Jaguar I-Pace

Everything you know is wrong. About battery cars, that is. If you think they’re slow and stodgy, cramped, funny looking and boring to drive, well, you need to spend some time behind the wheel of the electrifying new Jaguar I-Pace.

A trip to Portugal’s Algarve region during the height of cork harvesting season disproved the misconceptions. The British marque’s first battery-electric vehicle endured about every possible test—on road or off—including track time at the Formula One–rated Autodromo Internacional Algarve before wrapping things up with a steep hill climb, and a splash through a stream.

An instant eye-opener as a 2016 concept car, the I-Pace changed little as a production model, and it borrows liberally from the classic Jaguar design book. The most obvious difference is its “cab forward” shape. The batteries, motors and control systems all sit below the load floor instead of under the hood, so they pulled the cabin forward, leaving lots of space for passengers and cargo. Despite the crossover’s compact footprint, it has the interior space of the brand’s stretch limo.

Mounting that hardware underneath also means a much lower center of gravity, and the I-Pace has the poise of a classic Jaguar sport sedan. It feels more nimble than the brand’s two conventionally powered utility vehicles, the E-Pace and F-Pace, and is faster. The twin motors—one on each axle—whir out 394 horsepower and 512 pound-feet of torque. Because electric motors needn’t rev up like a gas engine, you’ll hit 60 in 4.5 seconds.

Another novel feature is called single-pedal driving. Like all battery cars, I-Pace uses “regenerative” brakes that recapture energy lost during braking and coasting, improving range. Set to maximum regen you simply modulate the throttle to slow down as you weave around corners and, in most around-town situations you can come to a halt without touching the brake pedal.

I-Pace resolves so many battery-electric complaints that it may speed demand. Its 90-kilowatt lithium-ion battery clocks an average 240 miles on a charge. Using a 240-volt charger it takes about 12.6 hours to top off a drained battery, but the new Level 3 public chargers can get an 80 percent range boost in 40 minutes.

The new Jaguar I-Pace starts at $69,500, with the heavily loaded First Edition model pushing up to $85,900. By comparison, the F-Pace starts at $44,600. Then again, Tesla’s own Model X SUV has a base price that’s $10,000 more.