2018 Jaguar I-Pace drive

2018 Jaguar I-Pace drive
2018 Jaguar I-Pace drive

It runs! We get a shot in Jaguar’s stunning electric ‘super-SUV’ concept

Before Jaguar packed its I-Pace concept up for Geneva, they allowed a select group of hacks to have a go in a running prototype of this amazing looking machine –arguably the most important new Jaguar for half a century.

The real I-Pace will go on sale sometime in 2018. “We’re about halfway through the development work of the production car,” says Dave Shaw, Jaguar’s vehicle engineering manager. “We’re on time and on track to deliver against our original promises.”

The I-Pace’s headline figures make impressive reading: 395bhp, 516lb ft of electric power and torque, 0-62mph in about four seconds, and more than 300 miles of range from a 90kWh lithium-ion drive battery than can be charged to 80 per cent of maximum capacity in 90 minutes.

The car we’re driving today only has one electric motor rather than the one per axle it will get when it goes into production, and it’s limited to 50mph. But there’s no feeling of being short-changed by the look of this vibrantly painted prototype. In common parlance, it’s gobsmacking.

It’s insured for £2 million, so we’re asked to remove our shoes and sit on a polystyrene pad so as not to mark the leather. The door is heavy – “whatever you do, don’t slam it” – and the handle is fiddly. By SUV standards, the driving position is low and the centre console is high, but the cabin feels both light and airy and snug at the same time.

The curving dashboard encircle has an LCD instrument screen straight ahead and two infotainment screens – one big, one small – in that cantilevered centre stack. The car’s early prototype status means that only one of the screens is working, but even that is only displaying flashing lines of computer code. Still, you get the sense that the system will do the job when it’s productionised.

Perhaps inspired by some of the German competition, the I-Pace makes more of an event out of its ventilation controls, which resemble oversized watch bezels. Their decorative impact is ramped up by the relative sparseness of the rest of the cabin in terms of switchgear and fittings. Having said that, there’s a fair bit of chrome about on the steering wheel and column stalks. That could be an indicator of more effort being made on perceived quality.

Forward vision is excellent thanks to the low dash. The feeling is of sitting very close to the front wheels. We’re not allowed in the back, but Jaguar tells us that the cab-forward layout frees up luxury-saloon amounts of rear passenger space plus a 530-litre boot.

Like most EVs, the I-Pace only needs a light nudge of accelerator to set off at a decent lick. Its urban acceleration puts you in mind of a one-tonne supermini’s easy flexibility. We’re not told how much the car weighs, but you’d expect it to be a lot less than a Tesla Model X. With the second motor fitted, 0-60mph in four seconds is entirely believable, if not a bit of an undersell.

Concept cars always ride like supermarket trolleys, and this one is no exception. Even with more sorted suspension it would probably struggle on its 23-inch alloy ‘show wheels’. The feel of the steering and brakes indicates that the tuning teams haven’t got to this stage of the car’s development yet, but given that it uses the same driver-pleasing double-wishbone and integral link suspension setup as the XE, XF and F-Pace, expectations for the finished car are high.

Do speed cameras really save lives?

Neil Thorpe, Newcastle University and Lee Fawcett, Newcastle UniversitySpeed cameras have been the focus of motorists’ anger and frustration

Buying used: Subaru Impreza WRX

How to navigate the multitude of models that make up the 2000-2007 Impreza WRXIf you like ample choice to pick from when buying a used performance

How to handle smart motorways

Here’s what you need to know about ‘all lane running’ motorwaysAnyone who has spent time on the M25 or any other motorway

Buying used: Volvo 850 R

Take BTCC heritage, add a rare manual-plus-LSD combo, and multiply by today's classic car market for this £20k nineties estate...Volvo