When it comes to all things cars, I still mostly revel in my ignorance, so unsurprisingly my buying decisions for vehicular-based sets are still mostly determined by how well I may use the pieces for other projects. The LEGO Speed Champions Formula E Panasonic Jaguar Racing GEN2 car & Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY (76898) is no exception. Yes, the set name is quite a mouthful, so I’ll only use it this one time in this article.
The main appeal of this set for me were the various pieces in Medium Azure, several of which are available for the first time in this color with this package. There are of course some other nice parts as well, but more on that later where appropriate.
The Speed Champion sets have seen a major change in strategy this year with the construction switching from a 6 stud wide design to an 8 stud wide. This alone makes the models larger and requiring a few more pieces, in turn naturally causing an uptick in pricing. This is in this case further exacerbated by this being a dual set. Things are not all that bad, though, as regardless of these circumstances 40 Euro is still an okay price and even better yet the actual street price is typically somewhere around 30 Euro, bringing it back into the price range of the older sets.
That said, LEGO could easily have saved a few pennies by not including the embarrassment that is the start/ finish gate. The logic why they even included it in the first place totally eludes me. It’s way too ugly to be put next to the cars in a showcase and since Speed Champions aren’t really meant as playable toys to begin with, it adds no value on that front, either. It really feels like unnecessary box stuffing and those 50 pieces could have done more good if they had been used for extra detailing on the cars.
Formula E is boring as hell, even more so than what Formula 1 has become. The drivers seem more busy evading each other in order to not crash their precious cars and the driving competition is more defined by conserving the limited electrical energy than actual fights. The designs of the cars are more or less the same, but very recognizable in their own right, with the Panasonic Jaguar indeed standing out a bit due to its black and bright azure-ish cyan livery. Yes, it’s in fact much brighter on the real thing, LEGO just don’t have an exactly matching color for it.
In addition to the color not matching exactly there are other limitations inherent to rendering these shapes with LEGO, so overall the model is a lot more blocky than the genuine article. As you would imagine most places where you see straight slopes, in particular on the wheel well/ aerodynamic wheel covers, should be way more curvy and complex shapes. Personally this irks me a bit because I think that despite the relatively small scale it might have been possible to replicate this better using curved elements and a few more of them wedge pieces.
A similar statement could be made for the nose, consisting of a single long 8 x 2 curved slope as first introduced in Dark Blue on last years Ford Mustang GT (10265). Piecing it together from a bunch of smaller slopes would have allowed to make it more pointed. The “hump” air intake could have benefited from such an approach, too, though I mostly think this particular area is kind of okay, regardless.
One thing that is easily apparent – and at that not just my limited photographic equipment struggling with exposure – is that this is a very dark model. Granted, I once again didn’t use any of the stickers that would have mitigated the issue somewhat, but even then it would still be very dark. The point here of course once again is the curved body of the original easily producing complex reflections and highlights whereas the straight and flat surfaces of the model can’t keep up with that.
As it is, I wish the LEGO designers had done a bit of “illusion painting” using Dark Bluish Grey, Flat Silver and Dark Pearl Grey for parts buried deeper inside the model. The overall shadowing and adjacent black would have toned it down enough perceptually to blend in, yet there would at least have been some contrast.
The second model in the set, the i-Pace is a completely different breed and funny enough this applies not only to the original, but also to the small version. This set is pretty clearly a mix of two completely different design philosophies, i.e two different people having designed each individual item.
To most people this will be the less interesting car, but this is actually where the meat of the set lies in terms of the new parts used, beginning with the new 8 wide compact chassis piece and the new windscreen and ending with the re-colored slopes and wedges. There’s also way more to do since more parts are used here and i therefore enjoyed the build more.
Where things fall apart for me are the edges of the roof and the shaping of the rear section. It just doesn’t look particularly realistic at all and in this area the model looks more like an SUV than an everyday electric car turned racing vehicle. To me this is once more a clear sign that LEGO need to come up with some 1 plate thick curved elements like some of their competitors have. It would really help to re-create those gently sloped transitions and blend things in.
Similar to the Formula E car, this one has barely any variation to its colors and it looks just as much as an uniform blob. Yes, I can once more only blame myself for not using the stickers, but a few more printed elements might perhaps have things easier. In fact it feels rather odd that there are two 1 x 6 tiles with prints, but not single element with the Jaguar artwork has been printed. What makes matters even worse is that the few colored elements used for the head and rear lights are also kind of drowning in the surrounding colors and are barely noticeable.
All things considered I’m not sure I would actually recommend this set. Don’t get me wrong – for what they are, the models are done nicely enough, it’s just that this will not look the most attractive on the shelf. As a parts source I got my value out of it and given the reasonable price it can still make for a bit of welcome temporary distraction in these weird times. I just wouldn’t put it at the top of any lists I can think of.