Perhaps depending on your age, you may view Jaguars completely differently to others. For some, XK120s, XK140s, E-Types, D-Types and MKIIs will be amongst the very best that a motorcar can be. Others may see rusting, less-than-cared-for mid-1980s XJ6s and galactic mileage X-Types with air-starved tyres languishing on weed-infested driveways and back alley used car lots, proving that they are nothing to be cherished. Both scenarios are very real, and perhaps equally justified.
So what do we make of the fact that the Coventry Cat’s first EV was also a sports SUV? No-one saw that coming, and no-one, not even the most ardent of critics, could have imagined just how different the I-Pace was going to be. Or how good.
In the same way that it can take you a good 10 minutes to realise that someone is incredibly well-dressed, the design of the I-Pace is something that keeps throwing you surprises. The curvature in those front wings, the chiselled areas of the side sill that are mirrored in the rear lights and roof spoiler. And that front grille, so reminiscent of the Broadspeed XJ that Steed drove in The New Avengers, proves that retro can be contemporary. This is simply Jaguar’s finest piece of design since the original XJ6.
Moving inside, the seismic shift away from cigar-fuelled old boy’s clubs cliches continue with cool metal details, touch screens and modernity, the like of which has never sat behind the fabled “leaper” before. This is a modern car, even after all this time, make no mistake.
And to drive, it defies any SUV categorisation by being sharp, focussed and, as unorthodox for a 4×4 as it may seem, fun. The car deploys its 400PS power through all four wheels to give the level of grip that a cat has climbing your curtains, whilst enjoying a ride quality that Jaguar built a reputation on. At just over 2 tonnes in weight, this is a heavy car, but it never feels it on the road, and during the stormy conditions of our time with it, the I-Pace felt surefooted, cosseting and capable of pretty much anything we could have thrown at it, save for climbing a mountain. And even then, you get the feeling it would have given it a good go if we had asked.
In the luxury EV SUV space race, the I-Pace does come off second best to the main rivals of the Mercedes-Benz EQC, Audi e-Tron Sportback and Tesla Model X, but you won’t call it cramped. Even cosy is insulting, as the rear leg and headroom is fine, albeit entry and exit can be hampered by the tight door apertures.
Range is good and on point at 292 miles, and it will take charge at up to 100kW, with cable storage up front under the heavily-sculpted bonnet.
Despite being newer, the Audi and Mercedes don’t come close to I-Pace in terms of dynamics, and in my opinion, sheer desirability. Be under no doubt, this is a milestone car for Jaguar, and probably its best since the fabled E-Type. It really is that good.