2018 Jaguar E-Pace AWD First Drive

Jaguar E-Pace AWD
Jaguar E-Pace AWD

The concept of Jaguar producing an SUV/CUV is already a foregone conclusion that has been met with great success thanks to its F-Pace. So now it’s the perfect time to broaden the segment with the introduction of the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace. Jaguar-Land Rover flew us to the French island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean, which itself is a combination of Franco-Italian style and culture, to sample this exotic combination of utility and performance.

Jaguar calls the E-Pace a “tweener” and we will, too. Tweener in the sense that just as the F-Pace did not directly match up with such competitors as the Mercedes GLC, and Audi Q5, it actually ends up somewhere in between. The same can be said for the new Jaguar E-Pace. It sits decidedly between the BMW X1 and X3, the Lexus NX and above the Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA.

But an SUV from a company known for such icons as the D-Type, E-Type and the XJ220 supercar that rocketed to 212.3 mph? It’s called profitability, and with the F-Pace, and now the E-Pace, the brand’s SUV and CUV lineup has nearly doubled company revenue.

A Different Kind Of Cat.

While the F-Pace featured more of a style as found in its Land Rover cousins, the E-Pace is taking advantage of the latest refinements in the Jaguar stable. A front-driver in European versions, we Yanks will receive the all-wheel drive variant with a powerplant from Jaguar’s Ingenium engine series. With two variations, the Core Model and R-Dynamic version, the E-Pace will feature a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 246 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, or 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, respectively. Essentially identical engines, the more powerful version uses increased turbo boost to add more to its bottom line.

Jaguar E-Pace AWD
Jaguar E-Pace AWD

Transverse mounted, both engines are mated to the widely used ZF 9-speed automatic transmission that functions with a shift lever or steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. While the front wheels offer torque vectoring via the brakes, our R-Dynamic model offered Jaguar’s “Active Driveline” which accelerates the outside rear wheels in a turn with up to 100-percent of the torque going to the rear axle via a wet clutch. It’s the perfect thing for drifting, if you were so inclined!

Our tester included the optional Configurable Dynamics package, which allowed us to tailor the throttle, steering, shift speed and Adaptive Dynamics system, which varied damper ratios according to sensors that “read” the road every 10-milliseconds (0.01-seconds).

The E-Pace rides on the JLR D8 platform that it shares with the Range Rover Evoque and the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Measuring up 12 inches shorter than the F-Pace, it includes an aluminum front clip (fenders, hood), roof and tailgate but adds more high-strength steel than its larger sibling. The steel makes for a more rigid ride, but also increases overall vehicle weight.

Honey, I shrunk the F-Pace.

The new E-Pace appears like its F-Pace big brother that may have spent too much time in the dryer following an intense wash cycle.

Jaguar E-Pace AWD
Jaguar E-Pace AWD

Actually the E-Pace steals some of its big brother’s design cues including the bold grille similar to the other vehicle. LED headlamps and signature J-Blade lighting flows around the outside headlamps for a distinct appearance like no other. The sharp looks continue rearward with “tight haunches” that wrap tightly around, into blade like rear lamps that bring to mind the rear appearance of the F-Type sports car, itself already an icon. Our R-Dynamic model included the full and fixed panoramic roof, which was just enough to allow us to enjoy the surroundings of this Mediterranean sea-based island.

The E-Pace’s interior is conservative, but still all Jaguar. If you have seen and enjoy the controls in F-Type vehicles, then too, you have seen the controls in this E-Pace.

Sport contour bucket seats offered numerous ways to become accommodated in total comfort. A grab bar, similar to the same device inside the F-Type sportscar, allowed a bit of stability for passengers on twisty Corsican mountain roads. But we would offer that despite the fact Jaguar calls this E-Pace a five-passenger vehicle, its backseat was better suited to handling just two extra passengers. As such, we’d call it a four-seater.

Jaguar E-Pace AWD
Jaguar E-Pace AWD

A 10-inch touchscreen display helps to control the Touch Pro infotainment system in handling navigation, audio, telephonic and vehicle controls. Our top shelf R-Dynamic E-Pace was equipped with an available 12.3-inch display that displayed all pertinent controls within our field of view from behind the steering wheel.

And just because, Jaguar has left little details that are what other manufacturers call “Easter Eggs.” You know, those small details designed to amuse the vehicle’s owner. In this case, it’s a Jaguar mother, and her “cub,” representative of the larger F-Pace, and its E-Pace cub. Get it? The outline is seen in several locations around the cabin, waiting to surprise and delight its owner, everywhere it is seen.

Driving Impressions.

The first thing we noticed was the spritely pickup accompanied by an engaging exhaust note from the 2.0-liter inline turbocharged engine. The paddle shift levers offered a great degree of shift control from the 9-speed gearbox. The engine, despite its being only a transverse-mounted inline four-cylinder, is raspy like a turbocharged V6 when pushed hard.

Despite that raspiness when driven in anger, the engine was relaxed at speed, as the gears climbed in the ZF 9-speed. In normal driving modes, its sound managed to keep to a very respectable level rather than going to low rumble or a high-pitched wail. Consider it having a Jekyll and Hyde personality. The sweet sounds from the Meridian Audio system displayed a delicate voicing that allowed you to single out a particular instrument. It became quite soothing after a spirited run through Corsican twisty turns along our sometimes-mountainous routes.

The E-Pace offered great handling with a totally connected feel, which might be antithetical for a semi-tall CUV like this. Credit the new lightweight steel knuckle-based front suspension, which increases camber, and in the process helps minimize understeer. Lighter and greatly refined, it makes for a very responsive steering feel that becomes even stronger in the Dynamic mode. It was enhanced by the active torque vectoring that helped to shorten the length of a curve during aggressive corner cutting.

Taking the Leap(er).

The new Jaguar E-Pace proves once again that good things do indeed come in small packages. Sure, it isn’t the biggest cargo hauler in the segment, nor will it offer three-wide rear seating for a trio of burly man-types, but it will offer lots of fun both on and off-road, with capabilities that will allow you to get wet, dirty, sandy and snowy, too. In other words, this CUV is a “Cub” for all seasons.

Story and Photos by Mark Elias

2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic AWD

Base Price: $38,600 (Core E-Pace) $47,250 (R-Dynamic)

 

Specifications:

Type: Five passenger AWD CUV

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder Ingenium engine series.

Horsepower: 296 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm

Torque: 295 torque @ 1,450-4,500

Transmission: ZF 9-speed Automatic

Length: 173-inches

Width: 78.1-inches

Height: 64.9-inches

Wheelbase: 105.6-inches

Cargo: 24.2-cubic feet, seat up

52.7-cubic feet, seat folded

0-60 mph: 5.9-secs

Top Speed: 151-mph

Fuel Economy: 21 city / 27 highway / 23 combined

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