Big companies pack big research and development budgets, that’s a given, but when you have a politically charged management chain longer than your CEO’s last quarterly pep talk, autonomy is not always a guarantee. When Jaguar decided to launch an electrically propelled SUV concept prior to the upcoming LA motor show, not many eyebrows should have been raised. European motoring super powers Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Porsche all devised their response to the (slow) realisation that dinosaur based fuel is not infinite in the last couple of years. The difference here is that Jaguar has been able to, and is, putting its relative lack of money where its mouth is in saying their concept is only 18 months away from the road.
The new I-Pace concept is not ground breaking, but it does represent the closest a mainstream manufacturer has come to creating their own bespoke electric car platform. The numbers all look comparative to a Tesla Model X, but with a lower quoted entry price and an increasingly desirable badge, the Jaguar could just slip into ‘they can’t build them fast enough’ territory. Smaller in exterior size than the F-Pace, the electric skateboard platform has allowed Jaguar to extend the wheelbase significantly over the F-Pace, imbuing it with even more interior accommodation. Proportionally the I-Pace shares nothing with any other Jaguar, yet thanks to increasingly strong corporate features it could be nothing but an Ian Callum designed motorcar. The cab forward design, a natural response to the lack of a chunky drivetrain slung in front of the driver, initially sits a little uncomfortably, but when you pick through the details and design choices the design team made, you begin to see the quality of Jaguar design.
It’s quite easy to say how and why all Callum Jaguars are pretty, they all feature on the same basic proportion set. This is usually a long bonnet, sleek glasshouse and cab back stance, but as when applied to the bigger F-Pace, it’s endearing to Callum and his team that it works just as well here. The difference with the I-Pace is the heightened complexity of surfacing and detailing. The usual curved haunches, tucked body sides and tapered rear end are all present, but here they interact with a more technical set of shapes and surfaces segmented with a light blue body line. Although not mentioned in the press release, this may be an attempt of Callum signifying the importance of the chassis lying underneath. Another clue to this ‘duality’ the I-Pace speaks to is the visual separation of the front bonnet and bumpers from the glasshouse, a sleek, and unexpected little detail. The boxier rear is the usual reaction to improving airflow around the rear, but it is interesting to see how they have so severely sloped the rear roofline and wrapped around the rear glass. It helps play with the scale, hiding the true size of the car. Elsewhere, Jaguar’s next generation of lighting graphics are also correct and present.
As with most production close concepts, the interior usually represents a closer interpretation of the future road cars. Here Jaguar has not strayed far from current themes, a move diversifying the tech leaps that will hopefully be implemented around the rest of the Jaguar Land Rover range in the coming years. It is a little disappointing to see a present lack of proper innovation inside, but unlike the German concepts, this has the reality of being on the road in 18 months and couldn’t resultantly be too far from production spec. It also would be nice to see a little more innovation in materials and finishes, again this is a model meant to bridge the strong Jaguar culture into a new century, but looks like a mid spec BMW i3 interior specification. I hope that the colour and trim team will be a little more adventurous in production trim.
For a little while, Jaguar has looked like the underachieving sibling next to its ivy-league Land Rover sibling, and the continued popularity of SUV’s will likely continue that trend, but I think this could be the breakthrough that Jaguar has so badly been wanting. To head into the electric battlefield with a 2 year head start over rivals could be Jaguars radar moment. They have always had the personnel, the drive and the brand, but it was the shrinking medium, which till this point held them back. During his chat with the press, Callum noted that this is Jaguar’s most important car since the E-Type. This is a sentiment I happen to agree with, only this time the cultural ramifications are not of style, but sensibility.