Jaguar E-Pace proves it’s more than a cub
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Jaguar refers to its new baby SUV, the E-Pace, as the “cub” – presumably the offspring of the F-Pace’s “mummy Jaguar” – and it has even ensured that familial positioning is underlined on the car with a mother-and-cub silhouette etched into a corner of the windscreen. It’s a little Easter egg detail that plays well with the character of the car.
More than just playing it cute, the manufacturer is big on underlining the link between many of the E-Pace’s design attributes and those of its halo F-Type sports car.
It’s important to note that Jaguar isn’t saying the E-Pace boasts sports car-like performance (sprightly 221kW four-pot turbo petrol in the PS300 AWD aside). But rather, the designers have ensured performance-style design cues lifted directly from the sports coupe/cabrio offering can be found here.
The most notable of these elements are in the headlights, featuring assemblies that extend into the front guards with ‘J-blade’ daytime running lights, just like they do on the F-Type.
Along with similar tail lights and a coupe-like window-line, other strong F-Type elements lie inside the E-Pace’s cabin, where a deeply recessed driving position framed with the same centre stack as found in the F-Type (down to the grab handle positioned on the front passenger side) reminds of Jaguar’s sports car immediately.
That grab handle came in useful during the drive components of the E-Pace’s international media launch, on Corsica last week. Despite its relatively limited square mileage, Corsica offers up a surprising array of landscapes, but is most famous for its forest-clad mountains crisscrossed by narrow roads of varying quality.
The French outpost in the Mediterranean is home to countless rounds of the World Rally Championship and known as The Rally of a Thousand Corners.
That Jaguar wanted to introduce the E-Pace to media in such an environment suggests it is keen to link their newest family member back to sports cars.
Inside and out, the E-Pace feels as solid, machined and built by craftspeople as any of its feline brethren. Yet it looks and feels somehow removed from what your expectations might be if you’re anticipating a scaled-down F-Pace.
It’s not that at all. There’s no distinctly Jaguar-esque long bonnet and, as a result of the need to cut the wheelbase down to a compact segment-friendly 2681mm, no room to push the passenger area towards the rear of the body, such as was achieved in the larger SUV.
Jaguar is keen to underline the idea of an entire Pace family, made up of the F-, E- and soon-to-be-released I-Pace.
We haven’t driven the electric I-Pace yet, but on paper at least it looks to retain a strong sense of the Jaguar design DNA; long forms, a broad, low-slung silhouette.
The F-Pace, meanwhile, is a clever car because, even though a firm entrant in the SUV segment, it still achieves an unmistakable Jaguar-ishness. In needing to fulfil a role in the compact market, the E-Pace doesn’t have the sheet metal to play with. And as a result, it isn’t instantly recognisable as a Jaguar.
The headline E-Pace P300 AWD is a no-brainer for Kiwi buyers, who tend to gravitate towards the top end of the spectrum when it comes to premium cars. That the P300 will be in an R-Dynamic SE state of dress is no surprise.
The ‘more is more’ recipe worked well for the Range Rover Evoque (this car sits on the same platform as the baby Rangey), so expect every model to offer a fair bit of kit.
In saying that though, it’s clear Jaguar New Zealand wants mass market exposure with its smallest vehicle. To that end, the D150 S can be had for $69,900, making it the second cheapest car in Jaguar’s range (after the entry-level XE sedan).
The D150’s turbo diesel boasts 110kW of power and 380Nm of torque, while another diesel in the range — the D180’s 2-litre Ingenium — pushes out 132kW and 430Nm. The 221kW/400Nm turbo petrol in the P300 is joined by another smaller turbo petrol, offering 183kW of power and 365Nm of torque, in the P250.
All Kiwi E-Paces will feature Jaguar Land Rover’s nine-speed automatic transmission, and all will feature all-wheel drive. According to Jaguar, the E-Pace is the only car in its class to offer optional 21in alloys.
Jaguar’s Touch Pro system sits front and centre in every E-Pace, offering interconnectivity through a 10in touchscreen that includes swipe and pinch functions. The climate control system combines tactile rotary dials with digital readouts; more stuff borrowed from the F-Pace, but no less pleasing to use.
A full-colour heads-up display system augments the big screen, while forward and rear facing cameras will help you park.
Inside, headroom is excellent, with even the R-Dynamic grade’s panoramic glass roof above failing to intrude. No less than five USB charging outlets and a handful of 12V power sockets are scattered throughout the cabin. The seats are supportive, too.
The boot offers up to 1234-litres of space with the rear seats folded down, although a narrow 577 litres when in standard configuration.
Underneath the shiny stuff, all-wheel drive E-Paces’ debut a new Active Driveline for Jaguar. This system can shift up to 100 per cent of available torque to the rear axle and out to either wheel during cornering, which helps push the car around bends predictably.
On the straight, the active driveline disengages, sending torque through the front wheels and helping with fuel efficiency.
Despite being the baby of the family, the E-Pace features Jaguar’s All Surface Progress Control (ASPC) system, which is kind of like low-speed cruise control for off-tarmac driving.
It’s a clever system and was put to good use on the E-Pace launch event, where we tackled some gnarly mud and gravel loop roads. It was the sort of big-drop-off, watch-out-for-your-alloy-wheels stuff that no E-Pace owner is going to attempt in real life.
Flicking the Adaptive Dynamics toggle switch allows you to scroll through Comfort, ECO and Dynamic driving set-ups, which alter the usual parameters; throttle response, gear shift patterns, steering rate and suspension set-up.
You can also configure each attribute separately. The roads of Corsica favoured Dynamic for everything except suspension, which felt a bit on the firm side to me, even in Comfort.
The E-Pace is an excellently packaged compact SUV with a smart interior boasting heaps of practicality that belies its small size. It feels like a Jaguar inside, but despite the emphasis on sporty F-Type design cues, it doesn’t look like one outside.
Going in, I was expecting a scaled-down F-Pace. I didn’t think I would want that, but it turns out I do.
Still, the E-Pace being its own thing probably won’t hurt sales. The audience the car is pitched at probably won’t have bought a Jaguar before and might not have any tangible link with the brand. Or, the E-Pace might be the Jaguar the buyer has always promised themself, for their empty-nest stage of life.
It’s a clever and stylish wee cub regardless. Now it just has to learn to roar like its mum.
Engines: 1999cc Ingenium four-cylinder turbo diesel (110kW/380Nm), 1998cc Ingenium four-cylinder turbo petrol (183kW/365Nm), 1999cc Ingenium four-cylinder turbo diesel (132kW/430Nm), 1998cc Ingenium four-cylinder turbo petrol (221kW/400Nm)
Prices: $69,900 (D150 S AWD), $74,900 (P250 S AWD), $79,900 (D180 R-Dynamic S AWD), $79,900 (P250 R-Dynamic S AWD), $84,900 (P250 R-Dynamic SE AWD), $89,900 (P300 R-Dynamic SE AWD), First Edition $99,900
Pros: Excellent interior, fun to drive, even entry-level grade will offer plenty
Cons: Doesn’t look like a Jaguar, no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto phone mirroring tech