I have already sampled and dismissed the I-Pace’s Eco mode. I simply can’t bring myself to ask for something that deliberately dulls this car’s wonderfully precise accelerator response. Better to drive more accurately myself. The regenerative braking is a revelation: you get 0.2g of regenerative deceleration when you ‘lift’ and another 0.2g of regen from fairly gentle first pressure on the brake pedal, so you hardly ever have to use the friction brakes, which you soon come to view as efficiency killers and tools of last resort.
Callum, for those who don’t know, is fine company on any journey. He has endless anecdotes, seems as interested in you as you are in him, will talk or not talk as conditions demand, is only ever modest about his own towering achievements (constantly crediting his team) and doesn’t even need to talk cars constantly, even if the I-Pace is, understandably, proving fascinating subject matter at the moment.
I remark on something that struck me as soon as I saw my first I-Pace, not far short of two years ago: that despite the interior space, high roof and higher-than-saloon driving position, I never really see this caras an SUV. It’s too graceful. Callum takes that, although he’s firm on the car’s status as an SUV. It’s as big as a Porsche Macan and considerably more spacious for people and luggage. Jaguar’s first electric car had to be an SUV, he points out. The market’s as hot for them as ever, and the unique I-Pace ‘skateboard’ platform needed the extra height to accommodate large battery banks beneath the occupants.
But Callum’s happy with all the ‘real Jaguar’ comments that have come his way, pointing out that the revolutionary short nose and cab-forward design, permitted by the lack of any need to accommodate a complex, 350kg rubber-mounted lump under the bonnet, mean the front and rear screen angles can be a lot ‘faster’ than those of other SUVs, and also allow a very long roof, a substitute in a sense for a long bonnet. Callum says he has no regrets about not making the car “deliberately funky” to mark its unusual proportions and twin-motor, four-wheel-drive, 395bhp powertrain, although – thinking aloud – he wonders if they should have done the grille a little differently, to show it comes from a different family. “Perhaps that’s one for the facelift,” he says.
Another I-Pace discovery: silent motorway travel on balmy days, especially with strong off-throttle braking instantly available, makes distances melt. We stop a few times for pictures, chatting a lot and watching the world going by (curiously more awkwardly than us) and noting how amazingly little road noise is generated by the 22in wheels of our late prototype as it cruises somewhat in advance of 70mph. It’s vital that the rest of the car is as refined as the powertrain, says Callum, fretting now and then about a squeak behind the fascia he feels is spoiling our progress. But he believes the air suspension (three levels over a height range of more than 90mm) and the fact that even the 22in wheels wear generous 40-profile tyres are the car’s best tools for killing road noise.