LOS ANGELES – Jaguar signals its intention to join the rapidly expanding electric car ranks with the unveiling of an arresting new CUV concept at a media event on the eve of the 2016 Los Angeles auto show.

Called the i-Pace, the rakish new 400-hp CUV provides what the British automaker’s design boss, Ian Callum, describes as a preview to the appearance and technical layout of a future production model boasting a zero-emission range of 220 miles (354 km) planned for introduction in the second half of 2018.

Targeted at the Tesla Model X as well as upcoming production versions of the Audi e-tron quattro and Mercedes-Benz EQ, the i-Pace provides the clearest hint yet to Jaguar’s first pure electric-powered model.

It also previews a new platform it plans to use for other zero-emission models, including a secretive zero-emission sedan already in the infancy stage of development at the company’s R&D center in Gaydon, England, and conceived to go up against the Tesla Model S in 2020.

Emphasizing the importance of the i-Pace, Callum describes it as a radical departure for electric cars. “It represents the next generation of battery-electric car design – the product of Jaguar DNA matched with premium details and British craftsmanship.

“It isn’t just a concept,” Callum adds. “It is a preview of a 5-seat production car that will be on the road in 2018 – Jaguar’s first-ever battery powered electric car opens a new chapter in the history of the brand.”

The i-PACE profile draws cues from the C-X75 mid-engine and takes advantage of the packaging potential offered by its electric driveline to give the concept a racy silhouette with a cab-forward design and a roofline sloping down at a more acute angle than that of the more conventional F-Pace.

The surfacing treatment also represents new ground for Jaguar, with tautly drawn forms and fine-detailed crease lines throughout the lower section of the doors that create a unique a highly contemporary appearance.

“I was determined from the beginning of this project to create a design which reflected the change in the mechanics of the car. The opportunities offered by an electric drivetrain are huge. Electric cars offer designers much greater freedom. The revolution is in the profile, not the design language,” says Callum.

Key elements include a traditional oval Jaguar grille with a central leaper badge, distinctive headlamps with LED graphics, prominent front wheel arches, a large air duct within the hood and a heavily angled rear window. Callum says the concept slips through the air with greater efficiency than the F-Pace, with a drag co-efficient of 0.29.

The future-focused design continues inside with what Callum describes as a layout that Jaguar says positions the driver further forward, increasing the space for second-row occupants while providing almost 19 cu. ft. (538 L) of luggage space.

i-Pace Offers 400 hp, 220-mile range

The starting point for the Jaguar concept is a newly developed electric-car platform. Constructed from a combination of aluminum and high-strength steel, it also is intended for use by the British automaker’s sister company, Land Rover, as the basis for its own range of electric-powered models including a zero-emission take on the classic Range Rover.

Conceived along modular lines that will enable it support differing lengths, wheelbases and track widths, it uses a flat floor that houses the 184.2-in. (4,633-mm) long i-Pace’s lithium-ion battery. At 117.7 ins. (2,990 mm), the wheelbase is 4.6 ins. (117 mm) longer than that of the F-Pace.

Power for the new Jaguar concept comes from a pair of electric motors mounted in each axle with a fully variable 4-wheel drive system and torque vectoring capable of apportioning drive to the individual wheel with the most grip. The driveline layout mirrors that of the Audi e-tron quattro and Mercedes-Benz EQ – two rival concepts that also are set to spawn production siblings before the end of the decade.

Each of the i-Pace’s synchronous electric motors delivers 200 hp and 258 lb. ft. (350 Nm) of torque, providing the Jaguar with a combined 400 hp and 516 lb. ft. (700 Nm) of torque. The output far exceeds most powerful version of the existing 4WD F-Pace powered by a supercharged 3.0L V-6 gasoline engine delivering 380 hp and 332 lb.-ft. (450) of torque.

The stout reserves are sufficient to provide the new concept with a 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of about 4.0 seconds, a time Jaguar says will be preserved in production. Provided Jaguar doesn’t choose to limit it to preserve range, the production version should also be capable of attaining a top speed to equal that of its most powerful combustion engine models at over 155 mph (249 km/h).

Electrical energy used to power the i-Pace’s electric motors is stored in a 90-kWh lithium-ion battery mounted underneath the cabin within a newly developed floor structure.

By locating the most weight-intensive component of the CUV at the lowest point possible, Jaguar says it has been able to reduce the crucial center of gravity by 4.7 ins. (119 mm) compared to the F-Pace. This promises to provide it with a dynamic flavor equal if not better than its combustion engine sibling, with which it shares various chassis, electronic and structural elements.

Jaguar says the i-Pace can achieve a range of up 220 miles when its battery is fully charged. When connected to a high powered charger, Jaguar says the lithium ion battery can be charged to 80% capacity within 90 minutes, indicating the production i-Pace will receive a 400V system. To achieve 100% capacity, the battery requires more than two hours of recharging. Oddly given its two main rivals are set to feature it, no mention of inductive charging is made for the new concept.