About two dozen reporters this month drove a caravan of all-wheel-drive Jaguar I-Pace crossovers across a stream nearly 18 inches deep here, then up a steep, dusty mountain road, then around a Formula One racetrack, deep into triple-digit speeds — all without burning a drop of fuel.
Two days of driving the battery-electric I-Pace some 350 miles across southern Portugal convinced the nitpicky scribes that the new Jag has the chops to more than compete with Tesla and electric vehicles coming soon from Audi and Porsche.
With 240 miles available on a single charge, 394 silent hp and 512 pound-feet of torque providing acceleration to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, the I-Pace performs more like a sports car than a five-passenger midsize luxury crossover. The looks are striking, it has a long list of standard luxury and safety features, and it arrives at dealerships in late August at a price starting at $70,495, including shipping — at least $10,205 below the least expensive Tesla Model X, the only other electric crossover available.
Combine all that with a national dealer network — which Tesla does not have — and the I-Pace looks like a LeBron James-style thunder dunk for Jaguar.
Except that it may not be.
Despite a showroom of fresh vehicles, Jaguar has faltered this year mostly because of the industry shift away from cars. But the 2-year-old F-Pace, Jag's first crossover, also has lost steam. And a fuel-system problem stunted the launch of the compact E-Pace crossover this year. So, if one thing is clear, it's that the I-Pace, good as it is, is no slam dunk.
"Jaguar knows how to design a stunning crossover," says Au-toPacific analyst Dave Sullivan, citing the success of the F-Pace, the fastest-selling vehicle in Jaguar's history. But "going all elec-tric has unique challenges for a company where the brand has not had to launch an EV before."
Says Sullivan: "Jaguar was at the bottom of J.D. Power's [2018 Initial Quality Study], and this is going to be their first EV. Jagu-ar doesn't have the same leeway with customers that Tesla has. Tesla customers might look the other way or chalk it up to Tesla being Tesla when it comes to quality problems, but Jaguar cus-tomers expect more from an established brand."
No matter how positive the test-drive reviews, JLR officials be-lieve, they can't duplicate the media fascination and consumer passion for Tesla and its products, and they don't plan to try. There won't be comparisons to the Model X in I-Pace ads or dealer communications.
"The EV market is in its infancy," says Stuart Schorr, JLR's U.S. vice president of communications. Schorr also manages JLR's U.S. advertising and retail and digital marketing communications.