Car reviews - Jaguar - E-Pace
Variant choice to suit everyone’s taste, stylish design, strong powertrains, grippy AWD as standard, precise steering
Room for improvement
Plastic interior trim elements, hefty weight, ride and tyre roar on larger rims, some options should be standard, options list can quickly drive up price
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28 Mar 2018
ONCE synonymous with tweed suits, country estates and British aristocracy, Jaguar has transitioned into the 21st century with a number of exciting and contemporary models including the F-Type sportscar and the F-Pace, the company’s first SUV.
The latest chapter in its move towards mainstream popularity comes in the form of the E-Pace, the British manufacturer’s foray into the burgeoning small SUV segment that is set to take on the likes of the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz’s GLA jacked-up hatchback.
Jaguar is tipping the E-Pace to comfortably become the brand’s best-selling model, and will bring a new demographic of buyer – namely more young females – into Australian showrooms.
A huge amount of variation is offered for customers, with five engines, four spec levels and two exterior trims, which combined with two First Edition offerings bring the number of variants to 38.
With flashy exterior styling, potent Ingenium powertrains and prodigious choice, can the E-Pace make a splash in the competitive small SUV segment?
Jaguar is still a newcomer to the SUV game, having only released its first crossover in July 2016 with the F-Pace that has quickly become the brand’s best-selling model by a considerable margin.
With the E-Pace, the British marque didn’t have to go far to find a platform, sharing its underpinnings with the Range Rover Evoque from sister brand Land Rover’s stable.
As such, the E-Pace straddles the small and medium SUV segments, resulting in dimensions that, particularly on the inside, seem larger than its mainstream rivals.
Headroom and legroom for front passengers is comfortable, however depending on the size of the passenger in front, legroom for rear passengers can be a problem.
Despite being offered in four different specification levels – base, S, SE and HSE – to the untrained eye it can be difficult to set the variants apart when inside the cabin.
All versions offer a clean and uncluttered dashboard, with the centrepiece being the 10.0-inch Touch Pro infotainment system, which is integrated neatly into the dash.
Jaguar’s button-less infotainment set-up is easy to navigate and provides snappy and lag-free operation. If we are nit-picking, its usability is probably not quite as crisp as the segment leaders, however it is still commendable.
The majority of our time in the car was spent in S and SE versions, which offer trimmings of stitched leather on the seats, dashboard and steering wheel, and give the cabin an ambience befitting of a luxury brand.
However the cabin is also let down by the hard black plastic and faux-aluminum trim around the infotainment cluster and centre console, which feel tinny and at points leave small gaps in the interior panels. We also get the feeling that the plastic elements will be susceptible to unsightly scratch and wear marks as time goes on.
Overall build quality feels solid with chunky doors and pillars, and low amounts of noise intrusion from wind. The only jarring noise intrusion comes from tyre roar, which is particularly bad when combining large rims (19- and 20-inch hoops) with coarse country roads.
Larger rims also hurt the ride quality of versions not equipped with the optional adaptive suspension, and can make for some jarring driving experiences when road quality deteriorates. Opting for the smaller 17-inch wheels may not look as pretty, but your backside will thank you in the long run.
Part of the reason for the feeling of a solid build quality can be attributed to the E-Pace’s weight, which, depending on the variant, comes in at around the 1900kg mark – more than its larger and older F-Pace sibling, and a significant figure for a vehicle of its size.
The considerable weight can partially be attributed to the platform that the E-Pace shares with the Range Rover Evoque, which has existed since 2011.
If Jaguar had taken the time to develop a dedicated architecture for the E-Pace that used more modern, lightweight construction, we suspect the vehicle’s dynamic credibility would have improved significantly.
Not to say the E-Pace is fat and slow – it pulls well through long, sweeping corners and its standard all-wheel-drive configuration gives it considerable grip in all conditions – however hard cornering and accelerating makes us feel a lighter platform would let its dynamic capabilities shine through more effectively.
The steering calibration in the E-Pace is precise and on the heavier side, giving it a direct and sporty feel.
During our time in the car we tested three of the E-Pace’s five powertrains, consisting of the top-spec 221kW/400Nm P300 petrol and 177kW/500Nm D240 diesel mills, as well as the entry-level 110kW/380Nm D150 oil-burner.
Jaguar has extracted an impressive amount of power out of its 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engine, and the P300’s output out-muscles any of its competitors’ non-performance offerings.
The engine gets a strong surge of power throughout the rev range and ensures the E-Pace is no slouch, however the weight of the vehicle blunts what should be a dynamically impressive powertrain.
Given the car’s weight, the diesel engines are probably more suited to everyday driving, with a steady surge of torque able to be achieved at any time thanks to the E-Pace’s nine-speed automatic transmission, which comes as standard across the range.
For those seeking performance above all else, the D240 offers sharp acceleration and a healthy dollop of torque usually only found in larger vehicles. For context, the D240’s outputs are higher than any current four-cylinder one-tonne pick-up on the market, and even more powerful than the upcoming performance-oriented Ford Ranger Raptor.
However for those who don’t need to walk on the wild side, the D150 offers perfectly adequate performance for day-to-day duties. Acceleration is cumbersome off the line, however once moving, keeping the rev counter in the peak torque band ensures responsive throttle input and a steady stream of grunt that makes the D150 seem sprightlier than its on-paper figures would suggest.
Fuel economy figures of 10.4 litres per 100km and 8.1L/100km were recorded in the P300 and D240 respectively, with a mix of spirited back-road driving and stop-start freeway commuting. Oddly, the D150 recorded a 10.1L/100km figure, admittedly over a smaller sample size.
The nine-speed auto shifted smoothly and worked intuitively with both engines.
The only time we found it tiresome was when manually shifting gears, which resulted in far more shifting than would be necessary in, say, a six-speed box.
Jaguar has said in the past it would like to increase the level of standard specification in its offerings to better match that of its competitors, however we feel that the E-Pace is missing some equipment that should be included in a luxury vehicle.
For example, the second-from-top SE grade consigns features such as digital radio, heated seats, keyless entry and a panoramic roof to the options list, while ventilated seats are not offered at all. Paddle shifters can only be added when opting for the R-Dynamic pack.
As such, playing with the options list can result in the vehicle’s asking price to climb rapidly – one test vehicle was even equipped with enough options to push it above the $100,000 mark, a huge ask for a car of its segment.
Jaguar has acknowledged that the E-Pace probably won’t be able to match the 2500-3500 yearly sales of its main German rivals, however it will be a crucially important model for the brand.
It will help attract a younger, more female buyer into Jaguar showrooms, and will still be the best-selling model for the car-maker.
What it represents is a shedding of the marque’s image as an old, upper-crust brand stuck in the 20th century, and the changing automotive landscape that will soon include the Tesla-baiting all-electric I-Pace SUV.
The E-Pace harks a changing of the guard for Jaguar into mainstream popularity, and should put the brand on the map in a way it has never seen before.
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