Thought the F-Pace was Jaguar being brave? You ain’t seen nothing yet …
For anyone who still perceives Jaguar as an oldie brand – all lacquered wood trim, fat cigars and Classic FM – put this in your pipe and smoke it: Jaguar is going Tesla-hunting. And we’re not talking about maybe in five or 10 years’ time, we’re talking now. This hunk of futurism is the new I-Pace concept: a 394bhp, 4WD, pure electric SUV that’s the size of a Macan but has Cayenne levels of space inside, and you’ll be able to buy something virtually identical in mid-2018.
“It’s a concept car, but honestly it’s pretty close. There’s a few little details here and there that you won’t see in production, but most people won’t notice much of a difference.” That’s Ian Callum, Jag’s charismatic design director, who gave TG a personal tour of the concept before it was crated up and shipped to the LA motor show. “It’s really quite different from anything we’ve done before, or indeed anyone’s done before, really.”
He’s not wrong. If you’re having a hard time getting your head around the car’s proportions right now, that’s because they’re the polar opposite to its running mate, the F-Pace. By starting with what Callum calls a “skateboard” platform – a flat battery between the axles with an electric motor at either end, all developed in-house – he and his team had total freedom to place things wherever they wanted.
“There’s no point in a long bonnet because it doesn’t have a great six-cylinder engine like the E-type. I found it fascinating that we could take an SUV and give it the characteristic of a mid-engine sports car in its profile because you’re bringing the cab forward and nestling it between the wheels,” Callum explains.
And it’s not just mechanical layout that encouraged him to throw the visual mass forwards, getting the drag coefficient down to a remarkably slippery 0.29 (the F-Pace is 0.34) was a constant consideration. Hence the scooped bonnet, which raises the front end and smooths air over the roof, and that most un-Jag-like rump. “Perhaps the high and square tail is in conflict with the boat tails from Jaguar’s history, but square back ends are aerodynamically efficient, so we bought into them and made it work, hopefully in an elegant way,” says Callum.
“I was once quoted as saying a Jaguar should look like it’s moving when it’s standing still, and that an SUV looks like it’s standing still even when it’s moving… until now.”
To better understand the shape we need to start from the bottom and work our way up. This is a bespoke aluminium architecture, not a carry-over or a battery slotted into an existing platform. It places the batteries between the wheels and as close to the road as possible, dropping the centre of gravity by 120mm. The upshot is a wheelbase that’s 115mm longer than an F-Pace’s, but overall it’s 40mm narrower and 50mm shorter. Not that you’d notice inside, because by exploiting that cab-forward design, there’s actually more rear legroom and a marginally smaller, but still vast, 530-litre boot.
And the benefits keep on coming, because a motor at each end means near perfect weight distribution. The permanent magnet motors in question are a concentric design – where the driveshaft runs through the middle – helping them to be packaged into an incredibly tight space. As for torque, the cars brain can distribute it to the front or rear as it sees fit, while an open differential on each axle sends more of it to the side where the most grip is. It can even control the level of regen deceleration on each wheel to help balance the ear. Springs and dampers are lifted from the F-Pace (because why wouldn’t you?), and the production car will feature the same wheel design, albeit 22s with more sidewall to fill the arches and slightly narrower in width to better slice through the air, in place of these show-pony 23s.