Jaguar builds luxury vehicles. They sell luxury crossovers. They plan on selling many more. Their new E-PACE compact crossover is slated to do what the F-PACE has done for the past two years: Double and more their annual sales. Here are some cold hard number: In 2016, the F-PACE accounted for 43% of total sales. In 2017, that percentage rose to 57%. Just this past January, 65%. Like I said, Jaguar sells utility vehicles.
To some, this is a tragedy. To others, including JLR staff, this is a blessing. To those saddened by these facts, you can thank the F-PACE and upcoming E-PACE for the sheer existence of your favorite F-TYPE SVR, XJR575 and whatever ballistic hyper-cat the company may launch next. I know I’m thankful.
The E-PACE will knock them dead. Them, of which about 80% will be new to the brand and in large part female. Jag’s done a sublime job of blending plenty of their DNA into a compact, fun, lively and capable vehicle that also turns out to be entertaining to drive, and cute.
Joining the pack
Yes, I said cute. And Jag’s done it on purpose. In Adam Hatton’s, Creative Director Exterior Design, own words, the E-Pace is the Jag cub. Think big paws and a smaller body. It’s cheeky, and playful. Early on in the design process, the E-PACE was looking more like a small F-PACE, but it was decided that this was not the way to go.
The new 2018 Jaguar E-PACE is more a sibling to the F-TYPE when you look at it, from the outside and on the inside. Personally, I think the J-Blade front headlights, their shape and how they’re integrated into the fascia is too childish. I am, however an old man now, hence why younger hipper consumers are likely to dig the Jag cub.
The rear end is taut and fetching, far less “cute” and very Jaguar. I like it. Available wheel sizes will range up to 21” and when mixed with the absence of body overhangs, the wheels on the E-PACE are exaggeratedly pushed out to the corners. The final result though is a handsome enough product to take on the BMW X2, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40 and others.
The cabin has been quite nearly lifted from Jag’s excellent sports car. All the details are to scale, right down the 2-door’s steering wheel. Our R-Dynamic tester was loaded, as expected, and included lovely red leather seats and dash accents.
OEMs playing in this segment understand the stakes and thus do not cut corners when it comes to fit, finish, materials and technology. Depending on trim and options, niceties such as the InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with lovely 10” touchscreen, optional 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, and available 12.3” TFT driver display and Head-Up Display keep the driver in charge, and the passengers occupied and content.
Admittedly, this is a compact vehicle. Space upfront is generous in every direction but on the other hand, the rear bench is tight especially for those over 5”10” tall. Legroom is the culprit, but the upside is that the trunk is fairly capacious at 577 litres with the bench in place. Buyers are likely to be younger or empty nesters and as such, the three rear spots will liable to serve as storage.
On that subject, Jaguar’s done a commendable job creating large compartments, configurable cup holders and trays and including front and rear door pockets.
Jaguar has what they call the Ingenium family of engines. In all, the E-PACE can be tailored to one of five boosted 4-cylinder 2,0-litre mills. Although there are three diesels, none of them will come to North America. In their stead, we get 246-horsepower and 296-horsepower petrol versions. All are mated to the a 9-speed ZF automatic transmission. Everything was fine until they specified ZF…
Our testers all featured high-output petrol iteration which is good enough to launch the E-PACE to 100km/h in just over 6 seconds. The Jag is not only the most powerful in the segment, but the fastest. 246-hp version gets a permanent AWD system while the R-Dynamic wins out with an Active Driveline AWD setup. The system’s torque-biasing capability can transfer virtually all the torque to either axle. It can also run solely as a FWD and re-engage AWD within 0.3 seconds when needed. It also features two independent wet-plate clutches in the rear to distribute torque where it’s needed.
Grip and AWD
How does it all work? In a word, brilliantly. With 295 lb.-ft. of torque from 1500-4500 rpm and many gears, the E-PACE takes off and keeps going all the while emitting a subdued growl. The countless high-speed switchbacks we tackled demonstrated how well the brake-biased torque vectoring worked. I would have liked more feedback from the front axle and less on-center play in the steering but otherwise it was easy to trust the E-PACE’s grip and AWD abilities.
About the latter, I can imagine Land Rover tearing their hair out… The E-PACE is far more capable than you can imagine. We traversed some fairly abrupt, rocky and slippery surfaces and the cub never once grimaced. The road-biased Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires seemed far from a liability.
The high rates of speeds required constant braking. Here, I thought the pedal to suffer from too much travel but once my foot and the binders connected, the stopping power was very good.
The JaguarDrive Control modes were called upon the whole drive. At first, it seemed ideal to use Dynamic over Normal if mostly because the dampers would firm up. After a while, I found that with the transmission in Sport, and the drive mode in Normal, the extra wheel travel improved the ride quality and handling.
Obviously, 99% of drivers will neither take their new 2018 E-PACE off-roading nor drive it like they stole it. In the small villages we traversed, the Jaguar was perfectly civil and best of all, no matter how little or much throttle input delved, the 9A behaved wonderfully. That’s what’s really important.
With a starting price set at $42,700, seven total trims, many colours and a top price of just shy of $60k, the 2018 Jaguar E-PACE will be a problem… As in, JLR won’t be able to supply the demand, at least at first.
In this competitive segment, I’d opt for the Jag or the Volvo XC40. I love underdogs…