Jaguar E-Pace review: First drive with Jaguar’s sporty, compact SUV
Jaguar has, traditionally, been seen as the brand for stuffy conservative gentlemen. But in recent years, that image has been well and truly shed and Jaguar is today producing some thoroughly modern and seriously exciting cars. The latest in the range is the E-Pace, Jaguar’s answer to the craze for compact SUVs that’s been sweeping the UK car market in recent times.
Based on the look and feel of Jaguar’s fetching, and dynamic-driving F-Pace SUV, the E-Pace is designed to be a no-compromise small SUV with a family-friendly interior combined with sports-car power and handling. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk but, after driving both the 300PS Petrol HSE R-Dynamic and E-Pace 240PS Diesel HSE models, it’s done an admirable job.
Jaguar E-Pace review: The sporty SUV
From the outside, the E-Pace is very similar to its bigger cousin, the F-Pace. It still cuts a sporty line with a roof that slings down low at the back to a soft top-spoiler. Its features are boxy, yet curvaceous, with sharp lines creating a striking look across its rear that melt into a muscle-car gape at the front.
Despite being an entirely new form-factor for Jaguar you can clearly see the company’s design DNA in the look of the E-Pace. Aesthetic influences from the F-Pace are plain as day, and it draws upon some design elements from the Jaguar XE as well.
It’s also surprisingly compact and neat. On paper, it’s bigger than both the Audi Q2 and Q3, as well as the BMW X2 but in reality it doesn’t feel like it. On the inside the E-Pace feels considerably more spacious than the exterior might suggest with more interior storage space and legroom than you’d expect.
READ NEXT: F1 2018’s new cars[gallery:26]
In fact, compared with the Audi Q3, which the E-Pace is larger than in all three dimensions, it’s positively roomy. The specifications say there’s 40 litres of cabin storage tucked away in doors and cubby holes and it has a generous 577 litres of boot space. More than you’ll find in the larger Audi Q5, Lexus RX, and BMW X3.
Aside from ample storage, the inside of the Jaguar E-Pace is exactly as you’d expect from Jaguar: it’s pure class. The stitched, perforated leather finish with colour accents is sublime and warm to the touch. The panoramic roof (a £970 optional extra) floods the cabin with light but, even with it closed it still feels wonderfully light and airy compared to the darker cabin interior on the Audi Q2.
In the rear there’s enough space to fit two average adults comfortably – at 6ft 8in I did struggle to sit without banging my head, but still had plenty of legroom – so as a family car it’s perfect. In fact, my only real criticism of the interior is its rather large rear columns and small rear window but that’s not too much of a problem thanks to some of the technological solutions Jaguar has brought to the E-Pace.
Jaguar E-Pace review: Interior tech and driver assistance
Once you’ve soaked up the interior decor, you’ll quickly find that Jaguar has made a great effort to turn the E-Pace into a car well suited to tech-savvy owners. Not only are there simple touches like four 12-volt charging points and five USB charging ports but there’s also an optional 4G Wi-Fi hotspot that can handle up to eight devices. In the centre of the dashboard, you’ve also got Jaguar’s 10in Touch Pro infotainment system.
As with most infotainment systems, this is your gateway to satnav, music options, car systems and even television. Alongside Touch Pro, both models of the E-Pace I drove included the 12.3in TFT instrument panel found in the F-Pace and came with the brilliant 825W Meridian surround sound system.
The 300PS Petrol HSE R-Dynamic model also came with Jaguar’s next-generation TFT heads-up display (HUD) technology. This is the first time this particular HUD tech has been used in a Jaguar and I found its colour speed limit, direction, speedometer and gear-change prompts genuinely useful.
It means you can focus on the road ahead and turn the driver’s instrument cluster into the satnav map, leaving the infotainment screen free for your passenger to fiddle with. My only issue with the HUD was that, even at its lowest view setting, I was still too tall to actually see it unless I slouched in the seat while driving. If you’re less tall than 6ft 8in, though, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Aside from the interior tech, the E-Pace itself is crammed with smart technology. With the latest in Jaguar’s safety and driver assistance technology, the E-Pace is equipped with a stereo camera array at the front to provide pedestrian detection, keep you safely in-lane on motorways and dual-carriageways and detect traffic signs.[gallery:73]
It’s also used as a part of the vehicle’s advanced emergency braking (AEB) system and assists the adaptive cruise control functionality. The E-Pace can also tell when you need to take a break by assessing your eye movements to see if you’re drowsy or clearly not paying attention to the road – which is useful, if not somewhat unnerving.
The E-Pace also has blindspot warning detection and a Forward Traffic Detection system that warns you of any approaching vehicles at junctions with restricted visibility.
Jaguar also offers compatibility with its wearable waterproof Activity Key. This is, essentially, a key built into a wristband, so you don’t have to worry about losing the car keys when you’ve jumped out of the car for a run or a swim.
Jaguar E-Pace review: Performance and drive
Having driven both petrol and diesel versions of the E-Pace it’s safe to say it still feels very much like what you’d expect a modern Jaguar SUV to feel like. Okay, so it’s definitely not quite as punchy as an F-Type or the XE and its handling feels a tad looser than you might expect, but it’s still fun to drive.
Of the two models I drove, the 237bhp diesel felt more responsive and easier to push but, on the road, either is a dream to drive. You can configure the feel of the car to your own individual driving style, allowing you to change the feel of the E-Pace’s throttle and steering response, transmission and – if fitted – the way Jaguar’s “Adaptive Dynamics” suspension dampers feel. It’s also smart enough to sense your body and wheel movements to pre-emptively load suspension and damping.
The E-Pace is blissfully comfortable even when you’re pushing it around corners at speed or in less-than-ideal conditions and its all-wheel drive capabilities are pretty impressive, too, allowing you to tackle snow, mud, ice or any sort of uneven or vaguely dangerous drivings condition.
The cars’ Active Driveline all-wheel-drive system automatically adjusts torque to each rear wheel so you don’t end up putting too much power onto a single wheel in adverse conditions – it’s also responsible for the E-Pace’s rather adept cornering skills. It’s so good it allowed the E-Pace to make easy work of the off-road mud and gravel sections of the Land Rover Experience test track, handling both ascent and descents on the simulated ice-patch hill climb with zero problems.
The E-Pace also includes what Jaguar calls “All Surface Progress Control” tech (ASPC), which, in simple terms it explains as off-road cruise control. Essentially, if you want to climb a particularly tricky hill, switch on ASPC and let the car deal with power delivery while you focus on steering. All you have to do is set a top speed and the car does the rest.
ASPC also works downhill, allowing you to take on icy or muddy hills with confidence as it ensures the car never goes above the speed you set. It’s genuinely fantastic tech for a road car to have – note, though, it’s only available on the automatic.[gallery:100]
Jaguar E-Pace review: Specifications
Of course, the Jaguar E-Pace comes in a wide variety of specs and trims and there are eight different models available to choose from.
Alongside options around different sizes and fuel for Jaguar’s Ingenium engines, you’ll also have to pick between the E-Pace, E-Pace S, E-Pace SE and E-Pace HSE trims, with the latter being the highest spec.
R-Dynamic models add contrast stitching, soft-grained leather and an R-Dynamic-branded steering wheel inside, adjustable body-hugging sports seats and brushed stainless steel tread plates and pedals. On the outside, you’ll find gloss-black front fog lights alongside a gloss black grille, rear valance and tailpipe finishers. There’s also body-coloured wheel-arch surrounds, satin chrome headlights on side vents and grille surrounds.
The there’s the range-topping First Edition, only available during the first year of manufacture. It’s only available with the 178bhp Ingenium diesel or a 246bhp Ingenium petrol engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission. You’ll be able to get the First Edition in red, white and black with gloss-black detailing and 20in alloy wheels. On the inside, you’ll find soft-grain Windsor leather in ‘Ebony’ with red contrast stitching and a suede roof lining.
Prices start at £28,500 but the two models we drove came in at £50,710 for the 300PS petrol HSE R-Dynamic and £46,400 for the 240PS Diesel HSE.
We’ll be back with our full review of the E-Pace closer to its 2018 release.