Smart Jaguar E-Pace's just off pace with weighty issue
Jaguar's entry SUV, the E-Pace, oozes style and elegance and promises to be a sporty drive but does it deliver like the bigger F-Pace? Motoring editor Andy Russell finds out.
It was bold for Jaguar to branch out into the SUV sector with its heritage luxury saloons and sports cars and SUVs the forte of its Land Rover ally.
Jaguar had to create something distinctive and different, both styling and driving dynamics. It nailed it with the F-Pace, the fastest-selling model in Jaguar’s history. It followed it up with the smaller E-Pace, tested here, and all-electric I-Pace.
Looks and image
Jaguar hasn’t shunned its sporty roots for the E-Pace SUV which is inspired by the F-Type roadster and Coupe rather than being a shrunken F-Pace.
Its muscular, athletic build picks up design cues such as headlights sweeping back into the bonnet, though not as dramatic, tapering side windows and flared rear wheel arches. R-Dynamic versions have even more sport-focused styling.
Under the bonnet
The first Jaguar to exclusively feature Ingenium 2.0-litre turbo engines, there are 249PS and 300PS petrol and 150, 180 and 240PS diesels – all available with nine-speed automatic gearboxes and all-wheel drive. The lower-powered diesels are also six-speed manual and the 150PS version also front-wheel drive.
The E-Pace is no lightweight - at 1.8 tonnes it’s heavier than the larger F-Pace - sharing underpinnings with the Land Rover Discovery which blunts performance.
The P300 test car, with the most powerful engine, was no slouch but the gearbox is slow to respond and it doesn’t feel as quick as the figures suggest even in Dynamic drive mode. Nor does it benefit economy with a best of 30mpg driven gently.
How it drives
It handles well and, after some initial roll into corners, soon settles and feels taut and agile flicking through bends, despite still being a sizeable SUV and no lightweight, but is not as entertaining as the F-Pace.
Firm suspension aids roadholding but makes the ride knobbly on uneven surfaces, especially with 20in wheels. It’s more composed cruising on smooth roads but tyre noise is very noticeable.
Space and comfort
Legroom in the back is reasonable, provided those up front don’t use all their space, and three adults could put up with the rear bench on short trips.
The sloping roof doesn’t affect headroom but the panoramic sunroof is the limiting factor for tall passengers but it’s just about acceptable.
Jaguar says the boot is 577 litres - with a 93-litre load space if a spare wheel is not specified – but, while it has a wide opening, it’s not that practical with the sloping tailgate nor on a par with some rivals. The solid load cover has to be physically removed to get large loads in which is inconvenient. The rear seats don’t slide and the backs only split 60/40 and don’t quite fold flat.
At the wheel
Short or tall, you won’t have trouble tailoring the driving position and the test car’s 12.3in interactive driver display includes a choice of virtual dials or a full-width satellite navigation map. The central infotainment touchscreen responds reasonably quickly but sometimes needs a good prod.
Twin stitching adds to the elegant fascia but some materials and plastics don’t have the same upmarket feel.
Like the F-Type, it has a conventional auto gear lever rather than the rising rotary controller used in other Jaguars.
The forward view is good, despite thick windscreen pillars, but tapering rear side windows and a small back screen make you glad a reversing camera and front and rear sensors are standard. Most models get a 360-degree monitor and a rear traffic monitor and park assist are available.
Full marks for the wristband activity key, which also operates the keyless entry and ignition, and is ideal when carrying a chunky key is not practical.
The E-Pace is a prestige SUV with a desirable badge so will sell well. Pricier than some rivals, it will hold its value better but, while full of promise, its driving appeal is overshadowed by the bigger F-Pace which is a shame.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Jaguar E-Pace P300 R-Dynamic HSE £48,900 (range from £28,930)
Engine: 1,999cc, 300PS, four-cylinder turbo petrol with eight-speed automatic gearbox
Performance: 0-60mph 5.9 seconds; top speed 151mph
MPG: Urban 29.1; extra urban 40.4; combined 35.3
CO2 emissions: 181g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 37pc
Insurance group: 40 (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years, unlimited mileage
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,411mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,088mm; H 1,649mm