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Can this crossover finally succeed in taking luxury electric vehicles to the mainstream?
Until now, it's fair to say it's been pretty easy for company drivers and business fleet managers to ignore fully electric cars.
For all the talents of the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and BMW i3, they were only ever going to be niche choices, but this Jaguar I-Pace is about to change all that. As sales of hybrid and electric cars are up 16% so far this year, there's little doubt that momentum is building for electric vehicles in all forms.
In fact, Jaguar claims this I-Pace is perfectly positioned, not just to take advantage of those rising EV sales, but also the boom in crossovers, with its permanent four-wheel drive and slightly higher road stance. The reality is, though, that much of that is down to the architecture of the technology and the I-Pace resembles more of a slightly raised large hatchback.
For business drivers, it's not hard to see the appeal of those zero emissions either. While the 13% BIK band will jump to 16% in 2019-20, there's no doubt that those on three-year renewals will have half an eye on the wallet-boosting 2020-21 rate of just 2% BIK for full EVs (and no, that's not a typo).
That's sure to boost what has been a fairly low fleet uptake of I-Pace orders so far. Although initial corporate sales stand at just 5%, compared with 40 and 20% on the BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf respectively, Jaguar is confident that this will rise once fleet managers have driven the car, given that it's such a new market for the Coventry-based company.
The usual EV concerns are sated somewhat with the fact that the I-Pace's 90kWh battery pack has a 298-mile range when fully charged. It certainly boasts plenty of performance with a 0-60mph time of just 4.5 seconds and a 124mph top speed.
The car will come with three-pin household and multipin charging leads. Jaguar claims a 40-minute, 80% charge time on a 100kw charger, which sounds impressive until you realise that there aren't any 100kw public chargers in the UK at present. Instead, it's more realistic to factor in an 85-minute time for a 50kw charger or 10 hours on a 7kw home wallbox for the same 80% charge.
That electric power does allow you to tailor the I-Pace's on-road manners to suit your driving style, though. You can allow it to slowly creep forward when in gear, like a traditional auto, or remain stationary. Plus, you can adapt the regenerative braking power for low or high mode, which allows a lot of one-pedal motoring (the car braking considerably just by lifting off the throttle pedal).
The car can even run silently or have a more dynamic hum that turns into a growl the faster it goes.
The availability of that immediate punch of acceleration means it's an addictive car to drive quickly, with plenty of grip to help exploit that.
The feeling that you're in a large and tall car never fully escapes you, but the Jaguar does its best to hide its substantial 2.1t weight.
In fairness, the quick steering and the advantages of the four-wheel drive give the I-Pace a good degree of directness on the road and a reasonable level of feel. A good ride quality, especially in comfort mode, does help matters, as does the minimal body roll, although the sheer physics of moving that bulk can't be ignored.
The result is that it lacks that final sharpness distinct to most other Jaguars, but we suspect that this is likely to be the new normal where electric cars are concerned.
Inside, there are two touchscreens in the centre of the dash. There's Jaguar's usual In Control system for the sat-nav, infotainment and also the car's EV menu, and a second screen for the heating and ventilation. Rotary dials are also present to quickly change the temperature settings on the move. Overall, it works well, although the rotary dials have a slight odd function that requires you to lift their outer collar to change the fan speed, which isn't terribly intuitive.
There are some nice touches, such as the fact that the sat-nav can predict how much range you will have left by your destination and divert to a charge point. We also like the small extra trays under the rear seats, the large ten-litre cubby between the two front seats and the six USB points.
The I-Pace scores highly when it comes to practicality. Head and legroom in the rear seats is good, although foot space is tight if the front seats are fully lowered, while there's a decent 656-litre boot that expands to 1,453 litres with the seats down.
Judged as a normal car, the I-Pace can't help but fall short in terms of its handling and also its £58,995 starting price - and that's including the £4,500 UK Government plug-in grant. But this isn't a normal car and, in many ways, this isa more crucial arrival even than BMW's i3 in terms of the first step into all our motoring futures.
You can't overestimate the bravery of a company like Jaguar taking this first step, and, ultimately, company boss Dr Ralf Speth for signing it off. The fact that our future will be available to buy in showrooms from as soon as next month, with a workable mileage range, and all the look and feel of a Jaguar, is very good news indeed.
Jaguar I-Pace S
Residual value tba
Range 298 miles
100% recharge time 12 hoursand 36 minutes (on 7kw)
CO2 (BIK band) 0g/km (13%)
BIK 20/40% a month £137/£274
Boot space 656/1,453 litres
Engine size/power 90kWh
Good range, interior packaging, quality performance