Jaguar has given birth to a new cub – the E-Pace. The baby Jag is utterly cute, incredibly chunky and no doubt will shake up the premium crossover segment when it launches in Ireland in December starting from €36,000 (i4 diesel 150hp 6-speed manual).
Jaguar’s mission with E-Pace was to build a car that drives as well as it looks… so no pressure then. The five seat compact crossover is a premium offering that sets a high bar in terms of styling and driving dynamics. We went to the global launch in the UK and tested two versions – one diesel and one petrol.
The Jaguar E-Pace is powered by a choice of four-cylinder petrol and diesel ‘2 litres’ with various power outputs from 150hp, 180 & 240hp in diesel and 249hp & 300hp in petrol. Front wheel drive and all wheel drive powertrains feature.
An I-Pace electric Jaguar will launch in 2018 and it will give the Tata owned brand a very strong range of ‘X’ (saloons), ‘Type’ (sports) and ‘Pace’ (SUV/Crossover) machines. Globally the SUV market is huge and growing very year, at present about 40% of the sector is made up of compact SUVs and Jaguar wants to make inroads in to this lucrative sector with the new E-Pace .
Two body styles are available ‘E-Pace’ and ‘R Dynamic’ with the usual Jaguar grades of Standard, S, SE, HSE featuring in Ireland. A limited run of ‘First Edition’ highly equipped machines will be available for the first year of production only.
Ian Callum is a Scot who as the boss of design at Jaguar has penned some very handsome machines to date. He told me that E-Pace was one of the hardest jobs he has overseen. He grew up in the hot hatchback era and feels the new car is full of the spirit of that genre and he loves the E-Pace as it is fun. Finding a way to make a compact crossover look sporty and true to Jaguar’s styling theme tested the car fanatic to the limit. Ian pointed out to me the cleverness of the car’s dimensions and for example how with the right use of body creases in the metal he managed to imply almost SUV-like side cladding.
Callum is big on surfaces and the detailing in them, he uses the phrase ‘pencil leaves the paper’ to explain how important subtle detail in the metal is to Jaguar – as is ‘staying true’ to the original design drawings. Some elements he said were particularly hard to pin down, namely the front end. Callum is obsessed with making the Jaguar face recognisable but he particularly wanted to get a hint of F-Type into the head light cluster – after two months of trying he managed to pull it off. Interestingly Callum is critical of the current trend by some car makers to blend vehicles bumpers – something that can make a car look fat and dull but with E-Pace he is particularly proud of the way its rear end cuts back inwards and is very pleasing to the eye.
Transverse engine architecture posed some design problems. When an engine is fitted sideways under the bonnet it is tough for designers to express power plus they have to deal with longer overhangs (all designers hate those) but Callum is pleased with the outcome and says the result “is a lot of fun”. The muscular bonnet power bulges, a nod to the classic XJ6 of 1968, imply a lengthways six cylinder engine but Callum admits the are there simply because they look good… and he’s right. So the exteriors styling is a winner… what about inside?
Cabin space is impressive for such a sporty looking machine. A large touch 12.3 inch screen centre display feature in our range topping test cars (a 10 inch is standard) and nice rotary dials feature also – both my test cars had head up windscreen displays. The switchgear is very familiar – from the Jaguar Land Rover parts bin, and overall the cabin feels very well put together. Like a Jeep Renegade there is some humour in the design too like the tiny Jaguar and cub silhouette on the base of the windscreen. Headroom is good overall despite a cosy feel to the cockpit and space in the rear is surprisingly good too.
The 577 litre boot is large for the class contrary to the impression you get from outside. Our test cars featured wifi with connectivity for up to eight devices but sadly the only glaring omission was the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto due to on-going licensing negotiations.
On the road our test car were all wheel drive married to nine-speed automatic gearboxes. First up was the mid power 180 diesel (First Edition). The unit produces impressive power and good torque at 430nm. Zero to 100km/h takes 9.3 seconds and fuel consumption of 5.6l/100km (50.4mpg) is possible on the combined cycle. Although a manual is available auto is the way to go for a true premium experience. The gearbox is sweet but sadly the diesel is noisy when pressing on, and the noise it makes is not a pleasant beefy one that buyers might expect for the money. At higher or steady speeds the car runs in two wheel drive to save fuel but when needed the traction can be distributed to any axel or individual wheel needing the grip. Various drive modes featured in our cars from Snow to Eco, Comfort and Dynamic. Paddle shifters (R Dynamic) aid enthusiastic driving but the best thing about the E-Pace is is that the stiff chassis is complemented by fast steering. The E-Pace really feels like hot hatch and this is the baby Jag’s unique selling point. You can really enjoy cornering with gusto despite physics trying to enduce body-roll as the car feels solid and agin the steering is nicely geared for a more direct sporty feel.
The petrol P300 (HSE R Dynamic) we tested apart from having more horsepower was much more fun and it made a nice exhaust note too. The rear badge is simple, P is for petrol and 300 is for 300hp. 400nm is a good bit of pulling power also and 0-100km/h takes a swift 6.4 seconds. Top speed of the P300 is 243km/h (151mph) and the combined fuel consumption quoted is 8l/100km (35.3mpg).
I found myself enjoying the twisty roads around Brighton a lot more with petrol power in dynamic mode and it would be my choice for a truer premium driving experience. We also got to test the E-Pace on an urban assault course and the chassis and all wheel drive set up was able to effortlessly do what no one will ever ask an E-Pace to do! Later on the muddy lanes of the Beaverbrook estate in Surrey we experienced the electronic witchcraft of ASPC – an off road automatic cruise control with hill descent that we first saw on the new Land Rover Discovery that Jaguar has available with its latest XE AWD also.
Our test cars were full of kit and clearly cost a hell of a lot more than the models most buyers will opt for, but the E-Pace has a very strong set of core values. It is great looking, great to drive and behind the wheel drivers will feel very content. Chunky and sporty the E-Pace is a really attractive machine that is a little less bling than a Range Rover Evoque and more squarely aimed at women and men and the order books reflect a 50/50 split. Jaguar believes that close to 90% of customers will be conquest and new to the Jaguar brand. The compact premium crossover market is scalding hot right now with the new Volvo XC40 and BMW X2 (X1 replacement) on the way to join the Audi Q2 – and all of these cars with built in fun factor.
The Jaguar E-Pace has the necessary X Factor to justify its premium price and premium status. E-Pace is a fun, beautifully styled machine but please Jaguar, do something to improve the diesel’s soundtrack.