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Jaguar's pioneering EV is entering its fifth year on sale. How is it holding up?

When the Jaguar I-Pace hit the road in 2018, it was quite the landmark moment.

Despite the greater R&D budgets of its German rivals, Jaguar had become the first established luxury car brand to bring its expertise to bear on a zero-emissions product. It was a convincing one as well, with a very credible range, fast charging and excellent dynamics.

The I-Pace is Jaguar's newest car, and even it is five years old.

Or at least, it should have been a landmark moment – the root of a rejuvenated Jaguar with a range of electric cars. But the cheaper rear-drive model never materialised, and nor did the high-performance version. Then the electric XJ was cancelled and now Jaguar is going in a different direction entirely.

But the standard I-Pace is still here, having received a mild facelift for 2023, and it needs to earn its keep until it passes the baton to an all-new range of supposedly Bentley-rivalling electric Jaguars in 2025. Five years after the I-Pace’s launch, the world of electric cars is a very different one. Can the once-promising Jaguar still keep up?

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DESIGN & STYLING

01 Jaguar i Pace Sport 400 RT 2023 front driving

It is claimed the Jaguar I-Pace takes aesthetic inspiration from the C-X75 concept. You might wonder what an electric family car could possibly have in common with a turbine-powered hybrid hypercar, but similarities do exist. Both feature cab-forward proportions, and both have similar broad, Tarmac-sniffing snouts and a commensurately low, vented bonnet.

The rear of the I-Pace is more of a departure, being tall and squared off for a commendably low drag coefficient of 0.29. Incidentally, it’s Jaguar design director Ian Callum’s least favourite element, although to our eyes lends the car a rakishly robust, super-distinctive and appealing visual character.

Despite what it seems, the signature Jaguar grille doesn’t admit any air and its purpose here is aesthetic only

The I-Pace takes full advantage of its electric architecture. It is exactly a centimetre longer than an Jaguar XE and yet its wheelbase eclipses that of the Jaguar XF. It presents as an SUV but sits conspicuously low to the ground by the standards of such cars. It’s also supercar-wide, at 2139mm, including mirrors.

Five years on, it still looks like nothing else, which is probably why Jaguar hasn’t dramatically facelifted the I-Pace. It’s had a round of technical updates in 2020, and in 2023, the front ‘grille’ became a solid panel.

04 Jaguar i pace sport 400 rt 2023 facelift not a grille 0

Underneath the aluminium bodywork resides an electric powertrain of predictable architecture. A ‘skateboard’ battery pack (423 lithium ion cells, liquid cooled) of 90kWh is spread below the cabin floor and sits entirely within the car’s wheelbase for a claimed 50:50 weight distribution (53:47 as tested).

It drives a lightweight permanent-magnet electric motor on each axle. Each drives through a single-speed epicyclic transmission and open differential (there is brake-based torque vectoring in lieu of a locking diff) for maximum compactness.

At low speeds, the I-Pace is powered by just one of its motors, though both can combine to deliver 394bhp and 512lb ft through all four wheels, and a claimed 0-60mph time of 4.5sec – the latter coming despite a claimed 2133kg kerb weight, which presented as 2236kg on the scales in the case of our test car. We weighed a Genesis GV60 Sport Plus at 2192kg, so the fact that this smaller and newer EV with a smaller battery is only 44kg lighter than the I-Pace shows Jaguar did a good job keeping the weight down.

Range for the I-Pace is quoted at 292 miles, and falls to 255 for the 400 Sport, with its 22in wheels. When it launched, its ability to rapid charge at up to 100kW was quite a standout feature, but five years on, the charging network and the competition have caught up. Now, 150kW is the least we’d expect, and a Genesis GV60 will do 240kW. At launch, AC charging topped out at 7kW, but the 2020 update added 11kW three-phase charging.

Thus far, the decisions have been made for you. That changes when it comes to the suspension, which operates through an encouragingly conventional double-wishbone front and integral-link rear design. As standard, the I-Pace is equipped with a passive steel coil suspension set-up.

Adaptive air suspension (it lowers the car beyond 65mph for a more aerodynamic stance and can raise it at low speeds for greater ground clearance) and adaptive dampers (for an even more driver-configurable drive) are offered as options – and both were fitted to our test car.

 

INTERIOR

07 Jaguar i Pace Sport 400 RT 2023 dashboard

“The best Jaguar cabin in years” was how one tester described the Jaguar I-Pace’s interior, a claim that – for the most part – was entirely warranted in 2018 and still mostly holds up today.

Material selection is key here. Gloss black and metal panelling sit alongside leather-upholstered surfaces, physical controls and touchscreens for a sense of slick modern sophistication.

Those in the rear will notice just how vast the fixed panoramic roof is. It’s a wonderful premium touch, though some may find it eats into head room

In the past few years, Jaguar has really upped its interiors game, so the facelifted F-Pace and XF do have plusher dashboard materials and there are one or two other material low points among the car’s minor switchgear. These low points are few and far between, however. The I-Pace sets standards on perceived quality and material richness that would impress anyone.

The car’s ergonomics are also very good. Optional ‘performance seats’ provide plenty of lateral support, while their 14-way electronic adjustability and memory settings streamline the process of settling in behind the wheel. They are overkill for an SUV, however, and rather firm, so we’d skip them and save £2500. They are standard on the 400 Sport trim, though.

Those in the back reap the benefits of that cab-forward design and lengthy wheelbase; there are executive saloon levels of leg room on offer, while head room isn’t in short supply even with the fixed panoramic roof optioned. The boot, meanwhile, is a useful 656 litres, while under the bonnet there’s an additional 27-litre storage bin. Good luck fitting anything other than a laptop bag in here, though. It’s worth noting that a Tesla Model S offers more, with a 690-litre boot and a 150-litre storage area at its nose.

Multimedia

11 Jaguar i pace sport 400 rt 2023 multimedia 0

In its five years on sale, the I-Pace hasn’t changed a great deal, but thankfully Jaguar has fundamentally uprated the multimedia system. The laggy, unintuitive system that the car launched with was easily the weakest aspect of the I-Pace’s entire cabin.

The newer Pivi Pro system that’s now quite familiar from JLR products looks slightly squeezed into the I-Pace’s smaller screen, but still works well. It’s fairly (but not perfectly) responsive and the menus logically laid out.

Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work wirelessly, and rather than take over the whole show, they integrate neatly with the native interface, for instance showing album art and playback controls on the home screen.

Rich-sounding Meridian sound systems are standard across the board, with an 825W surround sound system available as an option.

 

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

17 Jaguar i Pace Sport 400 RT 2023 alternative tracking performance

When we road tested the Jaguar I-Pace in 2018, we noted that it’s the manner in which it picks up pace from urban speeds that makes it seem special. Of course, five years later, we’re all well accustomed to the way EVs zoom up to everyday speeds and make gaps in traffic so much easier to go for than when you have to wait for a gearbox to make up its mind.

Even so, the I-Pace’s two-way-average 0-60mph time of 4.5sec still marks it out loud and clear as a seriously fast family car, being not far off the Ford Mustang Mach-e GT’s 4.2 sec.

With a 0-60mph time of 4.5sec, drivers can expect a quick getaway in the I-Pace. Except, that is, from UK service stations, where the I-Pace's 100kW will keep them longer than if they'd been in a more modern rival

With our timing gear rigged up, the electric Jaguar clocked a 30-70mph time of just 3.5sec. Admittedly, that’s not quite super-saloon levels of pace, but the fact that the last Mercedes-AMG C63 Black Series was only 0.2sec quicker reinforces just how potent a thing the I-Pace is.

Acceleration off the line is deliciously constant and linear, pushing you back into those firmer performance seats with some force. The only caveat is that there seems to be a brief scrabble for traction at the front end, as the I-Pace’s 2.2-tonne weight shifts backwards.

What’s also impressive about the I-Pace is that despite being one of the first serious modern EVs, it got the regen and braking equation mostly right. We would have liked paddles behind the steering wheel for ultimate control, but the I-Pace lets you choose between a low and a high setting, the latter of which will bring the car to a complete stop. The brake pedal, when you do use it, is progressive and easy to modulate.

Under emergency-stop conditions, with the full extent of the brake pedal’s travel being exercised, the I-Pace will pull to a halt from 70mph in 46.7m on a dry stretch of road. The heavier, more powerful Model S, on the other hand, required 51.7m on a damp track.

RIDE & HANDLING

18 Jaguar i Pace Sport 400 RT 2023 front cornering

It’s no stretch to call the Jaguar I-Pace a milestone in the dynamic development of electric cars. Until it came along, the genre had been hamstrung by its inability to deliver anything offering satisfactory levels of feel, agility or engagement. But where there had been mostly darkness, the I-Pace brought light. Few better it even today.

Jaguar’s electromechanical steering not only possesses pleasing heft but also weights up in a linear fashion. It’s just about quick enough as well to yield an agility unknown to cars this heavy, and so in the I-Pace you flow through direction changes with an economy of movement that comes as a pleasant surprise. Even after driving 2023’s sporting EVs, the tactility of the I-Pace’s steering and the alacrity with which it changes direction remains a thing of wonder

The brake calibration here is conspicuously good, not least in how it lessens the regenerative effect when you roll off the brake pedal and onto the throttle

Of course, weight is the biggest dynamic barrier for electric cars, and yet the Jaguar manages well here too. By electric car standards it’s actually quite trim and of course most of the weight sits low down. On its optional air suspension, even committed cornering is dispatched with impressively little body roll and a neutral balance that will be alien to those familiar with a Tesla Model S.

There is some throttle adjustability, too, and through corners you get the welcome sensation of the car confidently pushing itself along – up to a point, because the stability control can’t be completely defeated and there is ultimately too much power going to the front wheels for any exuberant behaviour. Still, you’ll need a Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo or a Kia EV6 GT to have more fun behind the wheel of a high-riding EV, and neither of those are direct rivals, strictly speaking.

Comfort and isolation

19 Jaguar i pace sport 400 rt 2023 rear cornering

Less delicate is the ride quality. With so much weight and power to contain, and the expectation that a Jaguar is a sporting car, it was almost inevitable the I-Pace would seem firm in most driving scenarios.

In our experience, the I-Pace’s ride, if not styling, benefits quite a bit from a more modest wheel choice. It will always fidget over bigger intrusions and body movements are sometimes dealt with a touch too abruptly for our liking. Driving the Sport 400 on 22in wheels, one tester likened it to a Porsche GT model. It’s never harsh or uncouth, just unrelentingly firm.

It’s also a touch disappointing that the I-Pace isn’t quite as hushed out on the motorway as you might expect an electric vehicle to be, particularly one positioned towards the more expensive end of the market. At a 70mph trot, our sound meter recorded cabin noise at 66dB when we road tested it in 2018 on 20in alloys. That’s 2dB more than the very quiet Audi E-tron (tested before its transformation to Audi Q8 E-tron). On the 22in wheels of the 400 Sport we tried in 2023, road noise is more noticeable still.

Track notes

I pace rt 2018 track notes

The I-Pace’s clever packaging and potent electric performance would have had more of a chance to shine here were it not for an incredibly heavy-handed electronic stability program. Any downwards vertical travel through the many compressions of the Millbrook Hill Route seemed to be particularly good at setting the systems off, which would then result in a complete, though temporary, loss of power.

Past this, however, the I-Pace’s sense of balance and agility are really rather impressive. It will change direction with far more conviction than a Tesla Model S, which can at times feel as though its weight is still travelling one direction long after you’ve turned the wheel. The standard 245-section tyres provide decent, though not brilliant, levels of grip. Some models get 255-section items instead.

 

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

01 Jaguar i Pace Sport 400 RT 2023 lead driving

When the I-Pace launched, its 100kW rapid charging capability far exceeded that of the chargers commonly found on the UK motorway network. Just a few years later, 150kW and 350kW units are the norm, and the I-Pace’s 100kW capability looks rather weedy compared with many rivals. The Audi Q8 E-tron 50, BMW iX 40 and Lexus RZ 450e can all take 150kW, while the Genesis GV60, Electrified GV70, Mercedes EQE SUV and the higher-spec versions of the Audi and BMW can charge faster still. We’ve not done the full rapid charging test on the I-Pace, but from experience, the charging speed doesn’t drop off abnormally quickly. Still, every rival does better these days.

Another area where EVs have moved on since the launch of the I-Pace is energy efficiency. The I-Pace is quite a big SUV with nearly 400bhp, so it’s never going to sip the kWhs like a Fiat 500, but cars like modern Teslas or the Genesis GV60 use less energy than the Jaguar. We managed 2.5mpkWh during a mild week in 2023, which translates to a 211-mile range.

Jaguar quotes efficiency of 2.5-2.8mpkWh, and we managed 2.5, so in this case the WLTP figure is less optimistic than most. It's better than you'll manage in an Audi Q8 E-tron, but still not great.

Jaguar is one of few manufacturers that still let you pick and choose many individual options. That makes the configurator rather more complicated to navigate and prices harder to compare, but it does give you more freedom to order the car as you want it. Prices start at £69,995 for an R‑Dynamic S, which is actually quite well equipped. If you can you resist the lure of the air suspension and performance seats when speccing your I-Pace, it can be fairly decent value, since it’s not much pricier than a similarly optioned but shorter-range Lexus RZ, and cheaper than the BMW iX 40, Audi Q8 E-tron 55, never mind the Mercedes EQE SUV. The slightly slower 50 version of the Audi and the slightly smaller Genesis GV60 could be hard to ignore, though.

And as always with JLR products, the spectre of unreliability looms large. Despite promises of improved quality, its products consistently finish near the bottom of reliability surveys. It’s not something we can usually test during a week-long loan, but it is telling that our test car in 2023 suffered an air suspension fault that made the ride even more unyielding than normal. There was a rattle coming from one of the A-pillars as well.

VERDICT

20 Jaguar i Pace Sport 400 RT 2023 verdict static

With its first all-electric model, Jaguar not only beat wealthier rivals to the punch but also set a high bar for those to come after it.

That’s made amply evident by driving it again five years later. Even though it has only had a few minor updates over the years, it is still competitive, even if it is now far from class leading.

While it was never quite the dynamic masterstroke that some might have hoped for, it will out-handle all of its direct rivals and entertain its driver like few others. At the same time, it pays a significant price with ride quality that is more appropriate for a track-honed sports car than a luxury SUV. Ian Callum’s design hasn’t aged a day, being progressive yet recognisably Jaguar. The performance still holds up too, as does its roomy interior thanks to the fitment of a more modern multimedia system.

Where the I-Pace really shows its age is with its 100kW rapid charging, its lacklustre efficiency and very modest range. They don’t make Jaguar’s EV unrecommendable, but they will make many potential buyers think twice.

With an update of its battery and motor technology, and some minor dynamic fine-tuning – something Audi did with the E-tron – the Jaguar I-Pace could still be a world-class EV and the basis for a great range of cars. But as we know, that is not the path Jaguar has chosen.

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester
As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

Jaguar I-Pace First drives