What is the new Jaguar I-Pace?

Is it an off-roader? Well, quite possibly since it can wade through nearly 20 inches (half a meter) of water and comes standard with height-adjustable air suspension. But might it be a hatchback instead? The low roofline and front-wheel-drive proportions would seem to indicate yes. Of course, it could also be a station wagon since it has ample luggage capacity and a back seat large enough for six-foot-plus passengers. Some drivers might even consider it sports car. How, you ask? Well, it packs a 394-horsepower punch and can rip from zero-to-60 in a mere 4.5 seconds.

Indeed, the I-Pace is many things, not the least of which is f***ing awesome.

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A Concept Car for the Street

Along with its raft of groundbreaking new technologies, I-Pace looks the part, with a truly sculptural body. Even in photos, the proportions are dramatic thanks to its cab-forward design – enabled by the lack of an internal-combustion powertrain – which pushes the wheels out to each corner, maximizing interior space. The Kammback tail and undulating beltline add even more visual theatrics without going overboard.

Despite its show-stopping looks, this crossover is far more practical than you’d probably ever imagine. Rear-seat legroom measures 35 inches (90 cm), though ingress and egress are a bit compromised by the narrow door opening you have to clamber over. The luggage hold provides more than 25 cubic feet (716 liters) of storage space. Drop the aft backrests and that figure more than doubles (1,444 liters). Offering even more space, there’s a small froot, Jaguar shorthand for “front boot,” located where an internal combustion engine would normally be found. It provides about an extra cubic foot (27 liters) of weather-tight storage, enough for some odds or ends or possibly a small duffel bag.

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I-Pace is Jaguar’s latest crossover and its first battery-powered model, further fleshing out the brand’s utility-vehicle range and presaging what’s to come by calendar year 2020 when every one of JLR’s models will offer some form of electrification.

Comparing this product to various Tesla models is inevitable, though I’m going to refrain from doing this as I’ve never driven one of Elon Musk’s offerings. Of course, rivals from other luxury automakers are on the way as well, meaning this nascent segment is getting hotter every year.

Assault and Battery

Like other Jaguar models, the I-Pace features an all-aluminum architecture that’s not only light in weight but also the stiffest platform ever created by this British automaker.

ALSO SEE: Jaguar i-Pace First Drive: 5 Things I Learned After 3 Minutes Behind the Wheel

With a compact electric-drive unit at each axle taking the place of a space-hungry engine, gearbox and all-wheel-drive system, the I-Pace offers more interior space than an F-Pace with a smaller overall footprint.

Further enabling its impressive roominess, engineers positioned the vehicle’s bulky 90 kWh battery pack in the floor, exactly where you want heavy components located for the lowest possible center of gravity. On its own this battery weighs more than 1,300 pounds (603 kilograms), accounting for nearly a third of the I-Pace’s husky 4,784-pound (2,170-kilogram) weight.

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Liquid cooled, that lithium-ion electron reservoir is comprised of 432 individual pouch-cells arranged in 36 modules for relatively easy serviceability. When it comes to “refueling” the I-Pace, it can go from completely depleted to 80 percent replenished in about 10 hours using a 230-volt, 32-amp charger. Tap it into a 100 kW fast charger and it’ll do the same deed in just 40 minutes.

Assuaging fears of getting stranded, this amped-up Jag features an advertised driving range of 240 miles. For the time being, it’s only offered in one potency, though going forward they’ll likely make models with even greater range available as battery technology progresses. A bit more range might be nice; I’d like to see them offer 300 or even 350 miles on a charge, but as it is the vehicle offers more than enough for plenty of drivers.

Turning stored electricity into vehicular movement are two electric motors, supposedly of the most power-dense design available today. Jaguar has 14 patents pending on these compact propulsion units.

Of the permanent-magnet variety, they’re 2 to 3 percent more efficient than induction-type motors. A minor trade-off for this is the use of rare-earth metals, a tradeoff that increases cost.

Torque-vectoring is achieved by modulating the brakes, a solution that’s good enough for crossover vehicles and saves an appreciable amount of weight and complexity, as a clutch pack, control unit, hydraulic fluid and other components are not required.

Tap into its full fury and the I-Pace delivers 394 horsepower and a wallop in the form of 512 pound-feet of torque. Sixty miles an hour can be yours in less than five seconds, while top speed is a swift 124 miles an hour (200 km/h).

The Drive

While I have absolutely nothing against electric vehicles, I’m no vociferous cheerleader of them, either, never really having been wowed by their breed, however, Jaguar’s I-Pace is the first EV I’ve actually loved. It’s a joy to drive no matter the conditions.

It performs admirably on tight curving roads as well as up gravel-strewn two tracks. Even at highway speeds, the I-Pace is a joy, unnervingly silent, with just a whisper of wind and tire noise making their presence heard in lieu of the usual internal-combustion racket.

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But adding a bit of excitement, engineers have fitted this vehicle with a sound simulator that can be tailored to the driver’s preference, adding a turbine-like whooshing effect under heavy acceleration, a noise reminiscent of a spaceship engaging warp drive.

ALSO SEE: Jaguar Looking at Electric Hypercar Model

And how appropriate, because acceleration is downright giggle-inducing, with the I-Pace riding the crest of an endless tsunami of torque. It doesn’t matter if you’re stopped at a light or rocketing down the expressway, it pulls with supreme authority and utter smoothness anytime you drop the hammer. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this sucker’s FAST.

Appropriately, American-spec models are fitted with height-adjustable air suspension as standard equipment. Throw in four driven wheels, All Surface Progress Control (ASPC), which is like cruise control for the trail, and you have a crossover that delivers respectable off-road performance, even when rolling on optional 22-inch, carbon-fiber-trimmed wheels shod in summer tires.

Making even the most tedious morning commute more interesting is a driver-selectable regenerative braking feature. With low and high modes, you can choose how aggressively the I-Pace puts electricity back into its battery. Leave it in low and it coasts pretty much like a traditional vehicle, gliding along when you take your foot off the accelerator. But switch things over to high and it slows down much more aggressively. This sounds a bit disconcerting, though it’s actually the setting I much preferred as it allowed me to essentially drive with one foot. Time things properly and you barely ever have to touch the brake pedal, recuperating maximum juice with minimal effort.

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The one thing that detracts most from this Jaguar’s driving enjoyment is its InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, which is middling at best. While bright and colorful, it’s challenging to decipher whilst on the move and is responds lethargically to inputs. It’s definitely not one of the vehicle’s highlights, even if the associated push-pull climate-control knobs are a brilliant bit of engineering.

Making things worse, the integrated navigation system nearly got my driving partner and I lost in rural Portugal, screwing up the route’s preprogrammed waypoints and trying to send us back where we started! This was NOT confidence inspiring.

Pricing and Protection

Base price for the new I-Pace is right around 70 big ones, but as you’ve probably guessed, we tested a top-of-the-line model.

In ritzy First Edition trim this Jag gains unique charcoal-hued ash-wood trim, a heated steering wheel, upgraded leather, a suede-cloth headliner, unique styling elements and much more. These additions inflated the price by a not-insignificant amount, buzzing the checkout counter at $88,595 including $995 for delivery ($115,000 in Canada).

ALSO SEE: How Jaguar Made the Electric I-Pace So Good Looking

That ain’t cheap, but easing the sting owners are protected for the long haul by Jaguar EliteCare, one of the industry’s best guarantees. At its core this includes a five-year, 60,000-mile limited warranty. Free scheduled maintenance and 24/7 roadside assistance are also bundled for the same time and distance. If you’re curious, the battery has its own coverage, guaranteed to maintain 70 percent of its original charging capacity for eight years or 1000,000 miles.

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The Verdict: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace Review

With daring design and surprising dynamics, a roomy cabin, and livable range, the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is the real deal. And even though EVs are nothing new it still manages to feel like the future. Through diverse driving situations, it proved to be extremely pleasant and surprisingly versatile, a jack of all trades that just happens to be electric.

If this news has shocked you, don’t get too amped up just yet. Deliveries aren’t set to begin until the second half of 2018, likely around October, though one can be ordered at any Jaguar dealer right now if you cannot resist.

This article originally appeared on AutoGuide.com