In the four minutes and 34 seconds that I get behind the wheel of the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace, I could listen to “Moby Dick” (Zeppelin, not Melville), make a bag of popcorn, or charge the electric Jag for about 20 miles.
Ideally, I’d like to do all three. But I get four minutes and 34 seconds to run my hands across its steering wheel and spaghetti around a parking lot in an improvised autocross course.
It’s long enough to marvel at Jaguar’s luxury electric crossover, but not long enough to forget the classic E-Types sitting 100 yards away in the automaker’s U.S. headquarters in Mahwah, New Jersey.
It’s also not long enough to draw any meaningful conclusions about the I-Pace, which goes on sale later this year.
But it’s long enough to know that things will change.
Back to the future
The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace carefully skips thoughtless trendiness in its looks, inside and out.
Jaguar Designer Wayne Burgess notes that the I-Pace still has to safely carry humans—who sit on their bottoms and mostly have protruding appendages—and cargo. It’s a modern interior, but there’s no vodka-bar chic décor or holograms on the dash; the I-Pace is clearly meant for Jag clientele first.
That means a usable back seat, a quiet interior, and leather everywhere. The I-Pace sports a cribbed version of Land Rover’s Touch Pro Duo setup—a 10-inch touchscreen on top and a smaller touchscreen on the bottom for climate controls and vehicle functions. I flick quickly through the menus, but that’s the sheet music, I’m here for the piano.
This Jag will live a clean life, free from gasoline and with straight enough sheet metal to be accepted as a freshman at Brigham Young University. The body was sculpted without Malcolm Sayer’s Coke-bottle shape; its sides are straight to keep air close to the body and wick it away for efficiency.
Jaguar has big ideas for the way the I-Pace drives and cuts a hole through the wind, but employs an anti-Whopper approach for how it’ll take on that task. Namely, very few substitutions are available in the drive menu.
Would you like idle creep? Would you like aggressive regen (up to 0.4 G)? That’s it. No “Sport” or “Ludicrous” settings. Nothing to adjust for the all-wheel-drive system—just let it work.
In that vein, the “shifter” is really just the four standard P, N, D, R buttons. Hardly techno.
I tap “D” because I have four minutes and 34 seconds to find out what that means to the I-Pace.
Before I set out, a friendly I-Pace minder reminds me to toe in to the gray New Jersey parking lot in the office park sea. The Jag builds its speed quickly and convincingly, although the steering stays unobtrusive and light.
The twin 147-kilowatt (197-horsepower) motors on the front and rear axles work in matrimony to deliver 394 hp together, although it’s the 512 pound-feet of torque that’s holy to me. Like other electric cars, the twist is immediate and immense.
As I build speed through the coned course, the I-Pace confidently maneuvers its compact body through the tight esses.
The I-Pace predictably uses MacPherson struts up front with a multi-link rear suspension, but it’s the standard air suspension that balances the prodigious load around corners. There’s no mistaking the I-Pace’s 4,800-pound unladen mass, but hard work and a 50/50-weight distribution have paid off in competent handling.
As I snake through the cones, the I-Pace prefers understeer, like nearly everything else on the road. The all-wheel-drive system neatly spins up the outside rear wheel to pivot the car around and it’s possible to mash out some oversteer in the wagon, although it’s quickly corrected by the stability control.
Gate to gate, I point the I-Pace around and take more aggressive lines with harder throttle to see how quickly the all-wheel-drive system reacts. Sense memory and residence in a mountain state tell me that the I-Pace doesn’t work in the same way that Jag’s Magna-sourced all-wheel-drive system does—the electric car is quicker to find ideal traction.
Dynamically, the I-Pace should be every bit as fun to drive as Jaguar’s portfolio. In reality—for my short jaunt—it couldn’t be further from the rest of them.
There’s no shouting exhaust or thrum from an idling engine. The I-Pace is missing the carefree blat of a V-8 and a long nose. The ride is serene and calm—all four minutes and 34 seconds of it.
It’s immediately apparent that the electric Jaguar is heavier, literally and figuratively; the I-Pace has the weight of a halo car to carry.
First, for now
I couldn’t care less about how quickly I lapped the improvised course, but somehow I topped the leaderboard after my drive.
Although my overall time was leisurely, my route and distance were highly efficient—a testament not to my driving skills but to the I-Pace’s ability to carve increasingly tighter lines over four minutes and 34 seconds.
As the first luxury electric vehicle from a mainstream brand, the Jag won’t be alone for long. Others such as Porsche, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz are building electric cars to compete head-to-head with Jaguar, Tesla, and everyone else. Soon.