As I took off from Los Angeles and headed through the night back to London Heathrow, it became clear that Jaguar Land Rover had bookended what it means to Drive Forward, beginning with the electric Jaguar I-Pace electric car, and ending with the Jaguar XKSS ‘continuation’.

Both mark an important point in the history of the motorcar and each does so in its own unique way. Where some may bemoan the advance of electric power and the slow death of internal combustion, here we see an all-electric car share the headlines with one which is identical to a car from the Fifties.

Let us start with the I-Pace.

The Jaguar I-Pace is a concept for now, but will go on sale in a very similar form in 2018

The Jaguar I-Pace is a concept for now, but will go on sale in a very similar form in 2018

On paper the I-Pace is no more revolutionary than the Tesla Model X, a larger SUV which is also all-electric, has more hi-tech gadgets, and is on sale now, not in 2018. But Tesla is a wildcard in the automotive industry; a technology startup and a self-confessed battery maker rather than a car company, it sits alone as a trendsetter for now, but with a future which is less than clear. But more on that another time.

The I-Pace ticks every box given to a mainstream manufacturer looking to go electric for the very first time. It looks futuristic but remains unmistakably a Jaguar; it has a range of over 200 miles (which I suspect will grow somewhat before it goes on sale in late 2018, given the annual rate of lithium-ion battery development). The I-Pace also has a 0-60mph time of “around four seconds” and the same torque as the F-Type SVR, the fastest Jaguar currently on sale.

In more familiar terms, it has seating for five adults and more space around them thanks to the completely flat floor and short bonnet an electric drivetrain allows. And as well as extra space, putting the heavy batteries in the floor improves handling - another key requirement for the brand, but which the history-less Tesla has little need to address.

The interior of the I-Pace is clean and modern but clearly from a car which is much closer to mass production than its ‘Concept’ suffix lets on. I doubt the production car will look much different when it is revealed in late-2017 and goes on sale in the second half of 2018.

In short, the I-Pace is precisely what an electric Jaguar needed to be. It keeps the house style but injects electricity and all of the benefits that brings; it is much more than the electric F-Pace many were expecting, and all the better for it. And of course, we can expect to see the new car’s platform shared by a range of future electric Jaguars; get ready the I- prefix to spread across its saloon car range in the coming decade. I suspect a Tesla Model 3 rivalling I-XF saloon isn't too far away.

And then we have the XKSS

The second instalment of Jaguar Heritage’s ‘continuation’ programme (the first being a lightweight E-Type), the XKSS has been painstakingly rebuilt using newly-machined parts to create a car from the Fifties, but which is brand new.

Nine XKSS cars destined for the US, where actor Steve McQueen was already hooning about in his, were destroyed in a fire at Jaguar’s Browns Land factory in Coventry, England. Not only were the chassis lost, but so tool were all spare parts and the machines needed to make them.

Half a century on, and those nine cars will now be built. First, Jaguar took three original XKSS cars and scanned them, before consulting the original blueprints to create a brand new car.Every single nut, bolt and rivet is exactly as it should be; the interior leather is correct and so too is the engine, which is the same as used by the Le Mans-racing D-Type, but is also brand new. Only the fuel tank and brake lines have been replaced by safer, modern alternatives.

Jaguar even boasts about how the new XKSS is “difficult to drive”, just like the original. The example I was shown in LA is number zero and will be kept by Jaguar. It will be used as the blueprint for the nine customer cars, each to cost £1m and, as is often the case these days, they are all sold before being built.

Jaguar is keeping tight-lipped on who the lucky nine buyers are, but reassures me that they were chosen carefully based on their current collections and passion for the Jaguar brand. They also agree not to sell their XKSS for at least three years. Although not compulsory, the cars will certainly be seen at various classic car events across the world in the coming months and years; Jaguar has made sure they will be used and displayed, not locked away in a private collection.

You will be able to read more about the new XKSS and the story behind it on my other Tribe, The Gentleman Driver, soon.

So that was the Jaguar Land Rover’s involvement at the LA Auto Show 2016, and really the company’s appearances highlighted what The Drive Forward is all about. This isn’t just a place for hypercar-bothering Teslas or where petrolhead gather mourn the loss of manual gearboxes and internal combustion, but how the motoring landscape is changing.

I hope you’ll agree with me that these changes are hugely exciting.

Because I’ve rambled on for 900 words now, I will be musing more about the LA Auto Show in a second post shortly.

Alistair

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