Jaguar is admired for its luxurious sporting saloons and grand tourers, but when it ventured into the SUV market with the F-Pace in 2016 it marked an entirely new direction for the brand. Fast forward a couple of years and its baby brother is now here – the compact, tech-laden E-Pace. We were invited to drive it both on and off-road, so naturally set about seeing what makes the new model tick.
Before driving the new baby Jaguar SUV, it’s worth having a look at its underpinnings and some of the thorough thought that has gone into it. The E-Pace is Jaguar’s only current model to use a transverse-mounted engine, which of course is a more efficient packaging solution to keep things compact. While this is new for Jaguar, it’s not a new platform – the E-Pace borrows most of its underside from the JLR D8 platform, and so is closely related to the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Engine-wise, the E-Pace exclusively uses JLR’s Ingenium range of engines; 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder powerplants available in either petrol or diesel format. The 250 and 300hp petrol options come with all-wheel-drive and automatic transmissions only, while diesel options range from 150hp to 240hp. The entry-level diesel is the only engine available paired to a front-wheel-drive manual transmission, though the mid-range 180hp is also available with a manual (but AWD) gearbox – the rest of the range is auto, AWD only.
Keen to tailor to every customer’s needs, Jaguar has made the E-Pace available in a plethora of appearance packages and trim levels, all available in any combination; you can add the R-Dynamic or First Edition to any specification, whether it’s basic, SE or HSE. No matter what your preference is, the E-Pace promises to deliver a rewarding drive on the road (while remaining capable off-road) and technology to keep the entire family entertained on a long drive.
Petrol Head Point Of View
Being a petrolhead and speed-freak, I grabbed the keys to the 300hp petrol HSE R-Dynamic to get my first taste of what the E-Pace is all about. As you approach the E-Pace one thing is clear – this is a seriously compact SUV; a good looking one at that. Climb inside though, and there’s space a-plenty; Jaguar has very slickly managed to engineer tardis-properties into this machine. This is further helped by the amount of hidden storage inside – there are cubby holes left right and centre, adding up to nearly 60 litres of storage alone; it’s an extremely efficient use of space and really makes a difference.
Visibility is excellent, with the E-Pace delivering the high-up driving position that helps make SUVs so attractive. On-board WiFi, 12v charging points for all five passengers and a 10” central touchscreen give you an idea of the technology available, and the driver also gets a 12.3” digital display and heads-up display, making it easy to see information from speed and gear indicators to navigation and music data. The E-Pace is one comfortable place to be.
Comfort And Style
The comfort doesn’t stop out on the road, either. The sound isolation and damping are both excellent; the petrol engine makes a pleasant noise but is far from intrusive. It seems that the Jaguar traits of sportiness and luxury have firmly found their homes in the E-Pace.
Out on the open road, the E-Pace’s chassis works very nicely, and it’s capable of covering ground at a great pace while being fun too. Despite its conservative dimensions the baby Jag is no lightweight, and even with 300bhp, the engine doesn’t hide the mass as well as the chassis manages to. Though speed increases rapidly enough, the engine just never feels like it has the grunt that the figures suggest.
Interestingly enough, I drove a 240bhp diesel model later in the day and found it far more enjoyable; this would definitely be my pick of the bunch.
Another niggle of the E-Pace when driven hard is the 9-speed automatic gearbox. It’s smooth, and of course, there are plenty of ratios to choose from. But it has no real sense of urgency; ZF’s 8-cog auto was a masterpiece but sadly it seems its new 9-speed doesn’t share the same magic. I dare say the petrol E-Pace would feel a whole lot more exciting with a snappier gearchange.
While with Jaguar we were invited to try the E-Pace off-road, which is something I was keen to give a try. A key part of the way the E-Pace drives is its ability to torque-vector, using wet clutches to meter out torque to each wheel individually, with great precision. On the road, that means it can use the power to steer the car around the corners and really improve agility. However, when off-road things get really clever; in low traction situations, the E-Pace can intelligently sense where the grip is and use its systems to power whichever wheel can make the best use of it.
With Low Traction Launch modes and a whole host of other tech, as tried and tested by Land Rover, the E-Pace really is a capable off-roader. Put it at the bottom of a sloped muddy field and I have no doubt it would pull itself out with ease.
The E-Pace has looks, practicality, and comfort in spades, with a chassis capable both on the road and off it. And, with so many options, there seems to be an E-Pace for all; only the more hardcore drivers might not quite fall in love with it. Bravo Jaguar.