The I-Pace was a "clean sheet of paper for us" says Matthew Beaven, chief exterior designer of advanced design at Jaguar.
"We wanted to make an authentic car — not design electric," says Beaven.
Removal of the engine from the front enabled the driver to be moved forward; in fact the whole car has a cab forward design about it.
We say car because it looks like it is the size of a large family hatchback, but Jaguar is adamant it is an SUV, with Beaven explaining to us at the international launch in Portugal there are certain rules that define what makes a vehicle an SUV, including ground clearance, distance between the wheels and so on. We could debate it but really the I-Pace has created a category all of its own so we would just be being picky.
The inclusion of 432 high energy density lithium-ion pouch cells beneath the floor gave the design and engineering teams more freedom, with Beaven saying that the battery pouches could be moved around "like Lego".
At either end of the battery storage sit two synchronous permanent magnet electric motors, one on each axle, which provide four-wheel drive but without the traditional need for a propshaft, again something which improved packaging.
In total the motors provide 294kW and 696Nm of torque, but these figures do not tell the whole story. Typical of an electric vehicle, that torque is available instantly. Driving on the roads of Portugal, it was essential to keep an eye on the speedo because there is no engine noise (save for a bit of noise-generation through the speakers).
Put your foot down and in spite of the weight (it weighs more than 2,133kg) the nose lifts up so dramatically that you wonder if you should have dragster wheels fitted on the back. The I-Pace launches with a sports car feel, hitting 100km/h in 4.8 seconds and going on to a top speed of 200km/h. It seems relentless in its power delivery, in part because it has no gearbox, no change in rev noise, it just keeps going and going.
And we have no doubt it will hit 200km/h because we hit 197km/h on the Portimao racetrack. Yes, we took an electric SUV to the track where it proved that it has all the Jaguar DNA you would expect in one of the brand’s sports cars.
Granted, things did get a little squirrelly under very hard braking and late turning but with that much weight it’s no surprise, but it gathers everything up, gives you complete control and you lunge through the apex to chase the next corner.