The Jag’s range is 298 miles; Tesla claims 304
After conjuring up premium electric cars without peer for 10 years, has Tesla finally met its match in Jaguar’s new I-Pace? We pit it against a Model S to find out
In 1949, De Havilland unveiled the world’s first jet-powered commercial aircraft and the world stood agog.
It was a design that had seemingly jumped the fence from the future and arrived with an effortless three-point touch down in the present day. From that moment, everyone knew two things: the world of aviation would never be the same again, and Britain would rule it.
Well, one out of two ain’t bad: the Comet did change the world, but its reign was short and problematic (to put it mildly). Meanwhile, over the water another company was looking on in interest, learning from theDe Havilland’s mistakes, designing its own jet with the benefit of that hindsight. It was called the 707, it went into service nearly 10 years after the Comet first flew and Boeing has ruled the skies ever since.
Sixty years later, the automotive world finds itself contemplating no less great an upheaval in its own future. Then as now we know the change is coming, and that for us the future is powered not by turbojets but electric motors. The difference now is that Britain’s been playing the waiting game while America blazed this brave new trail. And it’s been 10 years since a Tesla first went on sale, 10 years for Jaguar to contemplate what it got right and wrong in that time and prepare its response. And the I-Pace is it – not just Jaguar’s, nor even merely Britain’s, but Europe’s first large, all-purpose, premium electric family car. The opportunity to compare it with the inspired but now fully mature Tesla Model S was not one we could pass by.
The limitations of both are immediately apparent. Really we’d like to have gone somewhere beautiful and green to compare these allegedly environmentally saintly cars, but the rigours of testing and taking probably 50 times more photographs than ever make it to the page meant we felt obliged to take the somewhat safer option of shooting them on a Surrey test track and the public roads around it. Remember that, whichever wins this comparison.
Even the very best electric cars come with in-built limitations that, whatever the relative merits of one car versus another, remain the single biggest issue here. So before deciding whether you want a Tesla Model S or a Jaguar I-Pace, take an icily dispassionate look at your motoring needs, real-world range, charging times, the electrical infrastructure both here and abroad, and decide first whether you actually want an electric car at all.
You do? Good. Then join me in the Tesla as we reacquaint ourselves with the car that has been not so much the standard setter as standard bearer for electric cars since its introduction in the summer of 2012. This is still an attractive car on the outside while the cabin remains dominated by that insanely wonderful 17in touchscreen. There really is nothing else like it out there, and given how long the Europeans have had to respond, one wonders why not. In here you get a sense of why it really is such an appropriate opponent for the I-Pace, far more so than the enormous Model X MPV.
The Model S might be almost 300mm longer than the I-Pace, but it is the Jaguar with its vestigial overhangs that actually has the longer wheelbase. And interior packaging is very similar for both, at least for upto five adults. Each car is extremely comfortable with four on board, both could do with providing more space under their front seats for the feet of rear-seat passengers, and neither offers much to appealto a fifth passenger on board.
But it is the Tesla, with that extra length outside the wheelbase that provides convincingly the most luggage space and, of course, the (£3800) option of two additional rear-facing folding seats in the boot. I really like the fact the Tesla is ‘live’ from the moment you get in: no need to turn a key or push a button – just tug down into ‘Drive’ on the rather out-of-place Mercedes-Benz gear selector, nudge the gas (figuratively speaking) and off you waft.
Tesla now sells three versions of the Model S: the 100D, P100D (of ‘Ludicrous’ fame) and this more affordable 75D. At £66,730, it is directly competitive with the £63,495 first rung on the I-Pace ladder, but this very early press Jaguar is a top-of-the-range ‘First Edition’ model, retailing for an altogether more punchy £81,495. Happily (and at least for the purposes of this comparison), all I-Paces have the same mechanical specification at launch, so there’s no guesswork to be done on the dynamic front.
Both cars come with all-wheel drive, two electric motors to provide four-wheel drive, the Tesla with a 75kWh battery pack, the Jaguar with 90kWh. The Tesla produces 326bhp, which might sound a little thin next to the Jag’s 394bhp, but there is less than 0.5sec separating their relative 0-62mph times. Also bear in mind the Tesla comes with air suspension as standard while it’s only an option on the Jag.
The Tesla’s most immediately obvious problem is that whatever sense of luxury it possesses has the air of being applied in the form of carbonfibre trim panels or that enormous screen, rather than designed in. And you don’t need to spend much time poking and prodding about before it leaves you with the impression that, fundamentally, it has been designed down to an altogether lower level of quality.
Now we need to be careful here because the Jaguar’s interior feels very plush by comparison, but partly because it is a top-of- the-range model. However, it also has a far more pleasing design, and perceived quality that runs far deeper. Even before you’ve gone anywhere, its smart and distinctive presentation makes you feel …read more