The new 2018 Jaguar E-Pace crossover is sure to become the brand’s best selling car before it’s even out. In any case, it’s out, and Motormouth has driven the E-Pace P300 AWD Automatic in Corsica…
Before the F-Pace, Jaguar had never made an SUV since the British company’s founding in 1922. In these more recent times that automotive niche has been filled by the other brand in the fold, Land Rover.
Of course SUVs and crossovers are the opposite of a niche now, they are the mainstream, and hatchbacks and saloons are becoming the odd ones out.
You could just as easily stick a Kia badge on the bonnet and get away with it.
Just look at Jaguar’s annual report from last year – the only SUV in the line-up, the F-Pace, racked up nearly 70,000 sales and the next best, the XE saloon, only managed to find 45,000 buyers. It’s a crossover’s world.
Naturally Jaguar wanted to exploit the mania, and slotted this all-new E-Pace underneath the F-Pace to kick off the crossover line-up. Soon enough the all-electric I-Pace will arrive on the scene too, and then Jaguar – like everyone else – will be a fully fledged SUV maker.
Obviously you can’t just suddenly start selling SUVs without some sort of connotations. That’s where the designers step in, connecting the present to the past, and justifying a Jaguar crossover, even if only in their own convoluted minds. And so that’s why the E-Pace comes with a bunch of plastic on the side – it’s meant to be a front wing vent just like the one you get on Jaguar’s F-Type sports car, so you can put two and two together. Instead it’s a solid bit of cheap nastiness that has no place on a Jag, or anything else for that matter, because here we have a vent that doesn’t even vent.
Apart from that depressing bit of capitulation from the designers, the E-Pace is a neat looking thing even if you could just as easily stick a Kia badge on the bonnet and get away with it. Around the back things are better, because it’s unmistakably Jag-like over there, and the same goes for the cabin.
Although it’s a very nice place to be in, (it seems even nicer than the F-Pace) that new car smell is that of adhesives. So far, the E-Pace isn’t exactly fighting a winning battle in this toughest of all tough segments, occupied by the Germans and their Macans, X3s, Q3s, GLAs, and what-nots. Not to mention the upcoming Lexus UX and the Cadillac XT4. The premium compact crossover fight is like the Premier League of the automotive world.
Even though it shouldn’t be easy for Jaguar, it really kind of will, because the company expects over 80 percent of E-Pace buyers to come from other brands. In its first full year of global sales (that’ll be 2019) it is also expected to surpass the F-Pace as the brand’s best selling car. Ever, in fact. These conquest sales are also crucial because they are the stepping stone into the Jaguar line-up, or lifestyle as the PR people want you to think of it, and for many the first Jag experience of any kind. So the E-Pace really needs to lock these customers in for life.
Sized right there in the Goldilocks zone, the E-Pace is 336mm shorter than the F-Pace it’s based on, with a roughly 200mm shorter wheelbase too, but it’s actually slightly wider, and about just as tall. Somehow it still manages to have a narrow, lanky look to it. The designers did a good job packaging it all because with 577 liters of cargo volume the E-Pace scores quite well for the class with the seats up. Drop them down in a 60:40 split (not completely flat) and you get 1,234 litres in total. Which is less than you get in a Golf, but there you go, the crossover mania overrules rationale.
With its aluminium intensive architecture, torque vectoring and all-wheel drive, plus sporty tyres on 20-inch wheels, the E-Pace handled hundreds of kilometers of Corsica during Motormouth’s test drive highly commendably. These narrow and steep mountain roads form parts of the Tour de Corse rally and they garner attention and respect, but the E-Pace put not a wheel wrong. The ride on the 20-inch rims however suffers badly, and those particularly predisposed to image can pay extra and make it ever worse with the optional 21s. Jaguar would like you to note no one else in the segment offers 21s, and it’s easy to understand why.
The E-Pace’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine is found in many Jaguar Land Rover models, and it’s the same in all of them: slightly disappointing. The power and torque are there (296 horsepower and 400Nm of torque) and the nine-speed automatic transmission is fine, but when thrashed towards the red line the motor seems to fade out with a rattly whine.
The majority of the time though, from the driver’s seat the E-Pace in this P300 AWD Automatic guise is perfectly pleasant, with a simple, elegant interior and a 12.1-inch touchscreen in the middle containing most of the car’s controls.
Although flawed, the E-Pace won’t let its faults count against it because the simple fact is that Jaguar growler on the grille makes it an emotional purchase as much as a rational one. It may not be the best car in class, but it’s the only Jag in class, and the 80,000 or so buyers that will drive a new E-Pace home every year will want a Jaguar in their garage first, and a compact crossover second.
Going with that then, the new Jaguar E-Pace has done just about enough to leave them wanting for more of the same.
2018 Jaguar E-Pace
2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder | nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive | 296 horsepower and 400Nm of torque | 0-100kph in 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 243kph | $40,000