Don’t Bet Against the Audacious, All-Electric Jaguar I-PACE SUV

After a year of astronomical sales, Jaguar is going after the Tesla Model X.

Jaguar I-PACE SUV
Jaguar

The introduction of the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE concept begs the question: Does Jaguar—a storied marque that has most certainly earned the right to be called a marque—matter at all in an electrified world? Does the DNA of the company that produced the most beautiful car ever made (the Jaguar E-Type, old chap)—high-style, exquisite driving performance, equal parts danger and frivolity—carry over to a world consumed by Teslamania and Autonomous Everything?

The short answer: Shrug. Long answer? Don't bet against the boys from Coventry. After years if not decades of zig-zagging brand management and notoriously slipshod craftsmanship, Jag (and Land Rover) were purchased from Ford in 2008 by the family-run Indian conglomerate Tata, which has wisely stepped back and bankrolled a brave and brilliant brand resurgence. With sharp new management, a charismatic new Director of Design (the inestimable Ian Callum), and a new mandate to succeed, Jaguar has circled the wagons and rolled out one big fat hit after another—the halo F-Type, the XE and XF sedans, and the crossover F-PACE, a brilliant lynchpin to the company's crucial North American sales strategy.

Jaguar

But it's all for nothing if Jaguar can't stay relevant in a world expected to be dominated by Tesla and the OEMs feeding from Tesla's idea plate. Quite simply, relevance today means this: if you don't have a green-tech crossover, you're toast. Jaguar is smart enough to comprehend this (not all manufacturers are), and so now we have the I-PACE Concept, an electric performance SUV with sleek, sporty silhouette, aggressive sports car driving dynamics and the versatility of a 5-seat c-segment truckster.

The concept version of the I-PACE, which become a production vehicle for sale in early 2018, was revealed with Jag-like panache at this week's Los Angeles Auto Show. Journalists from around the world donned VR headsets and watched as Callum & Co. walked us through the design.

Jaguar

The I-PACE is powered by a liquid-cooled 90kWh lithium-ion battery pack, and motors on either axle are expected to generate 400-plus horsepower and 700 nm of torque. Crucially, the I-PACE could achieve a very competitive range of 220 miles—right in line with the Tesla Model X, upon which Jag has drawn a big fat bullseye.

But the selling point of the I-PACE can't just be range or utility. According to Callum, he and his team wanted to extract as many opportunities as possible from the electric powertrain.

“If you think about it, electric vehicles offer guys like me a lot of freedom to design the car," Callum says. "It's not an obvious thing, but once you grasp it, you can see a white board for aerodynamics, design and interior space. If you look at this concept, I like to say the revolution is in the profile, not the design language."

Jaguar

That means the change in the mechanics of the car—there's no engine to worry about, the electric drivetrain is actually an attraction, not a burden—allowed for it cab-forward design. The wheelbase is extended, the overhang in the front and rear are curtailed, and the silhouette start to visually accelerate.

This is a Jaguar, so it must be premium in a way that isn't required from a Tesla Model X. Over the past year, Jaguar has experienced astronomical growth in sales (up 60% through the summer). Can this growth can be electrified? Is this the "Tesla killer" touted in breathless headlines this week? Don't bet against it.