It’s not so long ago that Jaguar definitively plunged into the SUV tidal wave with the glittering reveal of its brand new F-Pace. The first of its kind from the British brand, this Ian Callum-designed 4×4 has already proven a hit with the public and, along with the F-Type before it, proves that the big cat is more than capable of excelling beyond its familiar hunting ground in the luxury saloon market. Fast forward to the tail end of 2016 and the black cat is roaring again, with a tantalising preview of what will become the first fully electric vehicle in the brand’s 94-year history.
Billed as an EV SUV with sports car performance and five-seater practicality, the all-new I-Pace concept is ready to lead the charge against the Tesla Model X as Europe’s first fully electric premium SUV. And if the preliminary details are anything to go by, then Elon Musk and co should take more than a passing glance over their shoulders.
Any car carrying the Ian Callum stamp instantly gets heads turning and tongues wagging. The F-Type and the F-Pace are just two of his recent triumphs of art on wheels and from our vantage point, the new I-Pace more than lives up to the exemplary standards of its predecessors. For his first pure EV, Callum professes to tearing up the design rulebook, with stunning affects. A sleek and squat design with more in common with the C-X75 supercar than its traditional SUV brethren, the fully electric SUV concept sports the coupe-like roofline favoured my many of today’s crossovers but really makes its mark thanks to some bold design cues front and back.
The menacing gloss black front grille with hexagonal grid pattern is immediately reminiscent of the James Bond-busting C-X75 concept whilst the oversized 23-inch grey ‘Nighthawk’ wheels nestle within the muscular wheel arches which undulate with the beltline. At the rear, meanwhile, the I-Pace concept’s composite spoiler peaks up over the heavily raked windscreen to cut through the air at motorway speeds. A rear diffuser channels air away from under the car and twin rear vents, cleverly crafted to resemble the defunct tailpipes, also help slash the I-Pace’s drag coefficient by funnelling air from the rear wheel arches into the SUVs wake.
Naturally, the I-Pace concepts handsome styling is far from just skin deep. In the cabin, a set of slim-line seats, all finished in leather upholstery, give the feel of a sports car-like driving position. There’s a splash of leather for the interior door panels too, which also feature walnut veneer finishes. A full-length panoramic glass roof, already a familiar F-Pace favourite, extends back from the sweeping angle of the windscreen.
Elsewhere, a 12-inch touchscreen display blends seamlessly into the surface of the configurable virtual instrument cluster, whilst a secondary 5.5-inch panel sits lower down on the centre console. Forward, neutral, park and reverse drive modes are selectable via a series of buttons integrated into two metal struts swooping down from the centre console, a design cue that we are told will be carried over to future Jags.
The absence of a traditional transmission system gave Jaguar’s designers scope to maximise interior storage. A handy 8-litre cubby hole fills the gap otherwise occupied by the transmission tunnel in traditional SUVs whilst storage for phones, keys and other trinkets takes the place freed up by the redundant gear stick. This, combined with the boot and the front luggage compartment under the bonnet, endows the I-Pace concept with near-on 600 litres of stowage space, comfortably outgunning most traditional SUVs in the practicality stakes.
No slouch with the pedal to the metal, the I-Pace concept boasts sports car-rivalling acceleration thanks to its pair of electric motors which combine to generate 395bhp and 515 lb/ft of instant torque. Laying down this amount of power through the all-weather, all-surface electric all-wheel drive system, Jag sources tip the I-Pace to vanquish the 60mph mark from a standing start in around four seconds.
What’s more, we’re told that the all-new EV cat could potentially manage in excess of 220 miles on a single charge; that’s approaching Model X territory. With a 50kW DC fast charging point on hand, the I-Pace’s batteries can be topped up to 80 per cent in 90 minutes, with a full charge taking just over two hours.
Sources at the British marque intimate that a production-ready version of the all-new I-Pace SUV will be revealed late next year. The first wave of deliveries is projected for 2018, with customers already clamouring for their keyboards to pre-order as of today.
Will two years be worth the wait? You bet it will. On this evidence, the Jaguar I-Pace concept will be a true game changer in the EV revolution, combining the inevitability of an electric-powered future with the desirability of the premium SUV. It promises to be a marriage made in heaven.