IT SHOULD COME AS no surprise that our Car of the Year podium finishers are all SUVs, but there is one very sleek-looking cat amongst the common pigeons. Frankly, the fact that the all-new, all-electric and undeniably adventurous Jaguar I-Pace has gone this deep into the competition will surprise people. No Jaguar has taken the coveted COTY before, so a win would be a boilover for sure, but it’s up against more conventional cars, and two previously winning brands. Stage Three’s rigorous ride assessments will decide...
THOUGHTFULLY DESIGNED FAMILY SUV THAT EXUDES A CORE COMPETENCE AND CALMNESS
LIKE YOUR FAVOURITE local pizzeria, the Forester, by little ol ‘Subaru, has long been both a big crowd pleaser and a cut above most of the larger multinationals’ fare, regularly winning comparos with quality engineering and packaging smarts. That’s mighty impressive given that, until now, the medium-SUV’s bones dated back to the first Liberty/ Legacy of 1989. Obviously, each redesign in the series’ 22-year history has kept pace and evolved, culminating in the previous version’s impressive pricing, specification and economy – the latter aided by a switch to a CVT auto.
This time the Japanese have gone all out, with the spankingnew ‘Subaru Global Platform’. The recipe might be much the same – just try to differentiate old and new Forester at first glance – but the ingredients have created something special.
Let’s start with value. While there are no manuals (or turbos, for now), thus raising the base price by over $3K, what’s included from $33,490 does lift class standards – a 2.5-litre boxer petrol engine driving all four wheels via an equally fresh auto, for example, as well as AEB, pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning, rear crosstraffic alert, automatic and adaptive LED headlights, digital radio, CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, 17-inch alloys and tyre-pressure monitors.
Add acres of space for five, a sizeable cargo area with a flat floor (the upshot of a body that’s now 15mm longer, 20mm wider and accompanied by a 30mm wheelbase stretch), better all-round vision due to deeper windows, thinner pillars and a low dash cowl, a fine driving position and simple controls, and you can see why, as one judge put it: “that base Forester is all you need.” Indeed.
The ever-so-slightly more powerful (by 10kW/4Nm) fifth-gen Forester is also a tad heavier than before, but considering how much larger and better equipped it is, the circa-10 percent fuel-consumption fall highlights further efficiency gains, which is important in a family SUV like this.
It’s not just for misers, either. Keener drivers will appreciate the fine line the steering straddles between lightness, feel and feedback, making the most of a chassis offering unshakeable poise and grip. And everyone in the vehicle will marvel at the softly sprung, long-travel suspension’s almost supernatural trick of soaking up the rough stuff without making occupants feel woozy with excessive bodyroll. Premium SUVs costing thrice the price cannot replicate such suppleness.
Whether maintaining a cool and calm attitude at high speed on the durability circuit, sliding along with figureskating grace over gravel and dirt, or glued to the bitumen in belting rain, the sweet-handling Subaru garners respect and admiration through its sheer, relaxed control.
Perhaps that’s why most judges felt that the 136kW of power and 239Nm of torque provided by the 90 percent-new naturally aspirated boxer aren’t enough for a tremendously capable chassis that’s crying out for more oomph.
Even the superbly tuned CVT and its ability to provide precisely the right band of ratios with minimal lag and tolerable droning cannot mask the Subaru’s unremarkable performance. Don’t get us wrong, with sufficient smoothness off the mark and more-than-reasonable throttle response in the mid-range, the 2.5 can be deceptively quick point-to-point, but a bit more muscle would not go astray.
A three-year warranty also falls short, although at least there are now 12-month rather than six-month service intervals.
We’d suggest Subaru needs to quieten noise intrusion, fit shapelier back-seat cushions and devise a less-complicated dashboard for the facelift. Otherwise, there’s little to fault and much to savour in the fiercely fit Forester. Even if you like your pizzas Margherita-basic, you still get the lot here. Dig in.
Type 5-door wagon, 5 seats
Boot capacity 498 litres
Weight 1563 – 1617kg
Layout front-engine (east-west), AWD
Engine 2498cc flat 4cyl (136kW/239Nm)
Tyres 225/60R17 – 225/55R18
ADR81 fuel consumption 7.4L/100km
CO2 emissions 168g/km
Crash rating 5 stars (ANCAP)
PRICES $33,490 – $41,490
SEGMENT-BUSTING EV BEGAN BRILLIANTLY, BUT REAL-WORLD TESTING EXPOSED FLAWS
SWISHING ALMOST silently onto COTY centre stage for the first time, Jaguar’s only electric vehicle oozed star-quality charisma. Difficult to categorise, and yet an obvious Telsa threat, the I-Pace is like nothing else the Brit brand has produced.
With a big battery pack mounted low between its widely spaced axles, each of them driven by a powerful electric motor, the I-Pace’s drivetrain layout is similar to its only obvious rival, the Model X, and Jaguar claims Tesla-equalling performance and range. But that’s where the similarities end; because while the I-Pace is expensive, it’s far less costly than comparable models in the Model X line-up.
The I-Pace is an EV produced by an experienced car maker, and it shows. Tesla simply can’t manage to build cars with tight panel gaps and consistent quality. Jaguar can, and more than one COTY judge thought the Magna Steyr factory in Austria, where the I-Pace is assembled, deserved a special mention.
Jaguar’s designers, on the other hand, can claim full credit for the I-Pace’s looks. It’s a shape like no other on the road.
It’s a high and hefty hatch that’s big but confidently curvy. Jaguar design chief Ian Callum’s crew made the most of the opportunity offered by the EV’s long wheelbase and the minimal overhangs required by its compact motors.
The judges found the Jaguar’s infotainment system easy to like, and there were no complaints about seat comfort, luggage space or fit-out. So far, so normal...
But actually driving the I-Pace on Ford’s You Yangs Proving Ground was anything but. Jaguar claims a sub-5.0 sec 0-100km/ h time, but the I-Pace feels faster because of the instantaneous response of its electric motors.
The 90kWh lithium-ion battery pack providing the urge weighs more than 600kg. And, according to Ford’s scales, the I-Pace tops 2200kg. With its weight mostly down low, the Jaguar’s handling feels different. But this is a properly corner-capable car. “So planted,” wrote Noelle Faulkner. “Centre of gravity in the basement.” The heavyweight I-Pace’s great dirt traction and excellent wet braking were also noted.
Type 5-door wagon, 5 seats
Boot capacity 656 litres
Layout front and rear electric motors (east-west), AWD
Motors dual 3-phase AC permanent magnet synchronous; (147kW/348Nm each)
Transmission single-speed reduction gear
Energy consumption 21.2kWh/100km
CO2 emissions 0g/km
PRICES $119,000 – $140,800
PRICES $119, 000 – $140, 800
It scores well for passive safety, too. The I-Pace has earned five-star ratings in both Europe and Australia.
Wheels requested two I-Paces for our COTY testing, one on the standard passive suspension and another on optional air suspension. The steel springs do a fine job, and the EV’s dynamics feel genuinely Jaguar. Spending the extra $2002 buys only marginal improvements in ride comfort and agility.
Until it left the proving ground, the Jaguar seemed to be cruising towards COTY victory. Nothing else in the field could approach its excellent efficiency or amazing acceleration.
There was a lot to like about the I-Pace in real-world use. Judges preferred the regenerative braking set to High. Andy Enright drove the entire 53km road loop in this mode without once touching the brake pedal. The acceleration felt even more awesome and the chassis remained impressive.
But the I-Pace failed to get anywhere near its supposedly realistic 470km WLTP range. Two things became clear over our days driving the Jaguar on public roads. First, the car’s drivingrange software cannot be trusted to provide a real estimate of the distance the car can drive on a full or partial charge. When 100 percent charged, the I-Pace would indicate it was ready to drive a distance close to its WLTP figure, but once moving the range plummeted much faster than kilometres were covered.
Second, it became apparent that there was a big difference between the two I-Paces. One had a battery that was good for close to 300km of normal driving, while the other couldn’t get near that number. Such variance shows worrying inconsistency.
The Jaguar’s COTY contender status was already irreparably tarnished when the program moved to the four-up stage. Here the I-Pace’s lack of rear-seat roominess and the vehicle’s poor rearward vision helped seal its inevitable fate...