On the ground floor of a dim multi-storey car park somewhere in East London sits what might be the most daring and important new Jaguar there has been in more than five decades.
Glowing in a coat of ‘Photon Red’ paint so vibrant you’d swear it was luminescent – and defying your every attempt at classification but for reasons that only invite your eyes to linger – the I-Pace looks bold and exciting even here amongst the striplight yellow and concrete grey. It’s part-supercar, part utility car; somehow all-Jaguar and yet not really like any Jaguar there has ever been. By the standards of the most far-fetched show cars, it’s stunning. Except here and now, away from the motor show stand where thousands have already admired it, the I-Pace is clearly not fantasy; it looks ready to be driven. And today, it will be.
Today will be one of only a handful of occasions that the I-Pace concept will ever be driven – and, sadly, it won’t be driven widely or quickly, or in anything like the fashion that we’d like. But driven it will be. Because when Jaguar invites you to experience a car as potentially transformative as this first-hand and at such an early stage, you grab the opportunity with both hands and learn what you can.
There are only a handful of I-Pace prototypes in existence, and this very one will be whisked off towards the bright lights of the Geneva motor show when we’re done. The car’s insured for £2 million – and that’s probably a conservative estimate of its true value to Jaguar. So you drive it respectfully, with a polystyrene pad under your backside so your jeans don’t mark the leather and your shoes left on the pavement so you don’t get the carpets muddy. But sure, they say – you can drive it. And so today, the story of what the I-Pace might mean for its maker – and what it might do – can hit another gear.