On Monday this week I was at the virtual launch of the amazing Jaguar I-Pace. Now, I’m a car guy, and I own two Jaguars, so they pretty much had me at “Jaguar.” But I’m also looking to replace my Supercharged FX35 (there are 10 of them in the world) with an electric, and was less than thrilled with the Tesla X, a nightmare of unreliable parts that I recently rented. So, the idea of a small, electric SUV that blended the looks of a Supercar with practicality was very compelling. But how do you present a car that, for the most part, only exists in a prototype? Typically, you’d just see the prototype, but using Dell Precision Workstations and HTC VIVE VR Headsets, Jaguar set up two large showcases— one in Los Angeles and one in London— where we could virtually explore the car and they could sell us on a concept that wouldn’t exist in final form until mid-2018— that’s a full two years off.
It was an amazing experience and car, and I just signed up to buy one instead of a Tesla, so that speaks to how effective the sales pitch was. But imagine being able to fully explore a car that won’t exist in final form for years either in a dealership or even in your home. Dell, HTC, and Jaguar are changing not only how you buy cars but how you design, build, and buy them.
I have to start with talking about this amazing car. One of the issues for me with the Tesla X is that it is ugly and Tesla’s new small coupe that it got over 300K pre-orders for looks like someone took an eraser to the grill. That is the difference between a tech company building cars and a car company building cars— the car company gets that, particularly for a car targeted at a premium buyer, it has to look attractive. And the I-Pace is, and I’m understating this, gorgeous. The only weak angle is the rear of the car which looks like something was left off, but in every other shot this car looks like McLaren and the F-Type Jaguar had a baby.
With 400 HP and what is likely an understated 0-60 time of four seconds, this will be one of the quickest cars in its class. I know that because I just bought the Mercedes GLA-45 AMG, which leads the class in speed now, and this is faster. It should also have a range in excess of 300 miles and use standard chargers (Superchargers are Tesla only).
One of the interesting things about this car vs. a Tesla is that it has both a grill and a radiator. Those of us that are into computer gaming have learned that water-cooling electronics are far more effective than air cooling, and it has always bothered me that Tesla seemingly didn’t get that memo. Well Jaguar did and the I-Pace is liquid cooled.
Finally, the car is a tech showcase with full displays for instruments and entertainment and LED headlights that can be made dynamic (angling where you turn) electronically. The only disappointment is that the Intel and Jaguar won’t have the coming feature that allows headlights to make snow and rain disappear; I’m told that won’t be ready until around 2020. Shame, as I’ve seen it work and it’s a killer app, particularly here in the North West.
The other big story at the event was how VR was effectively used to present the car. Before we’d even seen the physical car, they had us all put on HTC Vive VR headsets, which were connected to those Dell Workstations, and they gave us a presentation to end all presentations. No PowerPoint slides of death. Instead, they took us into space and began their pitch hundreds of miles above the earth— not sure why, probably just because they could, but talk about an amazing presentation space. They took us through how the car was designed and built, key features for performance and handling, and what made the batteries more advanced than the ones Tesla is using.
They then took us down to earth (it would have been cool had we done that in the car) and then took us inside and around the car so we could check out the features from both outside and inside of it. I have to admit being able to stand up and stick my head right through the roof was a tad disconcerting. But at least it didn’t hurt like it would have in a real vehicle.
By the time they were done I wanted the I-Pace badly, and I was far from alone, showcasing how VR can be used to effectively sell things that don’t even exist yet. By the time we were done with the presentation they had pulled the prototype up near us and we got to see what I’m told will be very close to the final car but, by then, we literally knew it inside and out.
We are at the beginning of an automotive revolution from new power sources like electricity, to autonomous driving, to how we present and sell the vehicles. The world of 2020 will look massively different on the road and in the dealership than it does today. I don’t think we yet have a full grasp of just how different, but one way to get there is through VR and, this week, I got a little taste of that. The only problem is I now have a long wait until the new car I lust for shows up. I’m thinking both Dell and Jaguar don’t think that is a bad thing, not a bad thing at all. There is a word for that, which I’m not actually allowed to write down. It’s not nice to make someone want something they can’t have. Damn, I want that car!!
Edited by Alicia Young