“When I arrived 20 years ago, one of my objectives was turn Jaguar from the old car—dare I say the old man’s car—into something that’s very much part of the 21st century,” Jaguar design chief Ian Callum said. “I think we’ve just about got there, especially with this one.”
Callum was speaking at the US reveal of the I-Pace last week. Looking at this car, it’s hard to disagree with him—the I-Pace is like no Jaguar before it. And not just because of its electric drivetrain.
When Jaguar bosses gave the directive to build an all-electric car, the first in the brand’s history, it was met with an outburst of creativity from designers and engineers. Speaking to Road & Track at the New York International Auto Show, Jaguar design studio boss Wayne Burgess gave us a taste of what the mood was like when work began on the I-Pace
“We enjoy exploring the opportunities that new architectures give us,” Burgess said. “In the case of I-Pace, the minute we removed the engine and transmission, we were like, ‘Hey, we could do a cab-forward design! Wouldn’t it be cool to do that?'”
So that’s exactly what Jaguar did, drawing inspiration from the mid-engine C-X75 supercar concept that debuted back in 2010.
“We never shrink away from an opportunity to do something different,” Burgess said. He added that all the designers implicitly understood the I-Pace would be like no Jaguar before it.
At the I-Pace reveal, Callum also noted the packaging challenges of an electric drivetrain. With the batteries in the floorpan, the taller roofline of an SUV made it easier to provide adequate passenger room.
A lot of the I-Pace’s look is defined by a search for aerodynamic efficiency, which is crucial for an electric vehicle. That’s why it has retractable door handles, a relatively small frontal area (for an SUV), and a rather dramatic Kamm-tail at the rear. Aero also brings us to one of its most intriguing design details: The grille.
The all-wheel drive system is well calibrated. Around this tight circuit I tried jumping on the power way too soon, but the car always found traction with only the slightest hint of slip. Sticky Pirelli P Zero tires no doubt helped here, but the I-Pace seems to manage the indiscriminate application of its huge torque without trouble.
But really, that’s all I can tell you. I only had a few minutes behind the wheel, and mainly, it just made me want more time.
The I-Pace is nothing if not a very ambitious car from Jaguar. The sort of thing you couldn’t imagine the company building ten years ago.
Time will tell if building the I-Pace will pay off for Jaguar, but what’s certain is that the it’s very much a car of the 21st century, as Callum said. It’s definitely no old man’s car.