30 Mar 18

DRIVEN: behind the wheel of the new Jaguar I-Pace

When Panasonic Jaguar Racing entered the ABB FIA Formula E Championship back at the start of season three, the marque didn't have a single electric car in its range. Heck, it didn't even have a hybrid. Fast forward just over 18 months, however, and it's possible to find yourself - like we did - sitting behind the wheel of Jaguar's brand new all-electric I-Pace. Here's how it went.

Since the I-Pace concept first debuted at the 2016 Los Anegeles motor show, the car world has waited patiently for the it to break cover in its full production-ready guise for quite some time. Still true to its futuristic concept shape, the I-Pace represents a step change for the brand, with its short bonnet, forward-sitting cabin and cut-off rear. "Something like this had always been in the back of my mind and the electric platform brought it to fruition and reality - I've enjoyed every minute of it," said Ian Callum - Jaguar's Director of Design.

With a 90kWh Lithium-ion battery sitting low, between the car's wheels, the I-Pace will reach 100km/h (62mph) in just 4.8-seconds and - as is the way with electric cars - with zero fuss at all. Lining the I-Pace up between the starting cones, we put it to the test, switching into 'Drive' mode with the press of a button on Jag's new 'flight deck' - for those not up to speed on their car marketing chat, that's where the gear selector sits - which is a series of buttons laid out next to the driver's leg on the centre console.

With 'Drive' mode selected, there's an eerie silence in the cabin, with only the illuminated digital dashboard suggesting the car's on and ready to go - no engine noise, not even a high pitched buzz from the motor - just hefty lurch forward when you plant the accelerator into the carpet. Once at 100km/h, the I-Pace will continue on to a top speed of 200km/h (124mph). "Electric cars are, by nature, quicker to 60mph than most other cars are," explains Callum. "Top speed is always a challenge because of battery conservation but I'm not sure if top speed in most cases of everyday life is that important anymore."

Producing the equivalent of 394BHP, the two electric motors located on each axle give the I-Pace all-wheel-drive capability, in line with its SUV status. 'Pace' - in Jaguar language - is the name given to its SUVs while 'Type' is reserved for the low-lying sports cars, like the racing-spec I-Type II piloted by Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet Jr.

On the move, the I-Pace is both nimble and agile, despite weighing over two tonnes. On a tight, urban-style test course, the I-Pace switches direction well, keeping the body roll to a minimum, considering its lofty ride height. In that department, adjustable air-suspension can be specified above the standard coilover set-up for more control over the car's ride height and roll. With a choice of rims starting from 18-inch all the way to the glitzy 22-inch, expect the look and ride of the I-Pace to differ depending on your choice. On the 22-inch rimmed model we tested, there was a slight rub from the tyres on the body during heavy cornering, so watch out if you're tearing around town. Not that you would, of course.

The I-Pace is a clear example of how Jaguar's efforts in the Formula E championship have helped it along the way from the race track to road car. Taking the technical learnings from a season's worth of testing on the city streets within the Formula E championship, and applying them directly to a road car has proved to be a success as Jaguar's first electric car in the company's history hits the streets later on this year. With prices starting at £58,995, the I-Pace is up against the likes of Tesla's Model S, which first arrived in dealerships in 2012. Asked if the I-Pace is a direct response to Elon Musk's efforts, Callum insists otherwise. "No - we've done this to create an electric Jaguar because that's what we believe is the right thing to do."

With more I-Pace action coming in the shape of the all-new e-Trophy support series starting in season five of the ABB Formula E Championship, expect to see a whole lot more of Jag's all-electric mile-muncher as they go head-to-head on our very own Formula E tracks. It's going to be quite a show.