDatabase. Tesla sold 19,600 Model Xs in '19 and Ford sold 27,140 Mustang Mach-Es in '21, to give a little context.
Honestly, for years I have been trying to get my hands on a Jaguar I-Pace to see if there is some structural reason for its poor sales. Having finally driven one, I am happy to say that: it's a good car! It drives great.
It isn't cheap, starting at $69,900. (This particular car came out to $73,095, including the $750 Portofino Blue Metallic paint and $1150 destination fee.) It doesn't have a sterling brand reputation to work with, as Americans are reasonably wary of Jaguar reliability. It also doesn't have the most up-to-date electric car tech. A Hyundai Ioniq5 or Kia EV6 will charge faster and go farther on a full battery. This Jaguar offered me all of 246 miles from full (bumped up from 234 with a software update in 2019), down from the usual 300-odd from those models in their long-range trims. You get similar range from just about every other EV builder in 2022. Even a Chevrolet Bolt outpaces the Jag by nearly 20 miles.
Other EVs offer more space up front, as well. While the I-Pace's back seat is roomy, the front faces against a rather gigantic dashboard. The drive selector is backwards, reading D-N-R-P rather than P-R-N-D, the trunk could be bigger, and the frunk is minute. Somehow the car drives big, even though it's not all that large, and it feels somewhat cramped in the front two seats. They are very comfortable, though, and this car loves a long drive.
These are all good reasons not to buy an I-Pace. Just know that none of them have to do with how the car is to drive, to live with. It also looks fantastic, to this day, particularly with its little front duct in the hood. The I-Pace is a gem, just a slightly hidden one.