The starter button located to the left of the centre console brings the I-Pace to life – hit D on the drive select and you’re off. Like every electric car it whirrs off without raising a whisper and is quickly up to 30mph in near silence. There’s an evident firmness to the ride at low speed, but I-Pace not what you’d call uncomfortable.
Weighing 2.2 tonnes and riding on 20-inch alloys (22-inch wheels are available) does mean a mighty thud if you hit a pothole or particularly rutted stretch of road, however. The ride settles at speed with the air suspension on higher spec cars (regular steel springs are fitted on the rest of the range) doing a reasonable job of smoothing out the jiggles but you are always aware of the car’s mass.
But what marks the I-Pace out against the rest of the EV pack is its steering and rock solid body control. This may be a 2.2-tonne SUV, but in truth it feels more like a sports car with the way it twists and slaloms down tight and technical roads.
Initially the steering is a little vague just off centre but it weighs up beautifully and instils the I-Pace with a sense of precision you don’t get in a Tesla Model X. Turn into a corner at speed and the car remains remarkably flat while it works out which axle can make best use of all the available torque.
Mid corner you can feel the motors shuffling power between the wheels to help slingshot you round as fast and as smoothly as possible – the result is seemingly unbreakable traction. The I-Pace changes direction with real athleticism and a nimbleness, which is partly down to a suspension setup shared with the F-Type. The bulk of the car’s mass is also located as low down as possible to help reduce the car’s centre of gravity.
Of course the I-Pace doesn’t entirely defy physics; if you barrel into a corner a whiff of understeer scrubs off some speed before the traction control is able to nibble away at the front axle. If there is a weak spot it’s the brakes – but that’s not uncommon for an electric car. The pedal feel is soft and mushy for the first half of its travel before eventually firming up, albeit artificially.
Being electric the Jaguar I-Pace doesn’t have an engine as such; a 90kWh lithium-ion battery, which drives two electric motors, powers it. Currently it is the only size battery available in SUV.
Of course with 396bhp and 696Nm of torque available from a standstill the I-Pace feels is exceedingly quick – quicker than the 4.8 seconds Jaguar says it takes to get from 0-62mph. To replace the absence of engine noise Jag has fitted a synthetic soundtrack, which you can adjust from ‘calm’ to ‘dynamic’ – it’s a neat feature and adds to the sense of speed, but it’s a bit of a gimmick and we quickly left it alone.