2018 Jaguar E-Pace D150 AWD S (I)

Picture_045(129) Picture_038(134) Picture_046(130) Picture_020(144) Picture_003(145)Picture_042(132) Picture_021(142) Picture_017(144) Picture_044(130) Picture_019(144)Picture_034(135) Picture_040(130) Picture_026(139) Picture_022(142) Picture_028(139)

It is well documented that Jaguar deliberated long and hard about the wisdom of producing an SUV-type vehicle, fearful that it would simply prove to be an in-house rival to Land-Rover products, and thus likely to cannibalise existing sales rather than add to the company’s total. But the explosive growth in sales of vehicles of this type clearly did not go un-noticed, and with almost every brand, prestige or not, and with a sporting heritage or not, all jumping on the proverbial bandwagon, in 2013 we were eventually shown a Concept Jaguar Crossover, the CX-17. And reaction was universally positive, with everyone telling Jaguar to do what by this time they clearly planned to do, namely to build it. The production car, looking very similar to the CX-17 emerged at the 2015 Frankfurt IAA Show as the F-Pace, and it proved to be an immediate hit, with the press rating it highly, and customers doing the same. It quickly became Jaguar’s best-selling product, and with Land Rovers selling faster than JLR could build them, it appeared there was plenty of room in the combined range for a Jaguar Crossover. The F-Pace is quite a large vehicle, so it was to the surprise of no-one when it emerged that Jaguar were planning a slightly smaller stable-mate, which, also to no-one’s real surprise, they announced they would call the E-Pace. It was first unveiled in July 2017. The new car bore a striking resemblance to its larger stablemate, though familiarity has made it quite easy to tell the two apart. Whilst they may look similar, the cars are surprisingly different. The E-Pace is based on a modified version of the JLR D8 platform that is used by the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport. It is a front wheel drive car with optional all-wheel drive, and unlike the aluminium structure of the F-Pace, this one is made entirely of steel, so it is actually heavier than the larger car. With production capacity in the UK fully committed, the E-Pace is built at Graz in Austria. UK and European sales started early in 2018, and Jaguar were hopeful that this would quickly become their best seller. Some less than eulogistic early reviews suggested that this might not be the case, though as the months have passed the car is starting to become quite evident on British roads. I noticed that Hertz Italia appeared to be among the early customers and were advertising them on their website, so when I was booking a car for my October 2018 trip to Bologna and Padova, I reserved one. When I turned up at Bologna airport, I could see just one E-Pace in the parking area and was pleased to be told that this was indeed allocated to me. I was slightly less pleased when I spotted the bodywork damage over the rear wheelarch, which would be rather too evident in photos, but there was no real alternative, so I signed the paperwork, loaded up, adjusted the things you need to set before driving off and then headed off towards the Bologna Tangenziale and my hotel for the weekend. I had a day heading up to Padova and back and another more leisurely day when I would drive over to Modena and Maranello, to see what I thought of the E-Pace. As I’d not yet sampled the larger F-Pace, then any comparison with that car would be on static impressions only, but I have clearly driven a number of other family-sized crossovers, with and without premium badging for a comparison point.

Picture_016(144) Picture_037(135) Picture_001(144) Picture_018(145) Picture_036(135)

No guessing games were required to determine the engine and transmission of the test car, as it had a badge on the tailgate to tell me: D150 and AWD. So that means the 150 bhp version of the Ingenium 4 cylinder 2 litre diesel unit, coupled with permanently-selected all-wheel drive. This is the least powerful unit available in the E-Pace, and you may fear that it may feel not be enough for a car of this size and indeed weight. For sure, the car does not strike you as really rapid, but it seems brisk enough for ordinary motoring. There is keyless starting, and on firing up the engine, I was immediately impressed by the low noise levels, not something you always get even with the latest diesel engines and also not an attribute that has been exemplified by the Ingenium power units, though they have been refined somewhat since launch. The engine remains smooth, and seems particularly well-matched to the standard 9 speed automotive gearbox, which did a good job at making seamless gearchanges so the car always seemed to be in the optimum gear for that sudden burst of acceleration or for steady-speed cruising on the autostrada, which was just as well, as there is not that much low-end torque available. The drive from Bologna up to Padova and back was pleasingly restful, with low levels of noise not just from the engine, but also wind and road sources being well suppressed. Where things were less impressive was fuel economy. The fuel gauge seemed to go down quite quickly, and when I was ready to hand the E-Pace back, it needed 34 litres, having covered 400 km (250 miles). That computes to 33. 38 mpg which has to rank as rather disappointing for a diesel. Of course, as this was a rental car and I only used part of a tank, it is perfectly possible that the car was nothing like as full when I received it as when I returned it, so the reality may be better than these figures. Rather more positively, the steering in this car is precise, accurate and well-weighted, meaning that the car is pleasing to drive along a bendy road. It grips well and seems to relish the bends, as indeed all modern Jaguars seem to do. There is a slight penalty with the ride, though, which is on the firm side, especially on bumpier surfaces. This being an S spec car, it came on 235/60 R18 tyres. More potent and costlier models have bigger wheels and I would imagine that these probably don’t help matters. There were no issues with the brakes which worked well. There is an electronic handbrake, the button for which is in the dashboard. Visibility when driving was generally good, though the sloping rear end and kicked up third side window did mean that some care was required at oblique junctions. There were front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera which helped in judging the back of the car.

Picture_013(144) Picture_033(135) Picture_039(132) Picture_024(142) Picture_035(134)

Much of the interior is trimmed in leather, with this featuring not just on the seats and steering wheel, but much of the dash and the door casings. Sadly, there is also some awful shiny silver plastic around the gearlever which pretty much destroys all illusions of quality, as it is truly cheap and tawdry to behold. That’s a shame, as otherwise, the interior design finds the right balance between incorporating all the features and toys that buyers expect these days, without appearing overly burdened with too many buttons and switches. There is a large cowl which extends across the centre of the dash to encompass the central air vents and the infotainment display screen below as well as the instrument cluster. That comprises two large dials, for speedometer and rev counter in deeply recessed cowls and between them is a digital display area for warning lights and additional trip computer data including a digital speed repeater and the water temperature and fuel level. There are various configuration options for this area. Twin column stalks feature, with lights operated by twisting the end of the left hand stalk. Cruise control and audio repeater buttons are on the steering wheel spokes. There is a large 10″ colour screen in the centre of the dash for the infotainment functions, which included navigation as well as the audio unit. Operation of this is by touch screen interface only. There is a standard wi-fi hotspot included and there were plenty of other data functions included within the unit. The graphics are clear and the unit was fairly responsive. It did take me a few minutes to figure out how to switch the displayed language to English. Below this are a row of buttons and beneath these rotary dials for the dual zone climate control. And that is it, so all quite simple compared to some cars.

Picture_005(145) Picture_007(146) Picture_009(145) Picture_008(145) Picture_014(144)Picture_015(144)Picture_012(144) Picture_023(142) Picture_043(132) Picture_029(138)

Even though this was a model from near the bottom of the range, there was 10-way electric adjustment of the front seats. There is a telescoping steering wheel, as well, so it was easy to get a comfortable driving position. You don’t really feel like you are noticeably higher than in any a saloon car, though of course you are, and that raised driving position is the reason why people would buy this car rather than an XE. The seat proved comfortable and the leather trim to it was of decent quality. Considering the relatively compact dimensions, space in the rear is quite decent, thanks to the relatively long wheelbase and short front and rear overhangs in the styling. Even with the front seats set well back, there is ample legroom for adults and headroom is generous. The central tunnel is relatively small, though the centre console unit does extend quite well back. There are air vents mounted in this, higher than you often find. There is a drop-down armrest which has cupholders and a slender cubby on its upper surface. Oddments space is provided with nets on the back of the front seats and pockets on the doors. The boot is not especially large but it is a nice regular shape, and it is quite deep. There is a stowage net on one side, and the floor of the boot is flush with the bottom of the tailgate so sliding heavy loads in would be easy. More space is created by dropping down the asymmetrically split rear seat backrests which gives a much longer load platform which is flat, though it does slope upwards towards the centre of the car. There is a decently sized glovebox, as well as pockets on the doors, a cubby under the central armrest and a small recess in front of the gearlever and a tray between the armrest and the gearlever which when taken together mean that there is plenty of provision for places to put the bits and pieces that you might want with you in the cabin.

Picture_004(146) Picture_006(145) Picture_010(145) Picture_011(145) Picture_032(138)

Jaguar offer the E-Pace with a choice of 2 litre 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel and petrol engines. The diesels come with 150, 180 or 240 PS, the first of these having front wheel drive as standard and all-wheel drive an option which is standard on the more potent D180 and D240 models. Petrol engines come in 200, 250 and 300 PS guises, all of them with all-wheel drive. More potent models are further offered in “standard” guise or R-Dynamic form. Additional variants are created by breaking the range out into four sub-trims: Standard, S, SE and HSE, so there is a long list of different models available, even before you raid the options list. The regular Standard trim comes with 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, selectable drive modes, heated mirrors, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, 60/40-split folding rear seats, a 10-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, and a six-speaker sound system. Lane keeping assist and forward collision warning and mitigation with low-speed automatic braking are also included. The S upgrade adds 18-inch wheels, LED running lights, leather upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, a navigation system, a Wi-Fi hotspot, additional smartphone integration, an automated parking system and a surround-view camera system. The SE trim equips the E-Pace with 19-inch wheels, automatic high beams, a power liftgate, 14-way power-adjustable front seats, an 11-speaker premium audio system, a blind-spot monitoring system and adaptive cruise control. The top HSE is only offered with the higher-output R-Dynamic P300 models and adds 20-inch wheels, a hands-free liftgate, keyless entry, 18-way power seats with memory settings, premium leather upholstery and a full-digital instrument panel. In addition to the power increase, E-Pace R-Dynamic models (beginning with S trims and up) are also equipped with a performance-enhancing rear differential, special exterior and interior styling details including a a bodykit, twin tailpipes and front foglights as well as sports front seats with contrast stitching and a soft-grain leather steering wheel. Most of the extra features from the higher trim levels are available as options on the S and SE. Other notable upgrades include a Climate Control package (adds heating for the front seats, steering wheel and windshield), a Drive package (additional safety features including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and upgraded forward collision mitigation), a Meridian surround-sound system, a surround-view parking camera system, and adaptive suspension dampers. A limited run of First Edition models was also available. In addition to much of the R-Dynamic content (except the more powerful engine), it comes with exclusive red paint, a black leather interior with red contrast stitching, and special 20-inch wheels. And just about all of the E-Pace’s optional features are included as standard.

Picture_031(136) Picture_025(142) Picture_002(145) Picture_030(138) Picture_027(139) Picture_041(131)

Unlike the larger F-Pace which received very favourable reviews on launch, the E-Pace was not as well received by the motoring press. I think that was a little unfair, as there was much to like here, starting with the styling, which to my eyes is one of the better-looking cars in its class. Even in the lowest powered version, as tested here, the Jaguar went quite well, though there may be a penalty at the pumps if the fuel consumption I achieved really was as poor as I found, and the E-Pace steers well, so it is quite decent fun to drive. The cabin is mostly nicely finished and the car is at least as roomy as its rivals. Clearly you can spend a lot more by upgrading the engine to something more powerful and going for a more up-market trim, and that maybe where the case for the E-Pace weakens somewhat, but in this guise, I think this Jaguar has sufficient merit to suggest it is a viable alternative to the other premium-badged family sized crossovers such as the BMW X2, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q2, none of which are totally convincing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *