The production version of the I-Pace is remarkably close to the concept. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
The production version of the I-Pace is remarkably close to the concept. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

Competitive advertising is not allowed in SA. It’s a pity really because it can be such fun. Just think back to the famous Chapman’s Peak ad war between BMW, Mercedes and Land Rover.

In SA no car company would ever think of displaying a rival car at the launch of its latest model, although some do like to spend ages explaining spec-for-spec differences, usually in a poor attempt to justify the higher price of their latest vehicle.

Then there is Jaguar. At the online unveiling of its electric I-Pace, the presenter promised we would see a 0-100-0km/h race between the new Jag and the brand’s Formula E race car. That could be interesting.

Then Jaguar showed its fun, but competitive side in a cheeky move. On the track beside the I-Pace was not another Jaguar, but a Tesla Model X P100D. Clever. Obviously the I-Pace won the sprint, but Jag fired a rather confident electric rocket at what it sees as a key rival, Tesla. The game is on.

The interior still has a Jag look and feel combined with some new touches and equipment design. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
The interior still has a Jag look and feel combined with some new touches and equipment design. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

It is on in SA too, because while there is no sign of Tesla Motors arriving here soon as promised, the new I-Pace will be here in the first quarter of 2019. Promising to be "the car electricity has been waiting for" the production version is remarkably close to the original concept in its design.

"The I-Pace’s electric powertrain offered us unprecedented design freedom," says Ian Callum, Jaguar’s director of design.

"Starting with a clean sheet enabled the dramatic cab-forward profile, unique proportions and exceptional interior space, yet it is unmistakably a Jaguar.

"We wanted to design the world’s most desirable EV [electric vehicle] and I’m confident we’ve met that challenge."

We agree. Gone are the days of drab, functional EVs. In fact the I-Pace could even eclipse the E-Pace that launches in SA this week regarding desirability. And that is not something we have said about an EV before.

We are not convinced about rearward visibility but the design is all about aerodynamic efficiency to maximise range. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
We are not convinced about rearward visibility but the design is all about aerodynamic efficiency to maximise range. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

But our belief that this could be the EV that redefines the market is not purely about design, it is also about practicality. Jaguar has yet to implement charging infrastructure in SA, promising that it will before the car launches, but the I-Pace has a claimed range of up to 480km and can be charged up to 80% capacity in just 45 minutes if you have a 100kW DC fast-charger available. Jag also says you can have 100km of range after a charge of 15 minutes. That’s a quick coffee stop and off to your next meeting.

There will be drawbacks on long-distance travelling and the good old internal combustion engine will have the edge — preferably a diesel, but it’s currently non-PC to say that — but with a potential 480km range on a full charge, it is a far cry from the one-hundred-and-something kilometres that EV models offer and enough for most people in the urban environment and even beyond.

It will not be just about range though, because the I-Pace features all-wheel drive with twin electric motors, one on each axle, that deliver a combined 294kW and 696Nm.

The company is claiming a 0-100km/h time of 4.8sec, but more importantly, Jaguar says it will drive like a Jag, which means a dynamic character matched to luxury and technology.

Electric motors sit on each axle with the batteries in the floor to provide 50:50 weight distribution and all-wheel drive. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Electric motors sit on each axle with the batteries in the floor to provide 50:50 weight distribution and all-wheel drive. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

We have not been that enamoured with Jaguar’s technology lately, but not surprisingly the I-Pace gets the full treatment.

Elements of the car can be operated from a smartwatch and there is a new interpretation of the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system that debuted in the Range Rover Velar, although fortunately with the inclusion of some real dials to reduce driving distraction. A new navigation system monitors ever element of the route using Smart Settings artificial intelligence to adjust the car’s driving style and interior settings to maximise range.

It also gets practicality with the interior not compromised by such things as an engine up front or a transmission tunnel running the length of the wheelbase. This means claimed legroom of 890mm in the rear and there is even a 10.5l storage compartment. There is much additional storage for tablets and laptops and the boot space is a very respectable 656l even with the seats in place.

It all looks very promising, although as usual we reserve full judgment until we have seen it and driven it.

It does mean that 2019 is increasingly shaping up to be the year that the EV finally becomes feasible for many, with range becoming less of an issue as battery technology permits travelling 400km, 500km and even more depending on the make and model. Pricing though, will still be a huge barrier and while pricing for the I-Pace has not yet been released in SA, with a starting price in the UK of £63,495 it looks as though it will be scarily more than a million rand, well more.

That is unless the government relaxes the exorbitant import duties on EVs, which we have been told it will.

Even so and as much as we think the I-Pace could be the game-changer, without reducing the duties and introducing incentives, the EV industry in SA will continue to be less about fast charge and more about trickle charge.