Jaguar's exceptionally good EV was mere details away from brilliant – guess what the facelift has done…
By Matt Bird / Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Is it fair to say that the Jaguar I-Pace doesn't receive the popular acclaim that it should? This, after all, was Jaguar's first attempt at an electric vehicle (and they nailed the brief), it's won more than 80 global awards and – crucially – beat key rivals to market as well. The Audi e-tron, Mercedes EQC and BMW iX have all followed the I-Pace into the swoopy electric SUV arena, not the other way around.
Yet when the discussion turns to EVs, it seems seldom that Jaguar's ground-breaker comes up. Lacking the fearsome acceleration of the Porsche Taycan, the cute styling of the Honda e, a Tesla's terrific range or any charging tricks beyond the sector's norm, the I-Pace almost exists now as one of the EV old guard, a known entity rather than one of the headline grabbers. Time (and attention) moves fast in the electric world – hence the arrival of an update just two years after launch.
Given the accolades bestowed upon it, the I-Pace facelift is modest: Pivi Pro takes the place of the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, three-phase charging is now possible with an 11kW onboard charger, and there's new driver assistance technology including a ClearSight rear-view digital mirror. This isn't the wholesale overhaul directed at the E-Pace, for example. Because this Jaguar SUV didn't need that level of attention.
Thus the I-Pace remains much the same handsome prospect it always has been; less bulbous than the Mercedes and less generic than the Audi. That trick of appearing both radically different for a Jaguar yet also instantly familiar as one is still a neatly executed compromise. Even though, as is typical for its maker, it has certainly been designed with larger wheels in mind. The first of two test cars (we drove an S with passive coil springs and an HSE on air suspension) rolled on 18-inch rims and enormous rubber doughnut tyres. It's certainly not hard to understand the appeal of optional wheels when presented with a standard car.
That said, who better to tune passive suspension for small wheels and the UK – even with a 2.2-tonne kerbweight to contend with – than Jaguar? The I-Pace is a dream on Warwickshire A- and B-roads, not least because the development mules also out there implied it was a JLR test route. Its combination of familiar Jaguar talent with a very unfamiliar powertrain is no less telling (or as impressive) as it is in the Porsche Taycan – which is saying something. There's suppleness and poise to the I-Pace's road manners, flowing with the tarmac rather than bullying it into submission. And yet only in the odd moment, typically dealing with imperfections at lower speed, does the I-Pace feel anywhere near its enormous kerbweight. It steers with the same clarity, corners with similar neutrality and operates with all the class and finesse of any Jaguar. It just does so with electricity providing the 400hp, not something loud and supercharged.
As in every installation so far, Pivi Pro has transformed the interior experience. Screens are brighter, sharper and more logically laid out, every command responded to with the sort of speed which was entirely alien to the old Touch Pro system. That Pivi Pro also has additional EV features – including local charger cost and predicted range at journey's end – only adds to its appeal as an upgrade. It's a more comprehensive infotainment system that's better laid out and nicer to use – job jobbed.
As for the air suspended HSE, damn near everything that was true about the S is still applicable – only with wheels two inches bigger in diameter. Perhaps there isn't quite the connected road feel of passive springs and dampers, but the advantages – retaining great comfort and agility, while permitting the fitment of bigger wheels – make the air springs feel like £1,120 well spent. Whether or not the standard suspension would feel like such a smart ride-handling compromise with the big wheels isn't clear. But the fact that big-wheeled I-Paces always have air optioned on probably tells the story.
Ultimately, this feels like a very successful update of Jaguar's BEV, primarily because so little of consequence needed to be done. Jaguar didn't provide an opportunity to try out the new charging options, but allowing buyers to now replenish an empty battery at home in two thirds of the time sounds like a marked improvement. We're all a lot more likely to spend eight and half hours at home of an evening than 13.
It's the new infotainment that makes the most noticeable difference though, ensuring that the I-Pace is now as pleasant to use as it is to drive. Of course, only so much can be said about a car in a brief afternoon test drive – particularly a freshly charged electric one – but there are clearly reasons to be enthused. The march of progress may have ensured the Jaguar isn't quite the 'best battery electric vehicle to date' we once proclaimed it to be, even if it's certainly one of the most compelling options. Yet, perhaps more importantly for customers, it's still the best Jaguar on sale. Given the electric revolution promised that's being suggested for Jaguar's future, the I-Pace is at least one good reason to be encouraged by the prospect.
SPECIFICATION | JAGUAR I-PACE HSE
Engine: 2x motors, 90kWh battery pack
Power (hp): 400 (total)
Torque (lb ft): 512 (total)
Top speed: 124mph
Weight: 2,208kg (EU, with driver)
Consumption: 35.4-40.5 kWh/100 miles, 22-25.2kWh/100km (WLTP Combined)
Range: 253-292 miles (WLTP)
Price: £74,340 (as standard, including Governement plug-in car grant. Price as tested £79,190 comprised of Aruba Gold Premium Metallic Paint for £1,535, Black Exterior Pack for £360, Fixed Panoramic roof for £995, Active air suspension for £1,120, Privacy glass for £395, Cabin Air Ionisation with PM2.5 filter for £85, Wireless device charging with phone signal booster for £305.
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