Shaw’s evidently so confident of achieving those targets because his engineers were involved in the I-Pace’s design from its embryonic stages. The I-Pace, as anyone inside of Jaguar will tell you, was that treasured rarity among so-called new cars: a genuine clean-sheet design unconstrained by segment norms or predecessors or the design compromises imposed by a normal combustion engine and driveline. It could have been the wildest designer’s flight of fancy any motor show ever saw – but it isn’t.
“As a company we realised about five years ago,” says Shaw, “that it saves us all a lot of pain further down the line if we all sit around a table early on to decide what’s the best we can do with what we ‘ve got. Otherwise the designers come up with a car that aesthetically meets everything they want it to do, only to hand over to the engineers who have to say ‘yeah… but actually, that bit can’t, that bit can’t and this bit won’t.’ This way we’re all in it together and we all move faster that way.”
So the I-Pace really isn’t just another show car, as Matt Beaven explains. “Design-wise, we were working on the production version of the I-Pace at the same time as the concept,” he says. “We were keen not to overpromise; that the production version shouldn’t let you down. It will end up being very similar.”
“This was a huge challenge for us,” Beaven goes on. “The I-Pace had to be recognisably a Jaguar while starting in a totally blank space. We knew from the off that we weren’t interested in the kind of electric car sub-brand that other car-makers have introduced. This had to be an authentic Jaguar, and communicate Jaguar’s traditional values through entirely new proportions.”
So where do you start designing a car like this – or even just when taking it in? It’s hard to know what to make of the I-Pace away from the pedestal motor show glare and in such a singularly untheatrical setting. Those short overhangs, aerodynamic-looking silhouette and cabin-forwards profile owe more to supercar design type than SUV design convention – so the I-Pace actually looks more like the C-X75 than it does an F-Pace. The F-Type sports car was an influence, too. “The car’s short front haunches and elongated rear ones are like an F-Type in mirror-image,” says Beaven. Sounds like classic car-designer double-speak – but if you stand far enough back and take in the whole of the car’s shape, you can see what he means. Ultimately, while you can’t quite decide if it’s a hatchback or a sports car or some new sort of SUV you’re looking at, you can’t help but wonder if knowing really matters. The I-Pace is something new, and nothing more or less than the very best EV that Jaguar can imagine right now.
We’re shoeless and ready to slide onboard at last. Heavy door, fiddly handle, “whatever you do, don’t slam it.” Yup, this is a concept car alright – but the driving position and the cabin layout will be reliable guides of what to expect from the production version. You sit low by SUV standards, at a similar height as you might in an F-Pace, but in a cockpit that’s more sparse, airy and spacious-feeling. A high centre console makes you feel snug on the one hand, but the controls and instruments are at a lower level than you expect to find them in front of you. Maybe this is an SUV after all.