Jaguar E-Pace: We test drive Jag’s new sporty SUV

The Jaguar E-Pace was unveiled last July, and we’ve had the chance to drive it around the breathtaking roads of Corsica. Turns out Jaguar’s baby SUV is seriously tempting.

Jaguar formally announced its third sports utility vehicle, the Jaguar E-Pace, during an event at London ExCel. The new model is already on sale, and will start shipping to customers soon. But what is it, and why should you care?

Here are the eight main things you need to know about the Jaguar E-Pace, including how it drives.

Related: Jaguar I-Pace – Everything you need to know

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1. It’s actually Jaguar’s third SUV

Jaguar Land Rover has a long and proud history of building SUVs, but the core Jaguar brand has typically shied away from the category.

However, tempted by insane growth in the SUV segment, Jaguar launched its first SUV – the F-Pace – back in 2016. It’s since become Jaguar’s fastest-selling model of all time, which spurred the company on to announce the I-Pace, a second SUV and Jaguar’s first all-electric vehicle – due on roads later this year.

But there was still some market left to capitalise on, and that’s the compact SUV sector. Enter the E-Pace, a vehicle that sits below the F-Pace in Jaguar’s line-up, and is intended to capitalise on the 23% growth Jaguar is expecting to see in the compact SUV market between now and 2020.

Related: Nissan Qashqai review

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2. The E-Pace is the cheapest Jaguar SUV to date

Finbar McFall, Jaguar’s Global Product Director, says that the car will attract “typically couples, maybe young families”, and that 80% of E-Pace buyers will be new to the Jaguar brand.

That’s why Jaguar has started pricing from as low as £28,500 in the UK, which makes it the company’s cheapest SUV ever. In the US, you’ll pay $38,600, while European buyers will have to fork out €34,950.

There’s also a special First Edition for more cash-flush buyers, which is “limited by time rather than by volume”, we’re told. This will cost £47,800 in the UK, £53,550 in the USA, and €62,675 in Europe.

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3. It was codenamed ‘cub’ during development

Speaking to press, Jaguar design don Ian Callum revealed that his team’s codename for the E-Pace during development was the “cub”.

This is important, because it’s a great description of how Jaguar sees this car. While the F-Pace is intended to be a full-fat SUV similar to a top-end Land Rover or Range Rover, the E-Pace is a more compact offering – á la the Range Rover Evoque.

“Most of it is in the silhouette; creating that roofline which sweeps off the back of the car, exaggerated by the real spoiler,” Callum told us. “It gives the car that sense of speed and dynamism.”

He added: “This is the face of modern Jaguar.”

If you look around the car, you’ll actually spot three cub logos hidden away.

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4. It was also inspired by the F-Type sports car

A key part of what separates the E-Pace from the bigger F-Pace is the fact that it was inspired by Jaguar’s flagship sports car, the F-Type. As Callum explains, the design is “unashamedly from the F-Type. Why not? It’s a sport utility vehicle. The emphasis is on sport.”

The most obvious callback to the F-Type is the headlamp design, which is very different from the wide-eyed lights on the F-Pace. With the E-Pace, they’re very sleek and feline, just as is the case with the F-Type.

Jaguar also borrowed the familiar lines that mark the haunches on the side of the car “off the F-Type” too, and even carried over the F-Type’s grab-handle gear stick.

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5. It does 0-60mph in under six seconds

A Jaguar wouldn’t be a Jaguar without some serious motoring heft under the hood, and the E-Pace is no different.

There are five different Ingenium engine types – two of which are diesel and three petrol – with the top-spec version capable of a blistering 0-60mph time of just 5.9 seconds. It’s also capable of a 151mph top speed, which isn’t bad for an SUV.

The basic model offers a less nippy 0-60mph of 9.5 seconds and a maximum speed of 124mph, but it’s also about 1.5x more efficient in terms of fuel.

Excitingly, there’s an option for Jaguar’s new Active Driveline system, which is an all-wheel-drive outfit that can adapt to a “rear-wheel-drive character”.  This means you can drive it more like a sporty RWD car – like the F-Type, see? – with controlled drifts and power-on oversteer. This Active Driveline mode also disengages during steady driving to boost fuel efficiency – but can be reengaged in just 300ms.

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There’s also a new Adaptive Dynamics system that adjusts the E-Pace’s damper settings every 10ms. This reduces body roll and prepares the vehicle for poor or no-road use when it detects a change in road conditions.

6. It’s seriously spacious

Jaguar Land Rover is renowned for creating SUVs that get stuff done, and that’s the case with the E-Pace too.

Specifically, the E-Pace has been designed to maximise spaciousness inside the car. For instance, you’ll get 8.42 litres of central stowage, 10.07 litres in the lockable glovebox, 577 litres of boot space, and 1234 litres of luggage space if you fold the rear seats forward.

The central stowage compartment will take two one-litre bottles of water in the so-called “mega-bin” – or as design lead Callum remarks: “You can get two bottles of wine in it. That’s very important.”

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The wheelbase – the distance from wheel centre to wheel centre – is a lengthy 2.61m, which is shorter than the F-Pace’s 2.87m, but similar to the 2.64m wheelbase of the rival Nissan Qashqai. The advantage of this substantial length is that it’s possible to store objects that are 1.6m long, and still get two passengers in the car.

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7. There’s bucketloads of technology on board

Where Jaguar is really hoping to win over the upper-percentile millennials is the on-board tech, as McFall outlines: “They need practicality, but they also want standout design and the latest technology.”

There’s a new 10-inch Touch Pro tablet that acts as the car’s infotainment system, and lets you control contacts, music, and vehicle and navigation options. This means you’ll still get physical rotary dials and tactile switches, which are a big deal for Callum: “I’m a big believer in tactile controls. The idea of these great big screens where you don’t touch anything is not quite right for Jaguar.”

If you disagree however, then you may be more interested in the optional 12.3-inch TFT panel, which replaces the analogue instruments with digital options on the screen instead.

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There are USB ports for all five seats in the car, two of which are in the central cubby box. And there are also further 12v charging points in the front, the centre console, and even the boot. Using a USB in the central cubby, you can easily connect your phone to the Meridian sound system – which itself has an 825W surround option.

There are also all the usual smart-driving technologies like Blind Spot Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking, and Adaptive Cruise Control (plus Queue Assist).

One of the cooler features (pending cybersecurity concerns) is the ability to lock your car remotely using your smartphone or smartwatch. Alternatively, you can buy a waterproof band from Jaguar that also lets you lock and unlock the car remotely, so you can store your valuables inside for a fun day of surfing – or any other watersports loaded 30-somethings get up to on a weekend.

8. Here’s how it drives…

My two days driving the E-Pace around Corsica were like two sides of a coin. After the first, I was left nodding out of respect. After the second, I was grinning like an idiot.

The reason for these two reactions was fairly simple. The car I jumped into at the beginning was the E-Pace S D240 AWD (starting £40,850). The diesel engine has plenty of torque, but just doesn’t pick up quickly enough for my liking. There’s that lag when pulling away from junctions, and even in Sport mode the acceleration isn’t there for a nippy overtake. It’s a diesel, at the end of the day, and if that’s what suits your needs, this one is well mannered enough.

The 9-speed auto ‘box is truly excellent. The ratios are close and the changes are barely perceptible. Manual changes can be made either by paddles behind the steering wheel or by popping the stick up or down.

The upside of being a little uninspired by the engine was that I was paying a lot more attention to the chassis and cabin. Jaguar’s done a great job of keeping the E-Pace stiff and sporty, even if the car’s extra weight resulted in a little more corner roll than you get from the F-Pace, especially around some of the twisty road sections used in the Tour de Corse.

It’s very responsive, though. Taking it out on a handling course laid out around a dirt track, the rigid chassis and AWD kept the turn-in sharp even when gunning around the loose surface.

I can’t fault the comfort, either, which is better tuned to asphalt than the lumpy off-road route we detoured onto. I imagine the number of E-Paces that’ll leave the tarmac will be counted on one hand, so the balance there is just right. That’s not to say it wasn’t capable on the rocky, loose route, though, because it was.

The cabin is quiet, spacious and classy. I found the A-pillar a little obstructive, so I had to lean forward a bit for tight turns, but visibility for me was otherwise decent.

As I said, I was left nodding. I could see that Jaguar had put some serious work into maintaining many of the characteristics of the F-Type and F-Pace, but in a more compact, heavier SUV. Respect.

But then I got to drive the E-Pace R-Dynamic S P300 AWD (from £44,860). The best compliment I can pay the top-spec petrol option is that it brought back memories of test-driving the F-Type at its launch in Spain a few years back.

The responsiveness of the 300PS Ingenium engine is so satisfying, and perfectly balances with that sporty chassis. The combination of sharp handling and instant power makes the top-spec E-Pace so pointable. It’s that difference between thinking about what you need to do, and just doing. In a really well-balanced car, you experience the latter.

The new Jaguar cub is uncaged in this guise, and it left me grinning from ear to ear. It’s got some tough competition out there, though, and it certainly isn’t cheap.

The P300 in Caesium Blue, with a D240 in Firenze Red hiding in the back

Check out some more images of the car below:

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What do you think of the Jaguar E-Pace? Let us know in the comments.

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