This Car Could Be a "Tesla-Killer" -- but Will It Make Any Money?

2018 promises to be a big year for electric vehicles. Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) is ramping up production of its first sedan for the masses, General Motors' Bolt is selling well, and Nissan is revamping the Leaf. While the theme among automakers has become addressing a bigger audience with EVs, Jaguar Land Rover is making its grand entrance to the industry the only way a true Jaguar vehicle can: with style and performance.

Final specs aren't available yet on the I-PACE, but initial reports indicate the car could give Tesla's Model X a run for its money.

The I-PACE: Tesla's first rival?

The first thing noticeable about the I-PACE is its aggressive-looking exterior. The vehicle's design puts it somewhere between an SUV and a sedan, which technically makes it a crossover, but that doesn't quite fit the bill. Styling nods go to the company's F-TYPE sport coupe, but the I-PACE was designed as an electric vehicle from the ground up. Thus the unusually short front end (no engine under the hood) and low stature, distancing it from Tesla's vehicles, which have a slightly more traditional-car look.

The I-PACE EV concept, due out in the second half of 2018. Image source: Jaguar.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though, and some may still ultimately prefer the looks of Tesla's Model X SUV. Plus, the Model X has those Falcon Wing doors. Tesla's interiors are also more of a departure from what we consider normal, touting a single large touchscreen replacing the instrument column. I-PACE looks close to matching that idea, but doesn't have quite the same futuristic interior.

Speaking to performance, Jaguar's posted figures for the I-PACE concept (which it says it wants to meet or exceed for production models) puts the vehicle in line with a Model X 100D that goes for about $90,000 after tax incentive savings.

The Tesla Model X. Image source: Tesla.

Spec

Jaguar I-PACE Concept

Tesla Model X 100D

Production Model Cost

Estimated start around $70,000

$90,000

Range

310 miles

295 miles

Drivetrain

All-wheel drive, 90 kWh battery

All-wheel drive, 100 kWh battery

Acceleration (0-60 mph)

About 4.0 seconds

4.7 seconds

Charging

80% charge in 90 minutes with rapid charger

80% charge in 40 minutes with Supercharger

Technology

Unknown

Available enhanced autopilot and full self-driving capability

Data sources: Jaguar and Tesla.

These initial performance figures would suggest that the I-PACE isn't only the first proper competition for Tesla, it could actually outdo Tesla in some key categories. Of course, those who spring for the Model X P100D get a slew of upgrades that put the I-PACE concept to shame, and Tesla's self-driving technology is so far unmatched. However, the upgraded P100D costs a cool $128,000 after incentives, and full self-driving adds about another $8,000. Touche, Jaguar.

Will it move the needle?

2017 was a challenging year for the auto industry, but not so for Jaguar Land Rover. The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of India's Tata Motors (NYSE: TTM), posted full-year 2017 sales of 621,109 vehicles. That was good enough for a 6.5% increase over 2016.

The interior of the I-PACE. Image source: Jaguar.

Jaguar Land Rover's global market share is less than 1%, but it is nevertheless a profitable endeavor despite its small scale. The company has had recent success rolling out new production models, including its first-ever SUV, the F-PACE. In its first year of production, nearly 70,000 were sold, and the vehicle now makes up over 40% of total vehicles sold bearing the Jaguar badge.

If the F-PACE is any indication, the I-PACE will also be an instant hit. But this is a much more ambitious endeavor for Jaguar Land Rover. This is its first foray into the world of EVs, and even more competition, like Audi's e-tron, is hot on I-PACE's heels.

But Jaguar Land Rover and its shareholders via Tata Motors have some advantages here. Though I-PACE is a first, it looks like an impressive entry. The specs are true to Jaguar's pedigree as a performance car company, and starting price points look competitive. Look for more details on the car as we approach its promised release during the second half of 2018.

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Nicholas Rossolillo owns shares of Tata Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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