Whispering giant

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It won’t sell in great numbers, but Jaguar’s new I-Pace brims with innovation

Though it scarcely seems possible, it’s been 10 years since Tata Motors bought Land Rover and Jaguar as a job lot from Ford. As we all know, Land Rover has flown along pretty nicely since then, but Jaguar? It’s been a struggle. Broadly, the product has been good, with only the E-Pace striking a truly bum chord, but while the likes of the XE and XF are pretty blameless, they’re not the world-beaters required to combat the established and outstanding German opposition. Only the F-Pace has a credible claim to outright class leadership – and it has been Jaguar’s best seller since launch. But Porsche still made more Macans last year than Jaguar sold cars in total.

This new I-Pace is not going to change that, at least not any time soon. It’s expensive and, being battery powered, will be of minority interest for a while. But in time it is at least possible that we will look back upon its introduction as the day the tide finally turned back in Jaguar’s favour.

Firstly, there is nothing out there like it, leastways not yet. Yes, there are Teslas, but if you wanted an all-electric car from an established European premium brand your choice has been a BMW i3 and, er, that was it. While I’m a huge i3 fan, they’re commuter cars, limited in size and range and therefore scope. But the I-Pace will seat four adults in splendid comfort and, if you believe the new WLTP testing protocol, will do almost 300 miles on a charge. No, I don’t either, but I expect it will still do a genuine 200 miles, enough for many with off-street parking.

You can see for yourself what a good-looking car it is on the outside, but the interior is better still, all polished metal, swathes of leather and attractive touch screens and TFT displays. The major controls are all simply arranged and labelled so that, even if you’ve never sat in an electric car before, it’ll take you no more time to drive away than it would in anything else. I just wish the navigation, information and entertainment systems were easier to operate – it’s a crucial area and one in which JLR still lags miles behind the opposition, despite its undeniable efforts.

Most impressively, I guess because it’s most surprising, is that the I-Pace is still a proper Jaguar. With almost 400bhp and instant torque, it’s rapid up to licence-losing speeds while the chassis is taut, the steering accurate and the balance commendably neutral. It is genuinely entertaining. It’s true that even the cheapest Tesla Model S is probably a fraction quicker, but as a thing to drive and enjoy it is nowhere by comparison.

Jaguar deserves to do really well with this car, and I expect it will be raising eyebrows in boardrooms across Munich, Stuttgart and Ingolstadt. Sadly, as Jaguar knows better than almost all, ability alone is no guarantee of success; but if it just gets the brand noticed and persuades people to look at it afresh, I suspect it will have done its job. Jaguar was once one of the world’s truly great car companies; if it can continue to make cars as innovative and able as this, I believe that one day it could be again.

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