Yesterday I visited a local Jaguar dealer (Inchcape, Southampton) to take a look at the new I-PACE in the metal. My reactions were somewhat mixed, so I thought I’d share them.
The I-PACE is a big lump of a car. I’m not a great fan of SUVs, so those who are will most probably disagree with much of what I have to say. Styling is a matter of personal taste, of course, but the design compromises to achieve the road presence of any SUV are substantial and it’s interesting to see how Jaguar has approached the challenges.
First, aerodynamics. The problem is that a car shaped like a brick is unlikely to cut through the air easily. There’s evidence that Jaguar engineers have worked hard to moderate that effect: the grille has a slot at the top that feeds air through the vent in the bonnet, reducing resistance and smoothing the airflow over the roof. It probably helps, but surely it would be easier to lower the bonnet line? Of course not; the chunky styling is de rigeur for an SUV. Have the engineers succeeded? The overall drag coefficient of the I-PACE is 0.29, which compares with a claimed 0.24 for the Tesla Model X. Not too impressive on the face of it.
The other problem is the ratio of interior space to overall size. For such a big car the space in the rear is surprisingly limited. Sitting behind a tall driver I found my knees a touch too close to the front seat for comfort. Then there’s the boot space; yes, access is easy thanks to the high floor, but I’m sure you get more useable space in the average small family hatchback.
At the rear the hatch presents a flat, near-vertical slab of metal to the world. It’s OK, but the release catch is so low down that I had to bend to reach it. There’s an internal release, and probably other ways of opening the hatch, but does it have to be that hard?
The car in the showroom had 22″ wheels. Looking at the car from the side I was reminded ever-so-slightly of an American monster pickup truck; interesting, but a bit sad coming from the company that brought you the E-Type and many other pretty cars. Again I can’t really see the need, and several people commented that such big wheels would probably deliver a hard ride (we didn’t get the chance to find out).
The interior is typically Jaguar; sumptuously appointed, but bordering on brash in some aspects. There seem to be colour screens everywhere and a surprising number of buttons and dials. It makes the interior of a Tesla Model S look positively restrained.
I’m sure the I-PACE will provide some serious competition at last for Tesla. It has the size, the performance and the range to be a serious alternative to the Model X, though in truth I think I prefer the styling of the X.
I came away thinking the I-PACE is probably a winner, but if ever I were fortunate enough to drive one I think I’d feel like a fashion victim.