The small- to mid-sized SUV segment is already a bewildering world, with seemingly countless offerings from numerous brands. It’s a fertile plain for those who get it right, the segment with small and medium SUVs accounting for nearly 30 per cent of all new car sales to the end of April. Rich pickings, then.
Countering that rich vein of gold, though, is the proliferation of available makes and models. The small SUV segment alone offers 39 models and countless variants to tempt buyers. Add in 35 mid-sized models and the need for a manufacturer to make an impact becomes apparent. Enter the Jaguar E-Pace, only the second SUV from the British marque, joining its larger F-Pace sibling in the Jaguar stable.
Jaguar is a late-comer to the SUV party, years behind its Euro rivals that have been churning out an increasing array of high-riders, soft-roaders and off-roaders for a couple of decades now. But with the E-Pace, the Indian-owned, British manufacturer is making a big play for the hearts and wallets of buyers in the segment where the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 and Audi Q2 rule the Euro roost.
Buyers are certainly spoilt for choice, too, with the usual Jaguar Land Rover tradition of offering as many variants as possible again coming to the fore.
On test we have the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace S P250, which at $57,600 (plus on-roads) is the second-cheapest petrol E-Pace in the range, bettered only by the Standard P250 that rolls out of showrooms for $50,150 plus on-road costs.
How you define the E-Pace range depends on your perspective. Technically, there are nine variants and five engines (three diesel, two petrol) that can be, mostly, mixed and matched to come up with a staggering 38 different configurations of E-Pace.
Entry point for the Jaguar E-Pace, and Jaguar as a whole, is the diesel-powered Standard D150 at $47,750, while the range tops out at the $84,370 First Edition P250.
Our test car is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine from the Ingenium family with power outputs of 183kW (at 5500rpm) and 365Nm of torque (1200–4500rpm). That power is transmitted to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. This combination helps move the E-Pace from 0–100km/h in a reasonably svelte 7.0 seconds, according to Jaguar.
Which is impressive considering the E-Pace’s hefty 1832kg weight, and astonishingly around 100kg more than its bigger, next-segment-size-up stablemate, the Jaguar F-Pace. The reason for this, though, is simple. Unlike the F-Pace’s all-aluminium underpinnings, the 400mm-shorter E-Pace actually shares the same platform as its Range Rover cousins, Evoque and Discovery Sport. And those underpinnings are crafted from good ol’ fashioned (and heavy) steel. Portly, then.
Of course, being from the JLR school of add-ons, the options abound, around $13,000 worth. That Borasco Grey paint adds $1370, while the 19-inch 10-spoke alloys ask for $1370. There’s a lovely panoramic roof creating a pleasant vibe in the cabin, but it doesn’t come cheap at $2160.
A premium Meridian sound system will set you back another $1270, while keyless entry is a further $950. Really? Keyless entry almost a grand? Bit of a piss-take. There’s an interactive driver display for $690, and 10-way electrically adjustable – and heated – front seats add a further $660. And want to use your smartphone through the E-Pace’s infotainment system? That’ll be $420 for the Smartphone Pack, thanks.
And then there’s the biggie, the $3610 Enhancement Specification Pack that adds twin tailpipes, configurable dynamics, a powered tailgate, soft-grain leather steering wheel and a head-up display.
All up, our somewhat reasonable and vaguely affordable Jaguar E-Pace skyrockets from a circa-$57K car to one that will set you back $70,880 plus on-road costs. Hmmm. Not such an attractive proposition any more.
There are few surprises in the cabin of the E-Pace. Borrowing its styling cues from its larger F-Pace stablemate, the E-Pace feels like what it is, an entry point to Euro luxury. To be honest, our test car’s interior left me feeling a little cold. The black interior offered little in the way of contrasting features, and when matched to the Borasco Grey exterior paint, the whole thing felt a little, well, clinical. We’ve seen better interiors in the E-Pace.
Still, the seats are comfortable and the cabin is spacious enough, including the back row. It’s pleasing, too, to see Jaguar use a more conventional gear lever as opposed to the rotary dialler that has become oh-so-common in JLR products of late.
On-road and the slightly, not exactly disappointing but certainly underwhelming feeling continues. That 2.0-litre, on paper at least, seems to have enough power and torque, but the reality is the P250 feels a little underdone. There’s no urgency coming from under the bonnet, and certainly no sense of playfulness.
That nine-speed auto transmission proved a bit laggy too, and a bit too eager to shuffle through the gears, especially around town. It’s as if it couldn’t make up its mind, constantly shuffling through the ratios in a somewhat elusive hunt for the right one, and then when it settled on one, it was time for another gear. Out on the motorway, though, at a constant speed not blighted by the vagaries of variable traffic conditions, the E-Pace positively purred along.
Where the E-Pace does shine, at least in this application, is in its ride and handling. It really is a supremely comfortable small SUV. Our favourite CA test loop takes in arguably one of Sydney’s worst roads and the E-Pace remained unflustered, isolating even the meanest imperfections, bumps and lumps. Kudos.
Of course, with variable drive modes, the opportunity to see if Dynamic transforms the purring kitten into a snarling beast cannot be resisted. Prepare to be disappointed, however, with any expectations of sportiness quickly hammered out of you with barely a ripple of difference over Comfort. Sure, there’s a more urgent noise from that Ingenium mill out front, but the E-Pace’s somewhat lazy characteristics shine through even more. Throttle response is, well, blunt, while the transmission continues to confound with its unpredictable nature. It’s all a bit disappointing, to be honest.
Jaguar claims a modest 7.7L/100km on the combined cycle, and we saw 8.9 litres over a week of highway and city driving. Respectable returns, although the E-Pace demands premium unleaded.
One of the key elements for buyers in this segment is space, and in that regard the E-Pace doesn’t disappoint. It’s on the large size for the segment, longer, wider, and taller than damn near all of its Euro rivals. It also features more boot space, Jaguar claiming 484 litres with the back row in play. Interestingly, Jaguar doesn’t quote boot capacity with the back row folded down, but a perfunctory internet search reveals 1141L with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats not in use.
That back row is spacious enough, though, certainly for two taller adults with ample head and shoulder room, although a little tight on leg room. A fold-down armrest hides two cupholders, while three USB points should be enough to ensure devices are kept juiced up. There are air vents for the back row too, but no separate climate controls.
Like all Jaguars, the E-Pace is covered by the company’s three-year/100,000km warranty, while servicing intervals are a generous 26,000km or 12 months, whichever occurs first. The E-Pace also wears a five-star ANCAP rating (2017), with features such as emergency braking, cruise control (although not adaptive), driver-attention monitor, lane-keeping assist, and rear-cross traffic alert. The E-Pace also has seven airbags, including a bonnet-mounted system offering pedestrian protection.
There are, no doubt, sportier versions of the E-Pace nestled in somewhere amongst the 38-variant range. This certainly isn’t one of them, reserving its chops instead for day-to-day drudgery in traffic. But even here it falls short, with that laggy and lurchy transmission making for, at best, an unremarkable driving experience, and at worst, a downright annoying commute.
Its favourite hunting ground really does seem to be the freeway, but the reality is its likely habitat will involve plenty of urban crawling. And in that environment, the P250 doesn’t quite shine.