Review: The I-PACE Is Not the Way Forward for Jaguar

The British marque’s flagship leaves our driver looking for excitement, even on the race track

July 28, 2023 6:11 am
A rendering of the new Jaguar I-PACE
A rendering of the new Jaguar I-PACE

Typically, when a car manufacturer invites journalists in for “hot laps” — a toned down version of what it’s like to go fast on a proven race track — it’s usually in a souped-up version of the car you’re there to see. A Hellcat Challenger for example, or the latest iteration of a hyper-powered Mustang. 

It’s rarely, if ever, the stock version of the model — the one you can buy at your local dealer and would actually work as your everyday driver. 

For a company, like Jaguar (now a “brand house” under the JLR umbrella), it’s an opportunity to show the future. As the brand (yes, I’ll still call it a “brand”) pivots to all-electric from 2025 on, the 2024 iteration of the I-PACE (along with a four-door GT sedan/coupe on the way) marks an important flagship for the company. Getting it on the track aims to show the path forward. 

On the heels of this year’s Formula e stop in Portland, Oregon, Jaguar invited a group of journalists to spend some time with the refreshed I-PACE as passengers around the track at Portland International Raceway (PIR), and a more docile route through Portland’s West Hills. Both extremes offered a look into what Jaguar hopes will be a main driver of the brand’s rebirth in the years ahead. 

A “Performance SUV” By Name

As much as Jaguar would like you to believe that the I-PACE could be a track car, it’s not. Advances in electric torque distribution and acceleration across the industry have made quick 0-60 times not as novel as they once were, meaning the clocked 110 mph I endured at PIR was expectedly calm and composed, not unlike other EV performance these days. You could take any number of 2024 EVs on the track and probably have a similar experience. 

Plus, realistically, no one is driving an I-PACE above 90. Customers here will probably spend most of their time in the “Eco” or “Comfort” drive modes, eking out extra range or making long drives a bit cushier. The top “R-Dynamic” mode sends some more cornering prowess to the wheels and heftier torque with it, but at the sacrifice of range, which I saw drop 10-20 miles almost immediately. 

And to be clear, this is more “crossover” than “SUV.” The vehicle seems to sit lower on the ground than a stock Subaru Outback and even with the addition of all-wheel drive for the 2024 model year, this is more “light snow tackler” than “off-road adventurer.” 

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A Category With Lots of Crowding

When the original I-PACE released in the fall of 2018, it was new and compelling in the EV space: a 200+ mile range, satisfactory charge time and good intuition. However, various technical issues plagued the launch, and early adopters would show up at Jaguar dealers with no available EV-trained technicians to actually repair the cars. Things stabilized a bit in the years since, but the “SUV” remains a low-volume mover for the brand. 

My I-PACE rang in at $72,000, which puts it firmly in the most competitive category within the current EV market, if not toward the higher end. A new Polestar 2 lands at about $50,000, a well-equipped Mach-E around $6,500 more and even a BMW i4 can be had for under $63,000. If you live in a state where you can get a Genesis GV60, that’s also another very compelling choice. Lastly, let’s not forget the Model Y (base around $53,000) is still a go-to for many. 

Exterior detail image of the Jaguar I-PACE at 24 Model Year
Exterior detail image of the Jaguar I-PACE at 24 Model Year

While two of those vehicles are sedans, they’ll still be on the radar of potential I-PACE customers, and it shows just how far the mid-tier EV space has come. Having driven two of those cars myself (Mach-E and Polestar 2), I can say the I-PACE probably comes in third in terms of personality and appeal. 

The Jag is a clean-looking EV, for sure, but it’s perhaps too close to the Kia EV6, or even the Model Y in styling, and doesn’t correlate to a car brand with the legacy of a marque like Jaguar. The few exterior refreshes from 2023 to 2024 doesn’t really do the I-PACE any favors. 

An Interior Needing More

Another ongoing issue reveals itself once you open the I-PACE’s doors. Inside, it feels far too tame. The dark interior on my tester transitioned into a measured center console with a frustrating cut-away opening that makes accessing the wireless phone charger annoyingly difficult. Drive mode buttons are oddly on the far side of the console, perhaps leaving the pleasure of the switch to your passenger. Even more frustrating, Jaguar stuck with the Meridian sound system that elicits noise as if you were in a cave and reduces any sound-bearing pleasure in a car as quiet as this one. Overall, Jaguar’s infotainment system remains underwhelming, if not dated

A rendering of the interiors of the new Jaguar I-PACE
A rendering of the interiors of the new Jaguar I-PACE

There is ample backseat space and a hatch with plenty of utility, but that’s largely to be expected these days, especially when forking over more than $70,000 for an electric SUV. 

Whereas the outgoing F-Type I drove back in April at least retained some of Jaguar’s heritage and soul, the incoming I-PACE seems to have lost most of that. Yes, it’s quick off the start. Sure, it’s practical as an everyday driver and the 246 miles of range is sufficient for its class, but it just doesn’t will you to want to drive it, even when a trained pro racer is mashing the pedal to its limits. 

This is a Jaguar in name, for sure, but potentially not enough so to carry on its plans in a fully-electrified future. 

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