Jaguar adds another SUV to its ranks with the E-Pace. It promises sportscar-like handling with SUV practicalities. Does it deliver?
Jaguar may have been late to the SUV party but is making up for lost time. It’s first attempt was a beauty in the F-Pace, and Jaguar’s electric drive is underway with the I-Pace having just launched in Europe. Now there’s another SUV, the recently arrived E-Pace.
Jaguar’s F-Pace is doing so well the company’s UK production facilities are said to be close to capacity, and so the E-Pace will be made by Magna Steyr in Austria in order to meet demand. Luxury SUV sales are ramping up big time around the world. BMW will convert its plant in South Africa from making 3 Series to minting X3s. It’s just the way things are going in the automotive world.
Here too SUVs are doing well in all areas of the market and last year Jaguar sold more F-Paces than the rest of its range combined. So another SUV will do nicely it seems, especially one starting at $70,000, $30k below the entry F-Pace.
The essence of the E
This E-Pace is what they call a five-seat compact SUV. It’s only 4.4m long, so about the same length as a Merc GLA but is much wider at almost 2m across and taller at 1650mm. It’s a stocky, muscular looking SUV, and they say it’s styling was influenced by the F-Type, which also hints at its dynamic abilities.
The E-Pace shares its underpinnings with the Disco Sport and Evoque but Jaguar has adapted the front and rear suspension to suit its needs. Up front, the design of the alloy steering knuckle adds camber to improve turn-in while the subframe is unique to the E-Pace, and solidly mounted at the rear for better steering sensation. Aft is the firm’s Integral Link set-up which is designed to plant the rear end by separating the lateral and longitudinal effects of the bumps while simultaneously maintaining ride quality. Jaguar has also gone for firm bushes and stiff roll bars to enhance behaviour in the turns.
The grip and the go
All NZ-bound E-Paces offer AWD as standard, an on-demand system that shuffles torque between the axles for best effect. The range topping P300 alone gets the use of a more active system which employs the GKN Twinster diff at the rear. Also used in the top Evoques (and the Focus RS and new AWD Commodore) this can drag more of the drive torque to the rear, and then split it between the left and right wheels to reduce understeer and enhance power-on traction. Brake-activated torque vectoring also features on all E-Pace models.
While clearly designed with fast tarmac driving in mind, E-Pace is an SUV and has the Land Rover-developed All Surface Progress Control, an optimised traction control setting for use at low speeds enabling you to traverse icy or muddy tracks. E-Pace can also tow up to 1800kg. It employs the firm’s ‘Ingenium’ turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines, with two diesels and two petrols offered. All are teamed with a ZF nine-speeder, not to be confused with the ZF eight-speed, as the E-Pace is a transverse affair.
Along with pushing the E-Pace’s sportiness, Jaguar has ensured it’s a connected drive with the latest generation infotainment system, including a new 10-inch screen with improved resolution, response, voice control and more apps via the Pro Service system. It has a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot and as many as four 12-volt chargers and five USB ports. Can’t forget the safety aspect with a stereo camera system enabling AEB, pedestrian detection and lane departure system as standard.
The E-Pace specification brochure is daunting, running to 28 pages. Essentially though, there are three models; S, R-Dynamic S and R-Dynamic SE. The S D150 (diesel 110kW/380Nm) kicks things off at $69,900, while the S P250 (petrol 184kW/365Nm) is $74,900. The R-Dynamic S D180 (132kW/430Nm) costs $79,990, as is the P250 version. The R-Dynamic SE P250 is $84,900 and the top P300 (221kW and 400Nm) is $89,900. This is the “from” or base price, of course, with options aplenty to add.
The R-Dynamic essentially bolts on styling elements to the exterior and interior, so the spec for S and R-D models is similar, extending to dual zone climate air, the 10-inch touchscreen system with nav and Pro Service functions, cruise with limiter, AEB, lane departure, a rear camera, LED lights, 18s, electric and heated front seats with leather trim and a 360-degree parking aid. R-D adds a few more styling details and 19s, while the R-D SE comes with auto high beams, 20s, a powered tailgate, smart key, better seats, Meridian sounds and adaptive cruise with stop and go function.
The First Edition
We were rolling in a First Edition model, which is based on the R-Dynamic SE and fitted with the works. These models are in limited supply and cost $99,900. It’s only available with the P250 engine and wears an exclusive red hue while the design of the 20s is unique. The FE also comes with black exterior detailing and fixed panoramic roof while inside you get ebony Windsor leather with red ‘twin-needle’ contrast stitching, tread plates, and a suede headlining.
Jaguar’s new Head-up Display is included, which has a larger, clearer display and full colour graphics. The 18-way adjustable heated seats get a memory function, there’s configurable ambient lighting, loadspace storage rails, and a gesture tailgate. If red is not you, it’s also available in white.
Jaguar has lofty claims for the E-Pace, saying the F-Type not only inspired its styling but also its dynamics. And that’s a difficult objective to achieve because while most of its competitive set are SUVs based on car platforms, this is a Jaguar based on a Land Rover SUV. And yet they’ve made a jolly good fist of it. It steers like you’d hope a Jaguar SUV might turn, with a quick response, keen turn-in and a decent feel for the action. This First Edition on 20-inch rims and standard fixed-rate suspension doesn’t float like a magic carpet around town but is certainly civil. And it comes right as speeds rise.
There’s some jostling over minor bumps but it deals to challenging dip and ruts, especially mid-corner where it charges through unfazed. And considering the well contained roll thanks to those beefed up bars, the ride is rather acceptable, though we imagine it would be calmed further with the option of Jaguar’s adaptive suspension at $2050. The E-Pace presses on nicely but the weight of its SUV-derived bones, and an unhelpful 60/40 split of the mass, starts to tell on the front end in tighter bends.
The torque vectoring lends a hand to keep cornering lines in check, and the feelsome helm is quick to reveal when those limits are approaching. So as long as you can contain your enthusiasm, this goes well. But we think the P300 would be even better with its torque splitting rear diff, and some extra sauce from the engine. The P250 has good midrange urge, and revs heartily, the goodness remaining to just past 6000rpm. This even sounds okay, though we suspect it’s artificially enhanced in the Dynamic mode setting.
The nine-speed automatic isn’t the same slick and quick witted character as the eight-speeder in the rest of the Jag range either, but still manages the ratios in an acceptable manner when in Sport mode.
Slinking its way around the burbs, this cat is pretty laid back. The engine has no laggy issues, and while the gearbox will quickly slip its way up the ratios, it’ll promptly drop back down when extra go is required. Sometimes the take-up can be abrupt, even in the Comfort mode, but at least the E gets moving smartly.
And while its shifting isn’t as creamy as the eight-speed unit, nor is it bad. Its best feature is the lever which replaces the confounding rotary selector of other Jags. While we didn’t delve into the connected nature of the infotainment system, it’s fairly straightforward in operation while the air con is easily set thanks to its own swell looking switchgear. The interior is well executed and includes a few design niceties such as the jaguar and her cub on the windscreen and the leopard (jaguar) print finish of the rubber linings in the storage areas.
The steering weight in traffic is relaxed, though the turning circle is large for a compact. While there’s a chunky C-pillar, the rear view camera gives a clear, wide angle image on the big display and the parking sensors provide 360 degree coverage. Active cruise is easy to set and functions as you’d hope, including at slow speeds in crawling traffic. It’s definitely worth optioning if you go for the S models. The interior space in the rear is somewhat deceiving; at first glance it looks like a tight fit but there’s actually enough room to ensure neither your knees nor head contact with either the seat in front or headlining above. The boot is a handy size too and well shaped, even if the rear seats don’t fold quite flat.
This is another good effort from Jaguar in the SUV area. While some of the competitors are more style than substance, this E-Pace delivers an all-round package with AWD versatility and tow, usable interior space and connected tech. Moreover, the dynamics will keep a keen driver interested.
|Model||Jaguar E Pace First Edition||Price||$99,900|
|Engine||1998cc, IL4, T/DI, 184kW/365Nm||Drivetrain||9-speed auto, on-demand AWD|
|Fuel Use||7.7L/100km||C02 Output||174g/km|