I remark on something that struck me as soon as I saw my first I-Pace, not far short of two years ago: that despite the interior space, high roof and higher-than-saloon driving position, I never really see this caras an SUV. It’s too graceful. Callum takes that, although he’s firm on the car’s status as an SUV. It’s as big as a Porsche Macan and considerably more spacious for people and luggage. Jaguar’s first electric car had to be an SUV, he points out. The market’s as hot for them as ever, and the unique I-Pace ‘skateboard’ platform needed the extra height to accommodate large battery banks beneath the occupants.
But Callum’s happy with all the ‘real Jaguar’ comments that have come his way, pointing out that the revolutionary short nose and cab-forward design, permitted by the lack of any need to accommodate a complex, 350kg rubber-mounted lump under the bonnet, mean the front and rear screen angles can be a lot ‘faster’ than those of other SUVs, and also allow a very long roof, a substitute in a sense for a long bonnet. Callum says he has no regrets about not making the car “deliberately funky” to mark its unusual proportions and twin-motor, four-wheel-drive, 395bhp powertrain, although – thinking aloud – he wonders if they should have done the grille a little differently, to show it comes from a different family. “Perhaps that’s one for the facelift,” he says.
Another I-Pace discovery: silent motorway travel on balmy days, especially with strong off-throttle braking instantly available, makes distances melt. We stop a few times for pictures, chatting a lot and watching the world going by (curiously more awkwardly than us) and noting how amazingly little road noise is generated by the 22in wheels of our late prototype as it cruises somewhat in advance of 70mph. It’s vital that the rest of the car is as refined as the powertrain, says Callum, fretting now and then about a squeak behind the fascia he feels is spoiling our progress. But he believes the air suspension (three levels over a height range of more than 90mm) and the fact that even the 22in wheels wear generous 40-profile tyres are the car’s best tools for killing road noise.
Under the direction of Zap-Map, we stop again for a one-hour shot of 50kW power in a Garforth shopping centre, taking coffee across the road in a totally charming cafe that occupies the former station master’s cottage. This is life for electric car owners, we agree. You may lose time compared with petrol car journeys if you’re foolish or unlucky enough to leave home without a full charge, but you’ll see much more of the wide world than you would have done.
We roll into Whitley at around 6pm, having first expected to be there at least an hour earlier. Callum rarely has 90 minutes to waste, but he’s sanguine about it on this occasion. The I-Pace has proved itself. The comforts, quietness, discreet poke and joy of driving have all been well proven. He’s quietly proud of the car, which patently deserves its long waiting list of buyers. In fact, all seems right with the world – apart from that squeak behind the dashboard. Bright and early tomorrow, says Callum, his best technicians will pulverise it out of existence.