It’s not just the looks, or all the techy extras, the premium cabin or the huge sums of money that have been invested in it.
The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace is first and foremost a driver’s car; whiplash acceleration, great driving dynamics, all-round accomplishment and a real sense of excitement.
All of these combine to make the I-Pace a worthy winner of the 2019 World Car of the Year Award.
You may not get the guttural snarl of a powerful internal combustion sports engine, but you get pretty much everything else that you’d want in a car including 400PS sports car performance, great cornering, zero emissions, lower cost motoring, a genuinely long range and a real sense that you’re not contributing to dirty air harmful to health.
In development, Jaguar’s designers and engineers set out to create the finest luxury premium SUV around. They undoubtedly succeeded.
Twelve months on, there is of course now fierce competition snapping at their heels – the Audi e-tron and Tesla Model X come to mind, and Mercedes’ new all-electric SUV, the EQC, is about to land.
But for now, the I-Pace, is for me the car to watch. That’s why it was a treat to try it out this week on Northern Ireland’s roads: motorway, urban streets and twisty country b-roads.
The experience is genuinely impressive. First off, it looks the part, with an engaging, cab-forward profile, muscular haunches, eye-catching creases and short overhangs (although you’ll either love or loathe the fancy door handles).
It’s not a large vehicle, think big crossover SUV rather than hulking 4x4, but the interior is surprisingly spacious. Premium materials abound, and the dash is clean, smooth and sophisticated.
From the off, power is delivered instantly thanks to 696Nm of torque. Because it’s electric, there are no gear changes, just a smooth upwards power curve. 0-60 in 4.5 seconds.
Thanks to its electric powertrain – it’s a state-of-the-art 90kWh lithium-ion pouch cell battery – the car is heavy; 2.2 tonnes to be precise. (The I-Pace comes with an 8-year, 100,000 battery warranty, by the way).
But because the batteries are low slung, and the firm suspension is a treat, the I-Pace has a remarkably low centre of gravity, giving it solid road holding, cornering and body control.
Down some B-roads near Lisburn, it twisted, turned and hugged the road with ease despite its weight.
(It’s an accomplished motorway cruiser too, eating up the M1 for breakfast – in fact the silent cabin means you need to pay extra attention to your speed.)
The low-slung batteries have another advantage: lying flat in the powertrain means the cabin is spacious even for a trio of six-footers in the rear. Boot space is 656 litre opening to 1,453 litres with the rear bench folded. That’s similar to an Audi Q5.
Other figures are equally impressive, particularly when it comes to range. The I-Pace boasts somewhere between 290 and 265 miles range, although 240 is probably more realistic in real-world driving, as evidenced when driven in NI this week.
That’s still impressive for a car of this size and weight. Even more so, however, is that you can reach 80% charge in around 40 minutes with one of the (increasingly-popular) rapid chargers.
This means you could drive to Dublin, stop off for coffee/lunch and a recharge at a 50kW DC rapid charger – the kind found at most public charging stations - and reach Cork city with plenty to spare for a drive around the county.
If you’re charging from home using 7kw wallbox, it will take much longer, and in fact a full 100% charge will take around 12 hours, although you’ll reach 80% much quicker than that.
There is, of course, the latest in technology to be found on board. The Touch Pro Duo infotainment system comprises of a 10” Touchscreen nicely integrated into the dashboard.
4G Wi-Fi capability is standard and many car functions can be controlled via smartphone app.
The car comes in three models: S, SE and HSE. The S model costs from £60,995 on the road including government plug-in grant, and comes very well equipped including 18" 15 spoke; alloys, 8-way semi-powered Luxtec front sport seats, Park Pack (360⁰ Parking Aid, Rear Traffic Monitor, Clear Exit Monitor and Park Assist) sat nav, secure tracker and a Smartphone Pack.
The SE model costs from £66,495 and gets advanced safety features and enhanced tech and styling. The Drive pack includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, High-speed Emergency Braking and Blind Spot Assist.
The range-topping HSE model costs from £71,495 and gets a long list of extras including 20-inch alloys, and 18-way heated and cooled Windsor leather electric memory front sport seats with heated rear seats.