The Jaguar I-Pace is the company's new all-electric SUV. In many people's minds it represents the future of the British brand. It's Jaguar Land Rover's first real foray into the world of electric as it looks to go up against a bevy of electric cars either already on the market or coming in 2018 and beyond.

Ahead of the official launch on the 1 March, and the official reveal at the Geneva Motor Show later that month, Pocket-lint flew to the edges of the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden to try something different: to see how the I-Pace performs in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.

This isn't your regular first drive, this is one ramped up to the extreme - on a frozen lake in temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius.

A concept that's almost reality

Our words here reflect driving an almost final production I-Pace in conditions that we wouldn't expect many to experience. While this isn't the concept model that the company has been showing off for the last year - as we saw unveiled at the LA Auto Show - it's still not the final version either.

Even as we stand looking at the new I-Pace in sub-zero temperatures, JLR is being cagey about what it can and can't share with us about the final production model, which is due out later in 2018.

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There are some noticeable differences to the model we've driven to the model you'll eventually find on the road. Our pre-production car doesn't feature final software. Its camouflaged exterior won't be a production option, funnily enough, either. The dash was completely covered too, reserved for the launch reveal.

However, we're told while there have been some tweaks to the concept, a lot of what was introduced remains. Our drive is focused on performance and handling in the cold, and how the battery can cope with the harsh conditions - which'll come in handy in nippy ol' Blighty, eh? As anyone who has used a smartphone in the extreme cold will tell you, batteries don't like the cold one bit.

What we know about the I-Pace

While JLR isn't detailing much about the final production version of the I-Pace, it has detailed plenty about the I-Pace Concept. Things will change of course, they always do, but we doubt by a huge amount.

Confirmed specs include all-wheel-drive, 700Nm instant torque, 400PS, 0-60mph in around 4 seconds, and a range of over 500km (310 miles) on a single charge. There are five full seats, a rear load space of 530 litres, plus a small front luggage compartment of 36 litres - that's one benefit of electric.

On the inside Jaguar has evolved its design language by adding some clever features to cut down on mass and keep the car lightweight - including the development of some thin seats - but overall it's quite restrained. Perhaps it'll be more arresting when the full dash is visible in context to the rest of the final production car, as for now it doesn't push things to quite the futuristic lengths as a BMW i8 in terms of materials, or as a Tesla in terms of tech screens.

As for the dashboard experience, the Concept features four screens all within the driver's viewpoint: vehicle information sits beyond the steering wheel; there's a central screen for infotainment; a further touchscreen for climate control; plus a full-colour Heads Up Display (HUD) that displays key information at a glanceable portion of the windscreen. Jag calls it its "flightdeck" control interface, with everything to hand, meaning things like normal indicator stalks and gear selector buttons exist on a floating console - which also contains the climate control knobs.

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Smartphone users will get an accompanying app that you can use to pre-warm the battery and the cabin to improve performance before you set off. Pre-conditioning the car will ensure maximum range, performance and comfort - whether temperatures are freezing cold or extremely hot, says JLR.  Setting up preferred charging times and pre-conditioning schedules can be done from either the on-board InControl system, or the remote smartphone app, and is as easy as setting an alarm.

Charging is via the usual array of electric charging stations available, including a three-pin wall plug in the UK if you don't have a proper station installed at home.

Batteries don't impinge on space

To make room for the large battery pack between the wheels, the front and rear wheel axles have been pushed forward and aft. As a consequence, this design  frees up space for the driver and four passengers inside, giving a very roomy experience both front and back. Rear passengers will thank you for it, that's for sure.

"We are able to achieve a space utilisation which is unknown so far in cars of this size," explains Dr Wolfgang Ziebart, Jaguar Land Rover Technical Design Director.

"I‑Pace Concept's exterior length is within a millimetre or so of the Jaguar XE but the interior length - from the accelerator pedal to the inside of the tailgate - is in-between a Range Rover and a Range Rover long wheelbase."

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The design has a very 'cab-forward' driving position, relative to the car's coupé-esque design - and to help make space for those batteries. The driving stance is high, too, although overall ground clearance isn't - you've got to put those batteries somewhere.

That front third proportion has a dramatic affect on the bonnet: it's incredibly short, and a real break from the F-Pace, the F-Type, and the original (and incredibly long) E-Type bonnet design. Jaguar has still kept the distinctive front grille, even though there is no physical need for it, as there's no combustion engine behind it.

For the production car the batteries will be able to charge from zero to 80 per cent charge in less than 45 minutes, using a DC 100kW charger. That's double the speed previously stated with the Concept, on par with other electric vehicles on the road like the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf 2. It's super speedy.

Driving on the ice in Arjeplog

While the I-Pace Concept has so far been driven on closed roads or in car parks, our drive at JRL's winter testing facility in Arjeplog, Sweden was considerably different.

The home of the company's Ice Academy, the Revi Test Centre is active between January and March and based on a frozen lake. There are four man-made test tracks designed to test a number of driving scenarios - including one called Big Circle that lets you effectively go sideways for long periods of time in full drift. We were able to do just that, plus see how the electric car handled on the centre's Handling Course 3.

We drove the I-Pace with standard all-terrain tyres rather than the studded wheels that are better suited to icy surfaces and with both traction on and - thanks to the recommendation of Jaguar Formula-e driver Mitch Evans - off. Cue controlled skidding galore.

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We plan to test the I-Pace in a number of closer-to-home environments up to and beyond the launch of the car, but the overriding feeling - even on ice - is that the I-Pace handles incredibly well. Great handling in the corners, great balance and fast acceleration make up what this car is all about.

A lot of that is down to the battery pack being placed low down in the vehicle, giving the I‑Pace Concept a positively low centre of gravity. It's an incredibly fun drive, and one that - aside from the obvious lack of engine roar - showed no discernible difference to a petrol engine powered vehicle. Indeed, with the high torque of electric we would happily argue that it's better, thanks to speedy acceleration that brought a smile to our lips.

For comparison we also drove the same course with the much "bigger" F-Pace, fitted with stud tyres. It was a very different drive. Both are very "Jaguar" - but of the two, the I-Pace certainly came across as more agile, sprightlier, and nimbler.

After Handling Course 3 we drove Big Circle. Here it is as simple and straightforward as slamming your foot on the accelerator, applying full lock on the steering wheel and then spending the rest of the time going sideways trying to keep the balance between the two to hold the drift. We managed it for some time, with a big beaming smile across our face.

First Impressions

Our I-Pace first drive was certainly different - and undoubtedly heaps of fun. Our couple of hours at Arjeplog showed us that even in the harshest conditions this car handles incredibly well, its performance unfettered by the cold and ice.

It wasn't, of course, a means to judge how the car will truly handle on the roads that most people will be driving on - whether to work or on the school run - rather a showcase for exploring the upper limits of its performance capability. And what a car it is.

There are still plenty of questions, though. What's the range going to be like? What's the final interior design going to look like? How will the interface handle? Will there be any special editions to get you extra excited? Perhaps some optional extras to enhance the experience further?

Crucially, of course, how much will it cost? Final pricing won't be confirmed until closer to the launch, but Jaguar has so far stated that "whilst electric propulsion systems can be twice as expensive as conventional systems, we assume I‑Pace will be priced 10 to 15 per cent above a similarly powered and equipped Jaguar F‑Pace."

So it's still very much TBC at the moment. But that percentage premium you'll pay will give you a fast-track ticket behind the wheel of a car that embraces the future. And if our ice experience is anything to go by, it's a future that will be great fun.