Don’t do it, they said. You’ll never make it, they said. There just isn’t the charging infrastructure and you’ll end up rolling to a standstill on the hard shoulder, they said. Happily, with a long weekend fast disappearing into our rear view mirrors, we have triumphantly and successfully returned from an electric-powered excursion to the Lake District. And, in doing so, we have proved any EV detractors well and truly wrong.
That’s not saying that there aren’t wrinkles to be ironed out of the electric car concept. There are. But from the minute our Jaguar I-PACE was delivered by innovative car rental app THE OUT, it performed handsomely. And THE OUT exists for just this reason; to test the limits of insular Londoners and challenge even the eco-minded to up sticks and escape the city for some much-needed rural roaming.
And so it was that, last Thursday, with the ping of a notification, Jaguar’s menacing, market-leading eco-beast rolled up to the Gentleman’s Journal offices — and we were shown how to use every gadget and gizmo atop its four eco-friendly wheels. It’s a thoroughly luxurious machine (THE OUT deal in high-end SUVs, and also offer Ranger Rover Velars and Land Rover Discovery Sports) and the representative who dropped off our I-PACE did a fine job of detailing every one of the car’s various contraptions and contrivances. Among them; multi-zone heated seats, a touchscreen infotainment system and so many parking assists that you’d be hard-pushed to crash the thing even if you wanted to.
But the real music to our ears — considering we were about to embark on a 300 mile drive northwards — was the car’s ‘intelligent’ sat-nav system. In another bold move from the manufacturer, and in a bid to up the viability of long-distance road-trips, Jaguar has developed a system that automatically detects when your car is going to run out of juice, and then programs in additional waypoints to ensure you never run out of charge. It’s like your powertrain and navigation system are constantly talking to each other.
This system programmed in one extra stop as we silently tore up the M6 towards the forests and fells of the Lake District. It was a brief pause, under an hour, before the final push past Bassenthwaite and Buttermere to Lamplugh, a small village by Wisenholme Beck. It’s a remote spot, and accessible only by arterial single-track roads — but the I-PACE took skirting the lakes and scaling the hills in its lithium-powered stride.
If we were to voice one reservation about Jaguar’s first premium electric vehicle, it would have to be the size. Rolling up the motorway, of course, there are no issues; the SUV feels safe, secure and the lanes are wide enough to nip past hatchbacks and eighteen-wheelers alike. But, driving around London’s car-lined streets and the tight blind bends of the Lake District, you’ll soon start to wish designer Ian Callum had shaved a couple on inches off that seven foot width.
Of course, it’s a minor qualm. Take your time and the I-PACE’s heft will soon become inconsequential — even if you’re only renting for a short time from THE OUT. And perhaps the car wouldn’t be such an award-winning looker if it wasn’t built on such a squat, hunkered-down platform. Earlier this year, Jaguar not only scooped up the ‘Best Green Car’ award at the World Car of the Year Awards, but also the ‘Best Design’ gong.
And it’s refreshing to see a manufacturer put equal effort into every area of a car’s design. Jaguar could well have sat back smugly after creating the first electric SUV from a premium European automaker, but instead it turned its considerable efforts to making it look lovely, too. Unmistakably on-brand, the I-PACE takes its style cues from the Jaguar’s C-X75 hybrid supercar concept, uses aerodynamics to dictate its muscular lines and sits confidently on exaggerated front haunches.
Door handles retract flush into the heavy-set bodywork, the front bumper sweepingly conducts air around the wheels and each fixture and fitting is reliably rugged. It may be a luxury car, but the I-PACE feels functional; practicality being another area where Jaguar has done some serious homework. Trudge through the Lake District’s Whinlatter Forest, or splash around on the shale shores of Derwent Water, and you still won’t feel bad clambering back into the cabin.
Of course, while it may be surprisingly sturdy, there are drawbacks. The back windscreen is a little small, and you won’t benefit from the incredible panoramic glass roof unless you’re lucky enough to be a rear-seat passenger. Even the electric powertrain has its problems. Eco-mindedness is all well and good until it starts getting dark and rainy — welcome to the Lake District in October — and the windscreen wipers, heaters and headlights begin drinking your battery like a pint of Jennings Bitter.
But, although driving the I-PACE to one of Britain’s most remote national parks — and a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 2017 — seemed to be flirting with disaster, the car didn’t fall into any of the pitfalls or potholes predicted by the naysayers. We weren’t marooned in Ennerdale or stranded by Scafell Pike. We didn’t even come close to running out of battery — and, chiefly, that’s because electric chargers seem to be cropping up everywhere.
Other than a grey, rainy detour into deepest, most suburban Nottingham, most motorway service stations delivered admirably on the charging front. Even in the Lake District, there were plenty of plugs to be found — from well-equipped visitor centres and roadside rest areas to the car parks of upscale supermarket Booths.
Of course, there are gaps in the network. But, for the most part, you’ll never run out of power if you drive sensibly and listen to the pragmatic and softly-spoken voice directing you from your I-PACE’s Meridian Audio speakers. The electric charging network is only set to get larger, more comprehensive and far-reaching — and soon you’ll never be beyond a stone’s throw of a power point.
The I-PACE, then, is not only the ideal car for charging around the looping corners and leafy lanes of the Lake District, but it’s also pretty perfect for getting there. Silent even before the cabin’s noise-cancelling construction sets to work, it makes endless motorway miles a pleasure — and the instant electric acceleration turns B-road runs into true sport.
Services such as THE OUT must also be commended; brands who have elevated car hire and given Londoners the chance to test the luxurious limits of eco-friendly cars. And they’ll only get more popular — for these zero-emission, modern-minded and thoroughly innovative motors have a bright, bright future ahead of them. That is, unless you’re caught in the dark Lake District drizzle…
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