2018 Jaguar E-Pace P300 R-Dynamic S

 

We spend some time with Jag’s new kitten

Words by: Adam Allen

What have we here?

May we present the newest entry into the subcompact luxury CUV segment and the baby of the Jaguar lineup, called the E-Pace. No, it’s not an electric CUV; that model should be landing in dealerships shortly, and it will be known as the I-Pace. Now that we’ve put you through the model’s various paces (pun very much intended) we’d like to tell you more about the newest kitty to come out of Coventry. Perhaps we should refer to it as ‘Cub’ – when you approach the E-Pace at night an unlock the doors, a little cub diligently following its mother is projected onto the tarmac. This is a tongue in cheek nod to the development team responsible for the E-Pace who referred to this little scamp as The Cub during its gestation. We have many kilometers under our belts in the bigger F-Pace of various flavors and we think the nickname is apt, because the E-Pace shows us what its larger stablemate might have looked like before it grew up.

As a first effort in the small luxury CUV space, it’s a home run.

There are is a glut of cars competing for your wallet’s attention in this class, from the excellent BMW X1 and Lexus NX200t to the sterile Audi Q3 and the somewhat ghastly Mercedes Benz GLA250. The little Jag trumps them all in a few key areas, starting with the styling. We commented earlier that its looks are hereditary to the larger F-Pace, but we think the snubbed proportions work exceptionally well with the company’s design language. It looks squat and purposeful sitting there with tastefully large grilles, F-Type inspired LED headlamps and gorgeous black 20” wheels. Fun fact: you can step up to a set of 21” rollers, which should all but cement the E-Pace as the smallest and lightest vehicle on sale to carry such large wheels. It is also the most powerful entry- our R-Dynamic tester packed the spicier version of the two versions of 2.0 litre turbo fours which pushes out 296 horsepower and 295 torques. Nothing in the class can touch it where output is concerned, but with 1,894 kilos to move around, it will likely be the fastest but only just. It also has the most space aft of the rear seats meaning you can take more stuff with you in an E-Pace than you can in say, a Mini Countryman which is nicely commodious in its own right. For those who like to dine with reckless abandon at the Buffet of Options, there’s an exhaustive list of features and tech that can be added to your E-Pace, and some of these bits of kit aren’t available on its competitors. Jaguar was clearly not messing around in chasing Best in Class honors right out of the gate and it shows.

It’s the first front wheel drive Jag since the X-Type.

Once dubbed “the most important Jaguar ever”, we’re thankful the X-Type was finally euthanized in 2009. No much more than a tarted-up Ford Mondeo, it suffered from awkward styling, abysmal reliability and ‘mailed it in’ mechanical bits. It was the first effort from Jaguar to build a front-wheel drive car, and it was sort of miserable. This time around, Jaguar is buoyed by the success of its growing product portfolio and wisely chose not to follow in the X-Type’s footsteps with the E-Pace. Although front-wheel drive is not currently available here in Canada (nor are any of the diesel engines…yet) the engine is mounted transversely, meaning the E-Pace doesn’t share any of the architecture currently employed by its fellow stablemates. Its latitudinally installed engine is all-new, belonging to a family of powerplants that Jaguar has dubbed ‘Ingenium’. We already told you that it musters an impressive output, but we haven’t touched on the sound that comes out of the twin rear exhausts- its properly snarly and sounds much better than the Ecoboost engines Jaguar used to borrow from Ford. It’s lashed to a 9-speed automatic cribbed from the Range Rover Evoque, but it has been tuned to offer smarter gear changing and snappier responses for E-Pace duty.

Jaguars have never been accused of being dull to drive…How’d the E-Pace fare?

The E-Pace will allow for a knowing smile to spread across the lips of anyone who is familiar with Jaguar architecture, because driving the E-Pace even a short distance feels a lot like the F-Pace despite the bigger cat being built on a platform that is inherently meant for rear/all-wheel drive vehicles. For the E-Pace, that means understeer is nicely controlled- not absent, mind you- and the prevailing feeling is one of playfulness and engagement. You will not get bored of flogging this little Jag. The steering and brakes perform their tasks with appreciable precision and in Dynamic Mode the E-Pace feels alert and always willing to spin the tachometer to the upper reaches. Although we never subjected the little cub to anything more challenging than a shabbily paved road, it can hold its own off the beaten path, too. One of our colleagues who attended the E-Pace launch media launch on the island of Corsica (not to be confused with the beautiful and dearly missed Chevy of the 1990’s) told us that even when shod with sporty Pirelli Scorpion rubber, the little scamp acquitted itself better than expected off-road. If you really want to venture far off the grid, the E-Pace isn’t the best choice, but then most owners will never drive on any surface more challenging than a crushed gravel driveway anyway.

What might go wrong?

It’s worth mentioning again that as a first effort, the E-Pace is undisputedly excellent. But as with every when a brand sets sail for unchartered waters, there are some challenges it will face that will hopefully get addressed by Jaguar as the model ages. The most glaring fault we noticed came but a few seconds after getting comfortable in on of the E-Pace’s leather thrones. There is a large piece of black plastic on the dash that dominated the drivers line of sight and surrounds the instrument panel. Even luxury brand Jaguar isn’t beyond using at least some plastic trim for its interiors, but this is probably the lowest grade of the stuff we’ve seen from them. Those attractive 20” wheels don’t exactly help to make the ride anywhere near cosseting and the Ingenium engine can get thirsty if most of your trips take place within the city limits. Lastly, the paddle shifters on the steering wheel are made of flimsy plastic (very similar to the stuff on the dash) but we can look past that considering the E-Pace’s price point. Actually, now that we think about it, $64,110 for a compact luxury SUV isn’t exactly what you’d call cheap.

Should I buy an E-Pace P300?

Unless you have a strong affinity towards any of the E-Pace’s competition and a compact luxury CUV is in your sights you should pull the trigger on purchasing one. Like we said earlier, it is the best in a crowded segment occupied by some really good choices. In nearly every metric, the E-Pace excels and while styling will forever remain a subjective measurement, to our eyes the little cub is the best looking choice as well. It shouldn’t be long before the E-Pace is nipping at the heels of the bigger F-Pace for the title of the best-selling Jaguar.

 

2018 Jaguar E-Pace P300 R-Dynamic S- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $64,110
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  2.0-litre inline four cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower: 296 @ 5,500 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 295 @ 1,500 rpm
  • Transmission: 9-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,894 kg (4,176 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 12.8L/100km (18 mpg)