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Video | The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace Is the Most Important SUV of the Year

I recently had the chance to drive the new 2019 Jaguar I-Pace, which is a fully-electric luxury SUV. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the I-Pace has its sights directly set on the Tesla Model X, which, until now, has pretty much run the table in the "electric luxury SUV" world. But now the I-Pace is here, and it’s a formidable challenger.

Here are the basics: the I-Pace starts around $70,000, which is a pretty good deal compared to the Model X’s base price of $84,000. If you equip an I-Pace to the Model X’s base price, you can pick up a high-end "HSE" model with a lot of features — many more than you’d get in a base-level Model X. Of course, it’s not all about equipment, as with electric vehicles, everyone wants to know about range. There, too, the I-Pace shines: it has a 234-mile range, compared to 237 miles for the entry-level Model X. In other words, the I-Pace offers the same range as the Model X for less money.

Performance, too, is similar: the I-Pace offers a 0-to-60 time of around 4.5 seconds, which is massively quick for any luxury SUV — and right on par with the Model X, which sprints to 60 just a hair slower. The I-Pace makes this quick 0-to-60 run courtesy of some major numbers: it boasts 394 horsepower, which is decently strong, and 512 lb-ft of torque, which is absolutely massive. For comparison, the BMW X5M has 553 lb-ft, just a shade more than the I-Pace — and, like in all electric cars, you feel the I-Pace’s torque the moment you push the throttle.

And so, with that in mind, let’s talk about driving experience. I drove the I-Pace courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover Carlsbad, which is my local Jaguar dealership here in San Diego, and they’re selling them fast: Jaguar Land Rover Carlsbad received their first three I-Pace models and sent me a note to come review one. By the time I was able to actually come in, two days later, just one was left.

I suspect this popularity will continue, at least for awhile, because the I-Pace is simply wonderful, especially to drive. The acceleration is truly impressive, but that’s only half the story. The I-Pace also handles reasonably well, for a crossover, and the ride is nice and supple. It’s not as smooth as other luxury SUVs you could buy for the $85,000 sticker price of the I-Pace I drove, but then, those luxury SUVs are typically massive vehicles that get 14 miles per gallon — Cadillac Escalades and such. The I-Pace is intended to be sporty, and it drives sporty, and I think the kind of people who want to be an early EV adopter will appreciate that sporty driving experience.

What they may not appreciate is the styling. I like how the I-Pace looks, and more importantly I understand why it looks how it does — namely that it has to have the "swept back" appearance to maximize aerodynamics, and, thus, range. But it certainly doesn’t have traditional SUV styling, and I think some people will avoid it for that reason. Even the Model X has a more traditional look than the I-Pace.

The interior is more traditional. The I-Pace is the first Jaguar to switch its interior controls to nearly all screens, which is a big leap for Jag, but it’s not a huge leap in the industry, or even within the Jaguar Land Rover family, as several Land Rover models have already made this switch (as have rivals like the Audi Q8 — with more on the way). Getting behind the wheel of the I-Pace won’t seem especially unorthodox if you’ve spent time in many other modern luxury vehicles. The interior is generally high quality, and I think it’s a step up over Jaguar’s gas-powered F-Pace midsize SUV, which has a disappointing interior considering the SUV’s price point.

As for rear seat space and cargo room, it’s a mixed bag. Cargo volume isn’t as good as rivals, owing to the I-Pace’s battery storage underneath the cargo floor. Fortunately, there’s a second trunk up front, but it’s only big enough for a small overnight bag. Rear seat space, however, is excellent, owing to the car’s long wheelbase, there’s a lot of leg room, and the head room is shockingly good for a car that looks like it has such a low roofline.

In the end, I found the I-Pace to be an excellent vehicle, with some benefits and drawbacks over the Model X. You lose the cool doors, you lose Tesla’s supercharger network, and you don’t get anything close to Tesla’s autopilot system. But by choosing the I-Pace, you get a cool new design from a mainstream brand that likely won’t have Tesla’s supply issues — especially parts supply, which has repeatedly dogged Tesla models when owners get into an accident. You also get similar performance and range numbers for a lower price — and that, alone, is an impressive feat.

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