Back in 2006, BMW introduced so many powertrain and chassis modes for its M5 performance sedan—279 combinations in all—that it turned off enthusiasts, including many loyal to the brand.
When we asked Wolfgang Ziebart, technical design director and the executive who oversaw Jaguar I-Pace development, why there are only two modes in the British automaker’s new electric vehicle for brake regeneration (low and high) and creep (on and off), he pointed to something that reminded us of BMW’s experience. The entire project’s philosophy, he explained, is focused around an interface that should be intuitive and choices that have an obvious purpose.
“It would have been an easy job for us to make everything adjustable,” Ziebart said. “The very simple reason [we didn’t] is that we learned from the smartphone—any complexity which goes beyond what the normal customer is ready to handle is useless.”
Outside the two choices for regen and creep, there are just the typical Eco, Normal, and Sport/Dynamic modes, which each has its own accelerator and steering calibration (Eco also affects the climate control).
With the regeneration set to low and creep on, the I-Pace behaves much like a conventional gasoline vehicle. But with the high brake-regen mode and no creep selected you get quite the opposite—single-pedal driving in which you might rarely need to dab the brake pedal. In that high-regen mode the I-Pace decelerates at up to 0.2 g, and it still has another 0.2 g available when you use the brake pedal, for a total of up to 0.4 g. Once you decide which one best suits you, it sticks with your key fob—no need to select it each time.
Twist, Push, and Pull
This paradox of choice isn’t new. It’s also why Jaguar decided to keep the operational interface of the I-Pace as streamlined as possible. Jaguar design director Ian Callum said that a large, single vertically oriented screen was considered—and then dismissed, because they found tactile switches for the climate control, which let you push and pull or twist to access various functions without taking your eyes off the road, are much more intuitive and effective than using a screen, even a large one.
The jury’s still out, however, about whether the I-Pace’s new Touch Pro Duo—a capacitive, tabletlike system already used in the Range Rover Velar, where we’ve noticed some glitches—will prove more intuitive than the sometimes maddening infotainment system in other Jaguar Land Rover vehicles.
Over-the-air updates, however, aim to bring a new era to Jaguar Land Rover that will require little input from the owner. At launch, battery management, infotainment, and telematics will all be updated over the air, via the same channel, which Ziebart described as state of the art for security.
As another example, Ziebart mentioned that Jaguar considered presenting all kinds of options for preconditioning the car to be charged and ready for the morning commute, such as choosing a time slot in the night or charging all the way to a certain level short of 100 percent. “We can have all levels of complexity,” he said, momentarily grimacing. “We killed the whole thing and looked at what the customer actually does, and now the customer has to enter one single thing—when they want the car to be ready. Other things, like when does the battery need to be heated and when you start the recharge, [are] all done automatically.”
No Featherweight, Yet Graceful
Based on one eyebrow-raising spec—weight—we hadn’t set expectations too high. Jaguar quotes a curb weight of 4784 pounds for the this 184.3-inch-long crossover. That’s compact by U.S. standards and hundreds of pounds more than the F-Pace, which is slightly longer and wider. But in our allotted time of less than five minutes, mostly spent on a tight autocross-style course under 40 mph on a surface that was partly wet, we found the all-wheel-drive I-Pace felt far more graceful and more willing to be flung around than we’d expected—and the rear motor’s 256 lb-ft of torque sufficient to kick the tail out a bit in Normal driving mode. We also found a fair amount of compliance and body lean. And we should note that the I-Pace we rode in had the available air-spring suspension setup plus the large, 22-inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero tires.
The I-Pace manages to transcend its portly weight, company officials say, primarily because of the low mounting of the battery pack. That pack consists of 432 LG Chem lithium-ion pouch cells, assembled for Jaguar into 36 modules and a single pack by LG in Poland.
With all this talk of simplicity, one place you won’t find much straightforwardness is when it comes to ordering an I-Pace. Although it starts at $70,495, the I-Pace is anything but single-spec. Options include special exterior and interior trim, wheels, upholstery, and accent and ambient lighting, plus surround sound, active-safety systems, a head-up display, four-zone climate control, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel. Load it up with much of that, and you can easily drive the price past $100,000. A First Edition includes a lot of the feature and convenience goodies at a total of $86,895. The I-Pace will reach U.S. dealerships later this year.