Jaguar I-PACE: Designer Ian Callum breaks down his electric sensation

Pras Subramanian
Producer/Reporter

For car buffs, Ian Callum is a legend. From Aston Martins like the DB7 to limited edition Ford performance cars, and now to Jaguar (TTM), his designs stand the test time.

And his latest creation, the Jaguar I-PACE, is turning heads and making waves in other areas too. That’s because it’s an all-electric SUV with the equivalent of 400 horsepower. With a base price of $69,500, it also appears to be a real-deal Tesla (TSLA) fighter too.

Callum with the Jaguar I-PACE (Credit: Jaguar)

We spoke to Callum at the Jaguar booth at this year’s New York International Auto show. For Callum, the aggressive, low-slung design of the I-PACE isn’t just form, it’s also function.

“The great thing with the electric platform, there’s nothing really above the wheel center, [as a designer] you get the freedom you want,” he says. “We decided to do an SUV because we do have the height issue for the batteries, and rather than give ourselves this complication of trying to do a low car in it we decided to do an SUV, but we could a relatively low SUV.”

Cab-forward supercar design

Callum notes that much of a car’s shape is actually determined by aerodynamics, and he likes to think and work this way, a form-following-function ethos if you will, because he says there’s ‘an integrity’ in it.

This presents opportunities for designers like Callum. “Because we have this ‘skateboard’ platform, we can put the occupants anywhere you want,” he explains. “Normally when you have encumbrance like an engine, the driver has to sit back, but this time we can put the occupants forward, and if we’re going to do that, let’s emphasize this and make it look like a cab-forward car, like a cab-forward super car—which I love.”

Jaguar I-PACE (Credit: Jaguar)

“The essence is to visually try to make sure that the visual weight of the car is going forward, so it looks like it has a dynamic about it, and that’s very important.”

The future is electric (and self-driving)

Although the I-PACE was built ground-up as an electric car, Callum made a point to ensure that it was a Jaguar first and foremost, meaning it drive like a performance-oriented machine, no matter what the powertrain. “The internal combustion engine’s days are probably, relatively, numbered,” he notes dryly.

Will we see an electric motor in a new F-Type perhaps? Callum wouldn’t say it was happening right now, but he was confident that electric propulsion is the future way forward for Jaguar. In fact, Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Waymo, the self-driving technology company, just struck a deal to purchase 20,000 Jaguar I-PACE SUVs for its autonomous driving initiatives.

Jaguar I-PACE Waymo self-driving model (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

Callum is all-in on self-driving tech, and he thinks Jaguar makes sense for Waymo. “I think [Waymo] likes the car; they felt it’s the right platform for them to work from,” he says.

“I never envisioned this [partnership], but its terrific. We’re going to learn so much from this, both sides, and it’s a great partnership, it really is.“

For more on what Ian Callum had to say, watch the video above.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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