There is only one electric car in the market that is a challenger to Tesla, and it is the Jaguar I-Pace. A comparatively small (against the Tesla X) SUV that is far better looking (in my opinion) both outside and in. Given the Tesla X was arguably one of the worst cars I’ve ever driven (I drove two of them, and both seemed to either want to knock me out with those damned Gull Wing doors or commit suicide with the poorly named “autopilot”). My choice to buy an I-Pace was surprisingly easy even if you didn’t consider that I’m a long-term Jaguar fan going back to when I worked in a Jaguar shop while in college. I have three of them an XKE, F-Type V8S, and the I-Pace.
In owning and driving the car, five things stand out as being particularly annoying, let’s take them in order of annoyance.
Jaguar has a very close relationship with Intel and Microsoft, both of which understand the importance of performance. I’m not talking about the performance of the car but the performance of the electronics (driver instruments and center console). The instruments tend to work OK, but the center console (radio, comfort controls, options) is incredibly slow, and it doesn’t always even boot up. I recall a couple of decades ago Microsoft had a product called Auto PC that was so bad my wife kept threatening to rip it out of the dash and toss it out the window. The implementation in the I-Pace isn’t that bad, but there is no excuse for the incredible lag this system has. My guess, based on the Auto PC experience, is they under-specified the hardware, but this substantially reduces the enjoyment with the car. (Volvo, surprisingly enough, may be the company to get this right first). I’ve seen demonstrations and implementation using Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and BlackBerry (often blends) that are all better than what the I-Pace has.
The I-Pace has one of the largest batteries in the segment, but the range isn’t anything to write home about. Currently, I hover between 190 miles in cold weather and 220 in warm. Granted, part of this is likely because I drive the car a bit like a performance car (surprised a Hemi Challenger the other day). Most every Tesla with smaller batteries—and often smaller cars—get better range. The best guess as to the cause is that Tesla uses front motors that spin freely while not in use, so they don’t drag on the range, Jaguar does not, their motors stay connected. Now, this may help with off-road driving particularly on declines, but these cars are mostly driven on the road, so the tradeoff probably wasn’t in line with the car’s actual use.
I noted that the Tesla system isn’t that great but mostly because they pitch it as an autopilot, and it isn’t yet that. The big problem with the Tesla system is that it is presented as more than it is. It is one of the better solutions currently on the road. But the I-Pace isn’t nearly as good. Part of the reason is that, in the weather, the camera lenses don’t self-clean. Dirt, mud, and snow can get on them, causing the system to fail outright. Even when it is working, it doesn’t always engage when you want, and it is pretty limited when engaged. It is arguably three years behind the Tesla system.
There are a number of issues with the charging system in the car, starting with a charging door that not only sticks out quite a bit from the side of the vehicle when open, but also doesn’t alert or automatically close, and can easily be ripped off if you back out of the garage when open (I almost did this). More significant is the lack of support for the latest generation of direct chargers. These chargers go up to 450 KW and could reduce the charging time of the car to minutes. But while the I-Pace does support direct charging it currently won’t support the latest high-speed chargers. (Granted there aren’t many out there yet, but they are coming).
Better Customer Interaction
Customer interaction is one thing that Tesla does particularly well. They just seem to engage with their customer community better. Software updates are like Christmas, where people are excited about the changes that magically appear in the car. Buyers seem to be more aware of what is coming, and Tesla goes to great lengths to provide ways to upgrade the vehicle after you buy it. I can’t point to any other company that engages as well (except for some of the exotic car companies).
Customers become advocates, and—with almost no marketing and mostly word of mouth—Tesla rose to challenge the most significant car companies in the world. If you take care of and engage with your customers, they tend to spread your praises enthusiastically, and you sell more cars as Tesla has demonstrated. Jaguar could use that kind of effort to improve both customer satisfaction and sales vastly. So, while the I-Pace is better than the comparable Tesla, the customer experience is not, and brand loyalty is tied more tightly to customer experience than it is to the product. I learned this in the 1990s when Sony had a better laptop, but Dell rolled right over them because they took better care of their customers.
The I-Pace is a fantastic car. Of the vehicles I own, it has quickly become my favorite. As a first effort, it is amazing. But it is also far from perfect and if Jaguar just fixed the electronics, range, improved the autonomous driving capabilities, improved charging, and especially focused on turning drivers into Tesla-like advocates, I think, they’d have a good chance of making Tesla redundant. Granted, Elon Musk seems to be doing an excellent job of that at the moment, but we’ll save that for another post.
In the end, the I-Pace is a fantastic, and award-winning, car but Jaguar could learn something from Tesla on how to make it better, and Tesla could learn from Jaguar how to make cars better looking. Just saying.