The instant response to the right foot’s input is surprising, and yet somehow expected. The resultant surge in power and speed is precise. Welcome to the new Jaguar I-PACE, Mzansi’s most powerful all-electric car. After months of teasing and testing, the car is now available for sale from several local Jaguar dealerships, with highly sophisticated technologies and a matching price.

To understand the I-PACE let’s quickly get into the figures. Two electric motors of 147kW and 348Nm each work in tandem with a 90kWh lithium-ion battery with a 160 000km warranty, located where the petrol/ diesel tank would normally be if the car was powered by such fuels. Together the system puts out 294kW and 696Nm of torque, enough to thrust it into 100km/h mark in just 4.8 seconds, according to Jaguar’s own figures. To be honest I reckon that time is lower, just based on my relatively short stint with the car around Gauteng. That makes it about as quick off the line as cars like the XF R, VW Golf R and BMW X5 M50d.

The I-PACE is more of a crossover than an SUV, straddling the space between an SUV and an MPV. It is 4.68 metres long, 1.57m tall, 2.0m wide and has a wheelbase of 2.9m, which tells an entire story on its own. Basically you could sit four or even five pro rugby players inside the I-PACE and not have any of them complain about ashy knees or broken necks. It is that spacious. Added to that is the panoramic glass roof that can be matched with any of the 12 exterior colours. Jaguar has specified five designs of 20-inch wheels, which might seem impractical for an all-wheel-drive (AWD) car. But during a 20km drive through some rough gravel – including across a river – the I-PACE felt composed and relatively comfortable. Nothing rattled, nothing came off. That’s Active Air Suspension at work.

There are three model trims; S, SE and HSE, each with different specs. There is also a limited First Edition model which pretty much has everything fitted. Standard across the range though are items like LED headlights, sports seats, the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system with a 31.2cm touch screen, satellite navigation, radio, Bluetooth connectivity etc. There is no gear lever anywhere; instead you have separate buttons marked D, N, R, and P for those various functions. Also the rear parking camera and parking aid are standard.

One of the traits we will need to get used to both as drivers and pedestrians, is the quietness of electric cars. Several times I had to hoot at pedestrians who did not hear the I-PACE approaching. As a driver you have grown to a car that makes a sound, thus warning them of your imminent approach. It will take a mindset change. Another thing is the regenerative braking system that recuperates some energy when braking, which lets the car gently brake itself when you let go of the accelerator. If you can time it correctly you will hardly ever use the brake pedal.

The other thing that will take time to get used to is the charging system. Manufacturers have different protocols for this, but are working on a standard response. Jaguar has been erecting public charging stations over several major routes countrywide, including in far-flung places like Graaf-Reinet and Harrismith. Last year an I-PACE was able to drive from Johannesburg to Durban (about 600km) by stopping for a recharge in Harrismith. That took about an hour. Although Jaguar says the car has a 476km full charge range, my test car gave 360km at the start. But even at 300km for instance, you can drive the car for a couple of days – depending on your daily distances – without recharging. Home charging stations with lower voltages that can give a full charge overnight are available to purchase (about R30 000) and a full charge will cost around R200 at today’s Eskom prices. Considering that a petrol or diesel car of this size could easily cost R1 200 to fill up, it’s not a bad deal at all.

People who buy the Jaguar I-PACE – and there are already 70 of them in Mzansi – are not middle class. They are considered well-to-do or wealthy. The car will probably be their second or fifth. They buy it because they are environmentally-conscious, can afford it, and enjoy this brand. I can promise those who are not part of this elite 70 yet, that the I-PACE is exceptional. Someday such a car will be all the car you need.


Jaguar I-PACE Prices

S – R1 687 200

SE – R1 745 400

HSE – R1 820 900

First Edition – R1 920 700

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