Jaguar Modifies Its Approach To Retain Its Roar As A Quieter, Electrified Brand
Faced with technology-driven upheaval, the luxury auto brand is fostering continuity between its past and future, sustaining its reputation for speed and power that consumers recognize while also offering them an environmentally friendly model
Get ready to watch one of the most historic technology transformations to occur over the next three years. From 2018 to 2020, many major automakers will introduce their first-generation electric vehicles, spanning mainstream to ultra-luxury sedans and crossovers to SUVs. With the exception of autonomous mobility, this is likely to be one of the biggest auto industry shifts of our time. Tesla has been the rabbit in the electrification race with an early advantage, but having to figure out mass production (Model 3 specifically) has slowed its pace.
For the established automakers with long-running factories and supplier networks, a period of methodical technology R&D has been required to get their EV prototypes up to the quality and reliability levels of the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles they already make. Even cars like the Prius, Leaf and Volt so far have been mostly works in progress trying to keep up with rapid developments in battery technology.
Tesla so far hasn’t faced any direct competition. The first automaker to produce a viable alternative to Tesla’s Model S or X has been eagerly anticipated. That date looks to be close at hand: late summer 2018. That’s when the all new Jaguar I-PACE is scheduled to be released. Beyond being Jaguar’s debut all-electric vehicle, the I-PACE is the first step towards Jaguar becoming an all-electrified brand in the future.
There are a few different strategies being adopted by traditional ICE automakers to transition electrified vehicles into their model lines. The first approach is what Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen are executing which is to establish a sub brand for EV-only vehicles. Mercedes EV’s will get the EQ badge while VW will categorize theirs with the I.D. designation.
Jaguar and several other brands like Infiniti and Smart are going a different route, transitioning their entire product portfolio to all-electric or hybrid-electric models. For Jaguar in particular, this presents a number of challenges. One near the top is weaving continuity between its heritage as a British-based performance brand (sound and smells included) with its electric future dependent on arguably soulless (and silent) technology.
Jaguar’s next chapter in its brand history begins with the I-PACE. The following text is going to review how Jaguar is introducing the I-PACE and the ways the brand is tweaking design, marketing and the owner experience to link familiar Jag heritage with this new technology direction.
Since the I-PACE concept was presented at the LA Auto Show in late 2016, Jaguar has been working as fast as possible to bring the EV to market. The retailer saw an opportunity to get ahead of competitors like Mercedes-Benz and Audi that were working on electric SUV and crossovers models of their own. The summer 2018 sales date means the I-PACE will be available months ahead of rivals from Germany.
At design walk-arounds by Jaguar Design Director Ian Callum in New York and Wayne Burgess, Director of Production Studio & SVO Projects at the global media drive event in Portugal, both spoke about a similar theme influencing the shape of the I-PACE: compromise. Design is rooted in compromise, but it is clear to see in the I-PACE where technical and aesthetic boundaries occur. Why does this matter? Taking a look back at Jaguar’s back catalog of vehicles, what becomes apparent is a thread of seductive shapes and forms linking the iconic E-Type of the 1960s through the current generation F-Type sports car.
The exterior design of the I-PACE drew inspiration from the C-X75 concept, a sleek sports car featured at the Paris Motor show debut in 2010. While it served as a good example of automotive design as sculpture, because Jaguar wanted to confidently hit driving range targets, that meant making the I-PACE as aerodynamically efficient as possible. The stretched out organic shapes of the C-X75 concept look fast but aren’t the best for moving air in a tidy manner. Both Callum and Burgess explained that much of the shape of the I-PACE was determined in the wind tunnel and the results can be seen in the flat body sides and squared off back end. These are a couple of the design compromises made to keep the air moving cleanly across the I-PACE in order to hit those range targets.
Another point of difference with the I-PACE in design terms is that it represents a continuity of brand language. Forthcoming electric SUV’s and crossovers from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen are futuristic in appearance and represent a stylistic break from the design language used on their ICE models. Even the Tesla Model X with its grille-free font end visually projects that it isn’t associated with ICE technology. The I-PACE on the other hand proudly sports a front grille in front of where a radiator would be if it had an engine. Jaguar designers initially added the grille as a design continuity element and later engineers made it semi-functional for battery cooling. The inclusion of a functional grille is an interesting detail and take on skeuomorphic design. The I-PACE may be a new technology step for Jaguar but conventional design touches like the grille connect it to products we know and trust.
Launching the I-PACE presents a different challenge for creating ads for online or TV. What becomes of the familiar Jaguar roar when the brand’s newest vehicle is a silent electric? As much as horsepower and handling have influenced Jaguar’s place as a performance brand, sound has been equally important. The electric motors that drive the I-PACE are whisper quiet. Rather than ignore this fact, the debut ad for the I-PACE aims to redefine the Jaguar roar for the brand’s electrified future:
Furthering the link to racing is the introduction of the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY series. Debuting as a support race for the 2018-19 Formula E season, the championship will feature 20 Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY race cars.
The series is the first to be based off of a street-legal production battery electric vehicle. It will also be the first racing series to use SUV’s as a competition vehicle, showcasing the performance limits of the I-PACE. There’s potential that Audi and Mercedes-Benz might want in on this series once their electric SUV’s get introduced. This could be the beginning of a twenty-first century version of NASCAR.
At its core, the SUV (and crossover spinoff) as a vehicle category is popular with buyers for versatility and practicality characteristics. That has created a wide range of variants extending from the budget-minded to the ultra-luxury. With the I-PACE, Jaguar has worked to bridge many of the brand attributes from their past ICE cars to their new all-electric platform. It’s an effort to maintain the soul of the Jaguar brand, a fusion of performance and luxury balanced against the new opportunities and limitations of EV technology. It was a lot to accomplish is just a few years time.
To demonstrate what the I-PACE was like to drive, Jaguar chose southern Portugal to host a media event that provided a wide range of different terrain and conditions. Driving the I-PACE around city center roads and highways didn’t feel that out of the ordinary from a gasoline powered car. It was quieter and there was no transmission changing gears but other than that, no learning curve what so ever. Jaguar equipped the I-PACE with a few settings to make the driving transition even easier. There’s the option to use “Vehicle Creep” which simulates the forward idle rolling of gasoline powered cars. With this switched off, and the brake released, there’s no forward movement until the accelerator is pressed.
A particularly interesting feature was the regenerative braking. Electric vehicles use braking to harvest electricity and recharge the batteries on the go. Nissan introduced the first single-pedal driving mode on the Leaf that allows the car to be driven without using the brake pedal. Jaguar’s version on the I-PACE has two settings available, low and high. For stop and go traffic or city driving, it works great, letting drivers just ease off the accelerator and the I-PACE comes to a stop.
It gets more difficult to drive smoothly on the highway and on twisty roads. There’s no coasting—either the I-PACE is accelerating or braking, which translates to some back and forth motion for people riding inside and potentially some carsick passengers. Switching over to the low setting might not be as efficient, but the ride felt much smoother.
There are other ways the I-PACE helps owners conserve electricity and manage their driving range. A graph displays the relative power draw accessories like air conditioning or the heated seats have on the battery and how that affects range. This is a handy way to monitor what is drawing a lot of juice and make adjustments as needed.
There are SUVs on the market that are in reality ill-equipped to handle driving off-road. To prove the I-PACE didn’t fall into this category, there were a few sections of driving off the tarmac that produced some impressive results. Using a battery-powered laptop in a swimming pool is obviously a bad idea; however, sitting on top of hundreds of the exact same cells and driving the I-PACE through a stream was no big deal—no lightening bolts or showers of sparks.
The I-PACE isn’t engineered to be as capable as its siblings from Land Rover, but it still did pretty well at climbing a rocky dirt trail and using the hill ascent feature. Basically all a driver has to do is steer and the I-PACE controls the speed, constantly making fine adjustments to stay at the best point of traction.
Getting to the heart of the Jaguar brand meant showing off the performance capabilities of the I-PACE. Jaguar booked track time at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, a challenging nearly 3-mile undulating ribbon of asphalt with 15 turns. Turning a few laps in a Jaguar F-Type sports car showed its clear advantage of being lighter, lower to the ground and all around more suited to the track environment.
The electric SUV felt confident and quick even at high speeds. It was even possible to equal a best lap time in the F-Type with the larger and heavier I-PACE (there’s around a 1,000 pound weight difference). One element that made it all the more challenging was using the high setting for regenerative braking. It meant that the I-PACE was starting to brake before the driver could react, making it tricky on the approach to corners. This setting could be too aggressive or would require general driving habits to evolve to accommodate regenerative braking.
The introduction of the I-PACE has resulted in a wave of change across the Jaguar organization. Beyond executing the program to design, engineer and manufacture the first of a new breed of EV Jags from scratch, there’s also prepping the dealership network with new charging stations and service equipment. All this work was accomplished in a relatively short span of a few years. The I-PACE will no doubt bring a new category of customers to the Jaguar brand shopping for a more environmentally friendly vehicle rather than a strictly performance focused model. The I-PACE is an overall successful bridging of Jag’s brand heritage with the latest technology packaged as a contemporary versatile car.
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