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.