A Different Breed Of Cat
Let’s get one thing straight first, the Jaguar E-Pace is not an electric car. I’ve had many people come up to me and ask the model name of Jaguar’s first small crossover. As I reply to their query that this is the new E-Pace, around 4 out of 10 people would conclude that this is an electric vehicle due to the “E” moniker. After all, the letter E should mean electric, right? Not in Jaguar’s case. That goes to the I-Pace, which is a direct rival to the Tesla Model X. Whether Jaguar’s premium EV crossover will make it to our shores is a story for another day, but right now, what we have here is Jaguar’s first foray into the small luxury crossover segment. Land Rover has always served as the SUV brand of the Jaguar Land Rover group, but you know things are serious in the SUV and crossover segment if a brand that has never built an SUV before finally builds one. Say hello to the Jaguar E-Pace.
There’s only so much that you could do with a two-box design. With that in mind, the Jaguar E-Pace is a class act. Rather than just simply shrinking the bigger Jaguar F-Pace and then calling it a day, Ian Callum, Jaguar’s designer, has penned the E-Pace to have its own distinct character. It’s a totally different cub from the rest of the Jaguar line-up. Many of its dynamic and striking design details were inspired from the F-Type sports car, and as a result, the E-Pace is one of, if not, the most beautiful in its segment. The wrap-around LED tail lights, in particular, look really dynamic and is something that would be more appropriate in a sports car. If there’s one weak point in its design, it would be the 18-inch alloy wheels. The E-Pace is clearly begging for wheels at least an inch or two bigger.
If its exterior looks are what seduced you into loving the E-Pace, then the interior completely seals the deal. The doors extend all the way down to the sills, protecting it from mud and grime during a rain day, which means no soiled pants or legs when you exit the E-Pace. Once inside, you’ll immediately notice a canopy that separates the driver and front passenger, which is another trait inspired from the F-Type sports car. The interior is very contemporary and modern in its execution. Everything has been tastefully laid out, giving the interior of the E-Pace plenty of character. Supple leather and satin silver trims adorn most parts of the cabin, though there’s more hard plastics than I would like in a car at this price, located mostly at the center stack and the bottom of the interior. The high set dashboard and wide center console exudes a feeling of being inside a sports car, while the angled dashboard has its fair share of both good and bad points. More on that later.
Space and Practicality
Despite the swoopy and stylish design, the E-Pace is surprisingly roomy inside. Front occupants won’t have any issues with space, especially since the power adjustable front seats and adjustable steering column provides adjustment for days, whether you want to want to crank the position up like a truck, or make it low slung like a gangster. Elsewhere, you get plenty of storage areas, including a large door bin, and front cupholders with a removable cover.
Back seat passengers are treated to generous headroom, while leg and foot room is just about adequate. There’s a center tunnel that eats into floor space, and combined with the raised center seat, this leaves the middle seat best reserved for smaller adults. The seats do not slide fore and aft, unlike most of its rivals, but at least the trunk space is extremely generous.
Jaguar claims 577 liters of space, which puts it ahead of the class, but once you fold the seats down, it’s still generous, but the Germans overtake it by a couple hundred liters. The load lip is quite high for a small SUV, but at least the trunk space is in a clean, square shape.
Features, Safety, and Infotainment
This being the entry-level E-Pace R-Dynamic S, most of the equipment are centered towards the car’s aesthetics, such as aluminum pedals, R-Dynamic door sills, and a more aggressive exterior. Still, it’s reasonably well equipped with automatic LED headlights, automatic wipers, 10-way power adjustable seats for both driver and front passenger, as well as some convenience features that include Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Condition Monitor, a ultra clear reverse camera, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and a clever self-parking system which can parallel or perpendicularly park the vehicle automatically. The main highlight of the interior though is its 10.2-inch InControl infotainment system.
InControl’s user interface looks nice and is cleverly laid out. The tiled interface looks like a reinvention of the tiled interface from Windows. Touch response is snappy for the most part, but some functions can bog down the system. However, because this isn’t a rotary knob interface similar to what you’d find in its German rivals, InControl is more distracting to use while on the move compared to BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto isn’t available, at least for now. But the biggest drawback of the infotainment system is actually its positioning. Because the dashboard is angled, the touch screen easily washes out under direct sunlight. Not good if you’re driving in the middle of the day.
The Jaguar E-Pace is fitted with the brand’s new line of Ingenium engines. It’s a 2.0-liter turbodiesel motor that produces 150 hp @ 4,000 rpm, and 380 Nm of torque @ 1,750 – 2,500 rpm. Power is sent through all four wheels via a 9-speed automatic transmission.
How It Drives
This is where the Jaguar E-Pace becomes quite a surprise. The ride height of the E-Pace is quite high, especially when compared to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q2, wherein those two merely feel like lifted hatchbacks. Nevertheless, the E-Pace’s interior still gives it a feeling of having a low sitting position thanks to the high center tunnel and dashboard. Pushing the button to start the engine gives off a hint of diesel clatter as it purrs into life, but once it settles down, the Ingenium engine becomes quiet and muted, almost as refined as a petrol engine. This is further evident when you come close to the exhaust. A bass-y note emanates from the exhaust, giving the impression that the E-Pace is a petrol powered crossover. This is likewise the case as you start to cruise around. The engine’s refinement is top notch, with barely a rattle permeating into the cabin. Road and wind noise is well suppressed, even at high speeds. This results to a refined driving experience, making the E-Pace a great long distance companion.
Just a little background, the E-Pace is the first Jaguar to utilize a front-wheel drive platform since the discontinuation of the X-Type back in the mid-2000s. As such, many were skeptical about how the E-Pace would fare against its rivals, but I’m happy to report that the E-Pace delivers. This cat can still put a smile on your face, mainly thanks to its weighty steering that delivers plenty of feedback. Enter a corner, and the steering is able to make the E-Pace react quickly through your inputs. It remains flat and composed, which is surprising despite the Range Rover Evoque underpinnings. This is the same story when in straights, too. The Jaguar E-Pace is very hushed and stable when driven at expressway speeds. However, there are a few reasons why its key rival, the BMW X2, still has the dynamic edge, and that has to do with the E-Pace’s main achilles heel-its weight.
As it still utilizes the steel intensive platform of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport, the E-Pace is one of the heaviest in its class. It’s even heavier than the bigger Jaguar F-Pace. As a result, the portly weight prevents it from outpacing a BMW X2 when taken through corners. Despite the weight, body roll is well controlled, keeping the car flat and composed through corners, but this comes at the expense of ride quality. This is due to the suspension being stiffened up much more than its rivals in order to compensate for the weight. While the ride is generally firm, quickly becoming unsettled at low speeds, the E-Pace becomes much more composed as you travel faster.
With the car being quite heavy compared to its rivals, the diesel engine needs to work harder indeed, but once the 9-speed automatic gearbox and diesel engine becomes in sync, the E-Pace pulls strongly all the way to the mid-RPM range, delivering excellent torque for overtaking, albeit in a peaky manner.
On The Downside
While the E-Pace is generally a very good car to drive, there are a few kinks in its armor, and those are its gearbox and fuel economy. Most of the time, the gearbox takes a couple of seconds before it responds to your inputs, making it feel sluggish when you suddenly see an opening when overtaking another vehicle, but as mentioned, once the gearbox and engine come in sync, the E-Pace pulls strongly, albeit in a peaky manner. Also, because of its weight, the E-Pace’s fuel economy isn’t stellar, especially for a diesel, averaging only at 9.32 km/l at its highest average.
SUVs and crossovers are all the rage these days, and that’s a statement I’ve said for countless times already. Jaguar has never built an SUV or crossover before, relegating all of those to its sister company, Land Rover. The feline has indeed noticed that trend, and so it would be foolish for them not to capitalize on it. As a brand that has been known for its sports sedans and sports cars, the E-Pace brings Jaguar into the radar of many prospective luxury car buyers whom are indeed interested in an SUV or crossover, albeit a performance oriented one. The Jaguar E-Pace fuses the brand’s seductive design artistry and dynamism you’ve come to expect from the British brand, but wrapped in a body that provides a higher sitting position and some mild off-roading capability. No doubt will this SUV become a future best seller for the Jaguar brand.
Price and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★☆☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4 out of 5