But for the rest of us rubes, there’s are few undeniable thrills. This quiet beast provides astonishingly brisk acceleration (4.5 seconds to 60 mph), a fierce 400 horsepower, and stuck-to-your seat 512 pound-feet of immediately available torque.
For these reasons and more the I-Pace, starting at a retail $69,500, is a significant achievement for Jaguar. It’s also the industry’s first legitimate run at Tesla’s lock on a premium, full-size performance EV—a lock it has held since the Model S debuted six years ago. It’s also worth processing one other fact: This milestone doesn’t come from one of familiar tech giants like Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus. It comes courtesy of the once struggling but now resurgent Brits. Jaguar! Of all brands! Every other auto maker, if they even have a long-range EV in the works, is at least a year behind.
While established carmakers can’t just cough up premium EVs with the flick of a switch (the battery and motor technology has to be fully baked and built to the standards of the companies that make them) the I-Pace is the completely baked real deal. Built in Austria by renowned carmaker partner Magna Steyr, it boasts an impressive powertrain. It uses a 90 kWh lithium-ion battery pack manufactured in partnership with LG Chem. First off, safety. The pack is crash-protected via a robust cage that minimizes the risk of puncture and fire in an accident. Next up, configuration. It has 36 modules containing 432 pouch cells, as opposed to prismatic or the cylindric battery cells Tesla favors. “Pouches are the most energy dense configuration and the most efficient for cooling,” said Simon Patel, I-Pace’s senior powertrain manager. “It’s also the most up-to-date cell chemistry on the market, and the best option for balancing both range and high-speed performance.”
That became evident during my drive on the track, where the cars—kept flat by their suspension and ultra-stiff chassis and nudged through corners via the dual motors’ precise torque vectoring—had endured repeated thrashing without losing their responsiveness or quickness during the day’s test. Under normal road conditions, the car similarly never felt lacking in power even after several hundred miles on the road. In either context, the battery was always ready to deliver full power. Part of this readiness can be attributed to the car’s heat management system, which persistently keeps the batteries at optimal performance temperatures. According to Patel, there are two liquid cooling systems, one for the drivetrain and one for the battery, including a heat exchanger that, on colder days, allows for heat from the systems to be directed into the cabin, so electricity isn’t wasted on passenger heating.
The dual electric motors, designed in-house but built by a third party, were another challenge for engineers. Jaguar wanted to keep the powertrain compact and power-dense. Its permanent-magnet motors, as opposed to the induction motors popular with other manufacturers are more expensive because of the cobalt used in the magnets, Patel explained. But the powerful magnets help minimize the motor size requirements. This, along with equally compact transmission and differentials, improves their flexibility in terms of placement and frees up space for designers.
The key difference, by the way: AC induction motors don’t have their own magnets, so they use some of the battery power to induce the magnetic currents necessary for power generation in electric motors. But permanent-magnet motors don’t have to do that, so there’s no range penalty as with induction motors. That said, induction motors are better for extreme performance—hence the Tesla Model S P90D’s ability to muster sub-three-second 0-60 times and highway cruise speeds of 155 mph. The I-Pace’s somewhat more modest 124 mph top speed and 4.5 second 0-60 time is still no slouch compared to similar crossovers.
Another advantage of the compact powertrain: a lower center of gravity. The driveshaft goes through the middle of the motor and the center of the transmission instead of being offset and attached via reduction gears. This concentric design allows the components to sit lower. Coupled with an equally low-slung battery pack, sitting beneath the passenger compartment, the car has a comfortably low center-of-gravity, allowing it to stay flat and stable even in hard cornering.