No matter what the future of automobile transportation may hold, Tesla will always be remembered as the first successful company to offer totally electric long-distance luxury automobiles.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a second contender.
Although it’s taken a while, Jaguar has just entered that arena with its iPace, an $80,050 base-price multipurpose vehicle with a roughly 240-mile range, high-speed charger and definitely luxury amenities that seems designed to compete directly against the Model X.
No, the iPace doesn’t have rear doors that rise up for effect, but it does have capabilities one would expect from a new vehicle designed and produced by the Jaguar Land Rover company. Demonstrating its performance capabilities, Jaguar introduced this vehicle to the press not in an urban setting or on a long tour, but rather on a racetrack and dirt-road setting in Portugal.
How does the iPace compare on paper with the Model X?
In a nutshell, it has the same range on a full charge and is in the same price range as the Model X (our fully equipped version had approximately $6,000 in convenience and safety options with another $6,000 of cosmetic upgrades). It has faster 0-60 mph times by four-tenths of a second with its 394 horsepower, 512 pound-feet of torque from the same front and rear axle motor configuration as the Model X.
The iPace can carry five people and has a reasonable 52 cubic feet of cargo space compared to the optional jump seats that allows the Model X to carry up to seven passengers or a capacious 81.2 cubic feet of cargo.
But where the iPace can be expected to gain bragging rights over the Model X – and we’ll just have to take other journalists’ word for it as our experience was limited to three days around Los Altos – is in performance.
This crossover is actually capable of being driven at high speeds in multiple track laps with drivers commenting on things such as cornering stability, exit speeds and straightaway acceleration. Put a Tesla on the track and it goes into range-protection mode after one high-speed lap.
Similarly, on a challenging dirt or snow-covered road, the iPace has a competence that will make its Land Rover relatives proud; rough-terrain capability is not a design feature of the Model X. But you do have to ask yourself: How am I going to use my EV?
Of course, this could be your Tahoe car, because its high-speed charging capability (full charge in 90 minutes) would allow you to recharge your batteries in Truckee in the time it takes to get your skis fitted, and the all-wheel drive and variable ground clearance can be relied on to get you in and out of your backwoods cabin in all weather.
You might not be as excited if you are just going to use it for in-town transportation. Visibility is challenged, as is rear headroom, with the chopped rear quarters and the consequent tiny rear window.
The regenerative braking that recharges the battery when slowing down does allow the car to be driven with just the throttle like a golf cart, but it takes practice to modulate smoothly. And the car seems a little awkward to drive at street speeds. If you aren’t planning to make lots of out-of-town trips but want an all-electric vehicle, you might be happier with a Chevy Bolt or Volkswagen e-Golf, our two in-town favorites.
Nevertheless, the iPace is proof that – just as now with internal combustion engines – electric power will soon start to find its way into all auto market product niches. Jaguar is the first of the rest to offer a crossover EV, but by no means will it be the last new vehicle of this type; expect entrants into the crossover all-electric marketplace within the next year from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
But if you are thinking of yourself as an early adapter who doesn’t want to join the Tesla cult, the iPace – scheduled to be in showrooms in February – will definitely put you out in front, at least for another year or so.