WHAT IS IT
E-Pace is Jaguar’s take on the Land Rover Evoque, a compact SUV with four-cylinder engines, sharp looks and front- or all-wheel drive.
WHY WE’RE DRIVING IT
It’s an amuse bouche on UK roads ahead of E-Pace’s arrival in Australia come April 2018.
Audi Q3, BMW X1, Land Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLA
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The E-Pace is a pretty compelling proposition, with neat exterior design, an F-Type-inspired interior and enough space for family duties. Despite a disappointing kerbweight, the E-Pace feels agile and engaging to drive quickly, though the top-spec petrol’s pricing throws it under the wheels of the Mercedes GLA 45 AMG – a rival that offers significantly more bang for your buck.
PLUS: Design, engaging dynamics, supple at speed, strong performance, relatively spacious given compact proportions, connectivity
MINUS: Firm low-speed ride, some trim a little flimsy, ain’t no lightweight, GLA 45 AMG offers much more performance for similar cash
THE WHEELS REVIEW
THE Jaguar E-Pace has it easy. Jag’s new ‘compact performance SUV’ comes with none of the heavy baggage that weighed on the larger F-Pace’s haunches, and that’s not the stuff you’ll find under its tailgate – the idea of a Jaguar SUV back in 2016 seemed like Cayenne-gate all over again.
Now we’re all used to the idea, in strolls E-Pace, safe in the knowledge that F-Pace is comfortably Jaguar’s biggest seller. It’s even been able to dust off existing Range Rover Evoque underpinnings, though the long-serving D8 platform does get a significant makeover.
The wheelbase stretches 21mm, the front subframe is solidly mounted at the rear, and there’s the new Integral Link rear axle among many other detail suspension changes. Hang-on panels as well as the roof are aluminium, but the bodyshell is steel and the kerbweight heavy at around 1800kg – a like-for-like F-Pace actually weighs less.
Nonetheless, Ian Callum’s design is pert and purposeful and riffs on the F-Type sports car, a theme that’s carried into the interior with its fast angles, signature features and comparatively low-slung – for an SUV – driving position. The showroom appeal that propelled Evoque to stardom is definitely in evidence here.
Four-cylinder petrol and diesel Ingenium engines are available, but we’re testing the top-spec petrol on UK roads, an early taste before Australian deliveries commence in 2018. In this trim, the E-Pace makes 220kW with 400Nm and gets the Active Driveline all-wheel drive system, the more advanced of two available all-paw set-ups.
Jaguar says E-Pace is its second stiffest structure after the F-Type coupe, and there’s definitely a chunky, flex-free rigidity to the way it drives. The steering feels relatively firm from top-dead centre, and carries that weight as you wind it off-centre, adding confidence-inspiring precision and detail without wilting muscles. It’s also quick-witted, the front end responding swiftly to your inputs, aided and abetted by expert-level body control.
Our test car rode on 20-inch rims with fixed dampers, though 21s and adaptive dampers are incoming. The low-speed ride is very firm, so much so that I’d fear for young ’uns tums in a package that’s otherwise family-friendly – a diesel on ostensibly the same set-up felt smoother. Thankfully the suspension calms with speed, introducing longer, more supple movements for comfort with unruffled control.
Shod with Pirelli P Zero rubber, the E-Pace is sure-footed if far from lacking in humour: throw a bung of steering at the apex and you’ll feel the front bite hard and the rear adopt a frisky few degrees of angle
Even lower-spec models have this feel, but it’s Active Driveline that lets you really exploit it – it can switch between front- and all-wheel drive, and proactively channels torque across the rear axle. Mash the throttle during more spirited driving and you’ll feel the rear wheels hook up and power you out of a bend with an extremely rear-biased feel. You definitely wear a broader grin than the Evoque driver who’s rapidly losing touch in the rear-view mirror, and that porky bodyshell suddenly seems to shed a few kilos.
Having generous performance helps you exploit the E-Pace’s balance too, and the 2.0-litre turbo/nine-speed auto combo is impressively punchy – flexible and smooth low-down, responsive when you gun it, eager when you hold out for the high notes. It’s just that a Merc GLA 45 AMG costs little more, weighs far less and punches that much harder.
For some, that could be the decider, but there’s little doubt that the E-Pace drives as sweetly as it looks.
Model: Jaguar E-Pace 220kW AWD
Engine: 1998cc four-cylinder turbo, dohc, 16v
Max power: 220kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 400Nm @ 1500-4500rpm
Transmission: 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
0-100km/h: 6.4 sec
Economy: 8.0L/100km (combined)
On sale: Now