The Future, Today
evo India|July 2018

Tesla is not the only e-game in town! JLR’s first battery electric vehicle, the Jaguar I-Pace is here

Sirish Chandran
IT’S A SUNNY AFTERNOON AT the Algarve circuit in Portimao, Portugal. 4.7km in length, crazy elevation changes that remind you of the Nurburgring and Spa, blind crests over scarily quick corners, a wide and never ending corner leading on to the main straight that I remember trying out the driftability of the M3 on, a few years ago. It’s a fast and challenging circuit in the middle of nowhere connected by tarmac-rally-type roads and forever drenched in glorious sunshine – in consequence a favourite destination for press launches and races series’ that aren’t exclusive to Tilke-designed circuits. Ducati camped out here for the Panigale introduction. It’s a stop on the World Endurance Championship, the GT sportscars, the World Superbikes. It’s a petrolhead’s paradise. And we’re not burning a drop of petrol today. Welcome to the world of electric cars. The speeds are hardly any different from that M3 launch, except there’s no noise, no tyre smoke, just the rush of air, and that too is rather subdued from inside the cabin. Electricity for the circuit comes from the acres of solar farms dotting the hillside. And that electricity has juiced up Jaguar’s first all-electric car, the I-Pace. 

This is the future. Maybe more than a few years away in India while the infrastructure catches up (and electric scooters proliferate and ease the path for cars), but it is inevitable. Electric cars are coming. And now that we’ve gone through four seasons of the Formula E series and devoured YouTube videos of Tesla’s Ludicrous mode smoking supercars on drag strips, an electric car at a race circuit should come as no surprise. Except it is.

But first, wow, JLR have stolen a march over everybody else.

Everybody is talking electric cars!

Tesla, obviously, though they are more in the news these days for problems with Model 3 production and Elon Musk’s rants than anything else. The Volkswagen Group is talking a big, big EV game – the full-electric ID sub-brand headlined by the Pikes Peak record breaker, Audi’s range of E-trons and electrification of other Group brands including Porsche’s Teslabusting Taycan. Mercedes has the EQ full-electric sub-brand on its way. Volvo are ditching diesels and their Polestar performance sub-brand will be full electric. The common thread? These are all plans, all concepts, all on the way. Meanwhile, JLR are already here with their first all-electric vehicle, joining BMW-i as the only Battery Electric Vehicles from a premium manufacturer. Underpinned by an all-new aluminium platform, the JLR has raced ahead of the other Germans – a massive, massive achievement for the plucky British manufacturer who has neither the volumes nor the budgets of its rivals.

The man behind the engineering of the I-Pace is Wolfgang Zeibart, an uber-enthusiastic German with BMW and the biggest names in the auto components business on his resume. He convinced the JLR board to invest many, many, many millions into a brand-new full-electric platform – and that was four years ago when EVs weren’t the hot ticket that they are today (JLR’s parent is nothing if not visionary!). He is also a proper car guy, not an electronics engineer tinkering with an idea for a start-up, and he’s bursting with energy as he talks about handling, driving pleasure, the Britishness of Jaguar and the I-Pace being a performance-SUV.

Err… an SUV?

That’s the first question we ask ourselves. The I-Pace is low, the roofline is the lowest of any SUV I’ve come across and with nothing under the hood (except a small boot, the frunk) the bonnet line is very low. The rear glasshouse is as narrow as sports cars’ and you can hardly see out of it. The I-Pace could be anything – a coupe, a 5-door, a sedan, a sports car, it properly blurs lines – but its ground clearance does qualify it as an SUV and an SUV is what it is classified as; important too because SUVs not only continue to maintain strong sales growth but it allows a premium pricing without raising an eyebrow.

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