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Jaguar I-Pace Concept revealed ahead of LA | video


Jaguar has electric-shocked the world by unveiling a new electric-powered performance SUV, the I-Pace.

While the stunningly realised car of the future is described as a concept, and will be one of the stars of this week's LA motor show, Jaguar says it is essentially production ready and will be on sale in 2018.

Ian Callum, the company's design guru, says the I-Pace is "a chance to challenge the status quo" and reflects the biggest shift in car design in 100 years.

He also describes a future in which the majority of vehicles on our roads are electric as "an inevitability", meaning the howling V8 sounds his brand has long been associated with will soon be replaced by silent running. Indeed, he predicts a big shift to EV over the next decade, which Jaguar is clearly banking on.

Built on a unique platform, rather than being an electric version of the F-Pace, the slick-looking SUV has an electric motor on each axle (each one makes 150kW and 350Nm of instantaneous torque) and its batteries under the floor, giving it a centre of gravity that's 120mmm lower than a comparable internal-combustion car.

People who like the look of the F-Pace - and there are many as we've found - are going to love this.

What it has allowed Callum to do is create the kind of cab-forward look normally only seen on much lower-riding super cars. That, combined with futuristic touches and a cool scoop out of the bonnet, makes it a truly sexy looking car, and excitingly Jaguar says it will come to market looking very much as it does now.

People who like the look of the F-Pace - and there are many as we've found - are going to love this.

  • Jaguar I-Pace Concept. Jaguar I-Pace Concept.
  • Jaguar I-Pace Concept. Jaguar I-Pace Concept.
  • Jaguar I-Pace Concept. Jaguar I-Pace Concept.
  • Jaguar I-Pace Concept. Jaguar I-Pace Concept.
  • Jaguar I-Pace Concept. Jaguar I-Pace Concept.
  • Jaguar I-Pace Concept. Jaguar I-Pace Concept.
  • Jaguar I-Pace Concept. Jaguar I-Pace Concept.
  • Jaguar I-Pace Concept. Jaguar I-Pace Concept.
  • Jaguar I-Pace Concept. Jaguar I-Pace Concept.

Inside, Callum has taken advantage of the empty engine bay to move the front seats further forward, which provides more leg room for rear passengers. The cabin is full of sci-fi like touches, with lush screens and swoopy seats, some of which won't make it to production, as well as a vast panoramic roof. 

Callum says they considered making the roof a solar panel, which could be used to power systems like the air conditioning, but the technology isn't quite good enough yet.

"It's a very exciting time, it's been a project with more freedom than anything we've done before and it's allowed us to throw out the design rule book," Callum says.

"We're talking about the biggest change to design in 100 years in terms of packaging and the exterior look. But the interior is still the epitome of British design."

Dr Wolfgang Ziebart, Jaguar's "electrification guru", said the company had a simple goal; developing "the best electric car on the planet". It's a clear statement that Jaguar has become the first major player to take on Tesla, head on.

"I've been working with cars for 35 years, and I've never been involved in such an exciting project as this," Dr Zeibart says.

It's going to be fast, with a zero to 60 (mph, roughly 100km/h) time of around four seconds and all-wheel drive.

"We started with a clean sheet of paper and brought together the very best components, the best design. We developed this system of 36 battery modules, with 12 cells in each. It's a 90 kilowatt-hour system that gives us a range of more than 500km.

"And it's going to be fast, with a zero to 60 (mph, roughly 100km/h) time of around four seconds and all-wheel drive.

"Our ambition was to turn petrol-heads into electro-heads. And we think this I-Pace will do that, because it's not just an EV, it's a Jaguar."

Unfortunately, with Dr Zeibart's accent, the name of the new Jag does sound like someone describing a recent toilet visit. Apparently the car was going to be called E-Pace but there were copyright issues. Surprisingly the fact that BMW already makes an "i" range of EV and hybrid cars wasn't seen as a problem (Jaguar says it's looking at plug-in hybrids as well, but wanted to go the whole hog first).

Being an EV, the I-Pace will be heavier than a similarly sized conventional vehicle, because of all those batteries. While there's no official figure yet, Jaguar's chief engineer Ian Hoban estimates it will be between 250 and 300kg more than a comparable F-Pace.

"But because our car is aluminium, it will still be lighter than any competitor's," Hoban says.

Hoban, like all of the Jag spokespeople, was reluctant to admit that Tesla is actually a competitor, claiming that the I-Pace will be "the first performance SUV of its kind". But this is a lot like Pepsi claiming it doesn't compete with Coke.

Like Tesla, though, Jaguar has opened an online portal for people to pre-order an I-Pace, simply by clicking on a button on its website that says "I WANT ONE".

Hoban was willing to admit that this is just the first of a whole family of EVs that Jaguar will produce, and that the platform it's built on can be adapted to various other body styles. An SUV was the company's choice for its first electric foray because they are simply the most popular style of car on the planet.

Jaguar Australia says it will definitely put the car on sale locally, in the second half of 2018, despite our country's lukewarm reception of EVs in the past, and the government's refusal to offer any kind of incentives for people to buy zero-emission vehicles.

In the rest of the world, an I-Pace is set to cost between 10 and 15 per cent more than a comparable F-Pace, but Jaguar Australia spokesman Tim Krieger says it's too early to say whether that will be the case locally, thanks to "our unique taxation challenges".

"It's very difficult to say what the demand will be like, but we will be monitoring that from today onwards, because customers can register their interest and will then receive news about the car, and those people will be at the front of the queue," he explained.

Krieger said his company was also talking to suppliers about wall-mounted home-charging systems, which he believes most buyers would opt for.

The average commuter, doing 50 to 60km a day, would only need to charge their I-Pace once a week. 

Will the I-Pace have what it takes to topple the Tesla Model X? Tell us what you think in the comments below.