JOHANNESBURG - Electric cars are all the rage on Youtube right now. From a stripped-out Tesla baiting unsuspecting muscle cars on American streets, to endless sprint races between all sorts of electrified vehicles and their petrol (or diesel) powered competitors on British drag strips. I love watching these electric versus combustion battles as it’s a genuine eye-opener as to how quickly the electric car has been developed into a proper alternative to mainstream vehicles - even performance tuned models like the maniacal supercharged Hellcat over in the USA.
This brings me to the new i-Pace, which Jaguar launched in South Africa earlier this week; a vehicle that blends respectable off-road ability with lightning quick responses - and, best of all, it has no ‘engine’.
Ok, it has electric motors, two of them, one of each axle, providing enough shove in the gut to leave even the finest of Ms, AMGs and Porkers for dead from a standing start at the traffic lights.
Designed from the outset as an electric vehicle (EV), the i-PACE offers an aero-efficient design and interior space for five adults and luggage, but thanks to all-wheel drive performance from its twin Jaguar-designed motors with a combined 294kW and 696Nm, it can accelerate from a standstill to 100km/* in just 4.8 seconds. A 90kWh Lithium-ion battery delivers up to 470km range too, which means the ‘range anxiety’ associated with electric cars actually doesn’t exist with this car at all.
FUEL UP AT HOME
Jaguar spokesmen pushed the argument that your home will become your ‘petrol’ station if you buy an i-PACE, as you’ll always have enough power in reserve in the car’s batteries for the average daily commute. So, if you travel approximately 60km a day to the office and back, you actually don’t need to charge the car every day. But, like the iPhone or Android device in your pocket, Jaguar believe you will always keep your battery ‘on charge’ when parked at home (or at the office if your company provides the charging facility). It will take some time to get used to the idea that you won’t have to stop at the petrol station anymore, but once you’ve wrapped your head around the idea that ‘fuel’ is readily available at home, you’ll soon find you’re making a habit of keeping the car’s battery topped up, they say.
NUMEROUS CHARGING OPTIONS
Every i-PACE comes standard with an ‘occasional use’ charging cable compatible with regular household (three-pin) sockets. This method will achieve a 0-100% charge in around 24 hours. An optional 7.4kW wall box home charger, with installations priced from R25 000, will achieve the same result in around 12 hours, which could be ideal for overnight charging depending on your commute hours.
Jaguar say rapid public-charging times will depend on respective charger capacities, but the most prevalent (in South Africa) 60kW types will charge an i-PACE from 0-80% in a maximum 72 minutes and add 100km worth of range in 20 minutes. The i-PACE is also capable of accepting a charge capacity up to 100kW, which would enable 0-80% charges in under 40 minutes.
Because the battery pack fitted to the i-PACE is placed centrally between the two axles, and as low down as possible with a seal between the housing and the underfloor, it boasts an unlikely low centre of gravity. Placing its gizzards as low to the ground as possible has given the car an uncanny ability to change direction. Torque vectoring all-wheel-drive helps in making the car turn sharper, and the massive amount of torque at your disposal is easily accessible on most driving surfaces. Even on the dirt road sections that we negotiated in the Magaliesburg region, the car put down power without fuss and without scrabbling for grip.
Double wishbone front and an Integral Link rear axle with (optional) air suspension and configurable Adaptive Dynamics proved effective at soaking up the bumps, and while you do feel the weight of the car on rebound when travelling along undulating surfaces, it’s not disconcerting in the hands.
The key thing about the car is that you simply stick it in Drive and go because it feels like a normal, albeit very fast and responsive, car to pilot. In Dynamic mode (there’s a Comfort and ECO setting too) you’ll actually find yourself arriving at bends and corners far too quickly if you hang on to the accelerator pedal for only a few seconds longer than you should. If you buy one, take some time to get used to the accelerator’s sensitivity in the different modes as well as the electric motors’ regenerative capability (there are two modes here) before attempting any mountain passes.
WORTHY ALTERNATIVE TO COMBUSTION CARS
There’s no arguing that the i-PACE is not cheap, but it’s not designed to be a cheap car. It’s packed with more technology than NASA used to go the moon in ‘69, and it’s brimming with many, many, many luxury features. Buy a Range Rover with this level of grunt and you’ll easily spend much more cash, and let’s not forget that it can cost up to three times more to fill up a supercharged V8 than it does to ‘fill up’ an i-PACE. The vehicle is available in S, SE and HSE derivatives alongside a First Edition and you can order one now through your local Jaguar dealership. Oh, and you get an eight-year/160 000km battery warranty across the range.