Jaguar’s foray in the realm of SUVs was a roaring success, and the F-Pace made history for the brand as its best-selling vehicle ever. Hoping to continue, if not beat, that winning formula is the brand’s second SUV instalment, the E-Pace. It will also be joined later this year by the all-electric I-Pace, bringing three SUVs into the line-up, though that car is not expected to do anywhere the volume of this compact crossover.
Bucking the trend of rivals that place the same head and tail on different sized bodies, Jaguar's E-Pace is evidently inspired by the F-Type coupe, with familiar ‘J’ shape LED headlights and pinched tailgate-rear over short overhangs.
An attractive entry price and long list of trim level and optional extras will bring new customers to the brand, and the British marque expects up to 80 per cent of E-Pace owners will be first time Jag buyers.
Vehicle Style: Prestige small SUV
Price: $47,750-$77,493 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 110kW/380Nm, 132kW/430Nm and 177kW/500Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel, 83kW/365Nm and 221kW/400Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 9spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.6-8.0L/100km
Without a compact car platform to build on, the E-Pace uses a modified version of the architecture that underpins the Range Rover Evoque, bringing a similar sized SUV into a segment with rivals such the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and upcoming Volvo XC40.
But the steel chassis comes at a cost, and the E-Pace's is heavier than even the bigger, aluminium-based F-Pace, tipping the scales at nearly 1900kg and about 300kg more than most rivals. Jaguar takes a positive approach, however, and says it won’t bother buyers enticed by the premium badge with a sub-$50K price tag. And they’re probably right.
Pricing starts at $47,750 for the entry-grade E-Pace which gets essential safety items such as autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assist, as well as front and rear parking sensors and a reverse camera. Other standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, fabric cloth, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker sound system and LED headlights.
Moving up in spec, the S grade brings nicer leather trim with electric seats, 18-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, 360-degree parking aid and satellite navigation that’s likely to be the popular option.
The second-highest SE trim is equipped with larger 19-inch alloys, 11-speaker Meridian sound system, auto high beam and powered tailgate, while the top-spec HSE brings 21-inch alloys, perforated Windsor leather trim, keyless entry and gesture control for the tailgate.
And if the safe trim options aren’t appealing enough, a sportier look can be optioned with the R-Dynamic package that adds body coloured bumper inserts, gloss black grille with satin chrome surround, fog lights, sating chrome side vents, different steering wheel design with paddle shifters, alloy pedals, black headliner and ebony sports mesh seats with contrasting stitching.
The interior design is as equally inspired by the F-Type as the exterior, and offers a different and interesting alternative to the usual Euro crowd.
The quality of most materials and finishes on switches and touch-points are on par with those rivals too, and borrowing from the F-Type further is a driver-focused cockpit that uses the same joystick-style gearshift and passenger side grab handle which opens up the relatively narrow cabin, though the passenger side doesn’t feel claustrophobic because of it.
There’s also plenty of storage space available and the centre console bin is versatile, with enough space for two 1.5-litre bottles laying down and multiple cradles for slotting in mobile devices which can make the most of the five USB ports and 4G-powered wifi hotspot available in SE and HSE models
A lengthened wheelbase over the Evoque adds some practical leg space in the rear, which is enough for kids on a long trip or for adults on shorter jaunts, and a relatively deep 484 litre boot offers practical dimensions for hauling gear.
Interior design on the E-Pace is a refreshing change from the usual gang, offering more elegance than its sterile peers, though not everything is as intuitive.
The 10-inch touchscreen infotainment takes up most of the centre console and has a nice-looking interface but the lack of a separate rotary controller and connectivity such as Apple CarPlay does make some of the menu diving more clunky than it needs to be.
HSE variants also come standard with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that brings more information underneath the driver’s nose but it isn’t yet a match for Audi’s crisp virtual cockpit.
But unique to the British brand’s car is an activity wristband that allows locking the key fob inside the car as long as the driver is wearing it.
ON THE ROAD
Despite its name, there’s not a whiff of electric power in the line-up, and the range is powered exclusively by three diesel and two petrol 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engines.
The D150, D180 and D240 produce 110kW/380Nm, 132kW/430Nm and 177kW/500Nm respectively, while the P240 and range-topping P300 produce 183kW/365Nm and 221kW/400Nm. All engines are mated to a nine-speed ZF automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Our road test vehicles consisted of only the most powerful petrol and diesel variants in S-grade trim with R-Dynamic package, and being the most powerful engines in the line-up they were also equipped with the GKN all-wheel drive system borrowed from the hot RS.
Otherwise, models use a simpler Haldex all-wheel drive system which is just as effective at disconnecting the rear drive shaft for more better economy but don't give not as much rear-wheel drive bias.
It's also able to turn off sealed roads, with a 204mm clearance and adaptive off-road cruise control mode which works at speeds of up to 35km/h.
The modified GKN system differs in that it can move up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear wheels and up to 100 per cent to either wheel after that, giving more rear bias and effective torque vectoring when pushing along that Jaguar says matches its sports car heritage.
So confident are its claims that the E-Pace launch was held on Corsica, famously known as the island of 10,000 corners and home to many challenging rally stages – a demanding test for an over 1800kg SUV.
Despite a lack of raucous sound from either engine both motors overcome any worries about hefty weight. The P300 is particularly lively and eager and will power off the line with everything but a screech when planted but it can be calm too and was quiet at highway speeds.
The diesel was the more confident on the demanding steep slopes where the higher torque output provided smooth acceleration and plenty of pulling power. The gearshifts aren’t as sharp higher in the rev range but the nine-speed auto has more than enough gears for gentle town driving and cruising on the highway, with the final cog sitting around 1400rpm at 100km/h and returning a claimed combined fuel consumption of 6.2L and 8.0L per 100km for both the diesel and petrol.
Reaching corners, the E-Pace turns-in accurately if a little light in steering feel, with surprising composure for its weight. The fixed damper suspension fitted was firm though (adaptive dampers will be available) so there’s some compromise in ride quality, particularly on the 20-inch alloys which can transmit a brittle response over rough roads, and the 21-inch alloy wheels may only exacerbate it further.
But pushing through some of the island’s famous stage roads the E-Pace was fun and engaging as the Focus RS-derived driveline shoved torque to the rear in a predictable manner. The brakes don’t offer much resistance and tire on faster downhill sections, but short of being a performance SUV there’s still an enjoyable character for keen drivers.
Jaguar has a new big-seller on its hands that’s led by a good-looking product and competitive pricing, and the more powerful engines disguise any issues with weight while remaining relatively frugal at the bowser.
Historically low-volume sales also place some mystery behind Jaguar’s badge that will only intrigue buyers, and the gentler, more affordable Jaguar does everything an inner leafy suburbs and weekend road trip bus needs to do but with a bit more style.
MORE: Jaguar News and Reviews
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Jaguar Models - Prices, Features and Specifications