Could this week’s road test subject be the most significant new car to leave the halls of a British manufacturer since the McLaren F1?

Don’t bet against it. For one thing, it is remarkable that the Jaguar I-Pace – not just a new Jaguar but a new breed of Jaguar, remember – was conceived in a mere four years.

Regardless of our verdict, this is a courageous project from a marque whose total annual sales amount to a fraction of what big-hitting Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz can muster. Despite the greater R&D budgets of its rivals, Jaguar has become the first established luxury car brand to bring its expertise to bear on a zero-emissions product.

The curious paradox is that the I-Pace is simultaneously the most limited and unrestricted Jaguar yet built. On one hand, to fulfil its potential it relies on the scope of a charging infrastructure outside of Jaguar’s direct control, and owners will need to plan activities in a way they simply wouldn’t need to if they owned a petrol-powered car. On the other, this opulently sleek, long-range electric car is claimed to accelerate to 60mph in less than five seconds but is uncommonly spacious within owing to its cleverly packaged powertrain.

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It can also perform software updates ‘over the air’; can wade to a depth that’s typically the preserve of purpose-built off-roaders; is clever enough to save battery charge by only activating air vents for the seats in which passengers are actually sitting; and should, claims Jaguar, set new benchmarks on crossover SUV handling with perfect weight distribution, a low centre of gravity and a focus on feel. Early drives have suggested its four-wheel-drive powertrain also has huge potential off the beaten track, though that is to be followed up on another occasion.

On this one, our aim is to discover whether the I-Pace is good enough for you to put that Tesla Model S order on hold; or maybe even if its versatility and dynamism can convince us to give up hydrocarbons altogether.

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First drives

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Driven this week

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