2018 Jaguar E-Pace HSE
Road Test Review
(3.5 / 5)
Jaguar’s push into the SUV realm continues with its new small crossover, the new E-Pace. But does it live up to that leaper which adorns the steering wheel, or is it simply a cash grab to fill a niche?
Years ago you could predict exactly what kind of car a manufacturer would produce. Some produced only four-wheel drives. Others were good at hot-hatches. Other car-makers produced large cars.
Today, things are vastly different. Everyone is trying to muscle in on the tiniest of gaps in the market. And even where there isn’t a gap, there’s a push to grab every category they can.
It makes sense, then, for Jaguar to have entered the compact SUV segment with this, the Jaguar E-Pace.
Jaguar’s move into this category isn’t surprising, but the speed at which it has started to produce SUVs is quite staggering. It wasn’t that long ago that we were introduced to the F-Pace, a gorgeous looking midsize crossover that handles like a proper Jaguar and is styled to outshine the pioneer of the luxury SUV world, the Porsche Cayenne.
The E-Pace’s styling certainly isn’t quite as well resolved as the F-Pace, but that’s because it has been limited by its platform. Jaguar wanted a small SUV, and the quickest way to put it into production was to use a platform that was already tried and tested.
So, the E-Pace uses the platform from the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque; certainly this seems like a smart business decision. After all, it’s versatile, allowing for different engines and driveline configurations. It can also be stretched or shortened, and that’s why the E-Pace has a wheelbase that’s a different length to its Land Rover relatives.
In addition, the platform is mostly made from steel as it’s cheaper than the aluminium platform of the larger models, and this end of the market is still very price sensitive. The shaping of the aluminium structure also only makes it suitable for the larger vehicles in the company’s stable.
There’s a problem, and that’s the age of the platform. It goes right back to when the Evoque was launched, so it’s around seven years old. Compare that with the rest of the compact luxury SUV market and that seems like an eternity.
Yes, the platform has had some modifications to bring it up to date, but suspension, tires, and engines have moved on. You would think that the platform would have, too.
Does it really matter? Certainly for building it, it doesn’t. Jaguar has made it easy enough to produce, because Jaguar isn’t building it at all. The E-Pace comes out of the Magna Steyr factory in Graz, Austria thanks to production capacity constraints at Jaguar’s factories.
Where it does matter is on the road. Here, you can feel the platform’s extra weight, with the E-Pace feeling a lot larger than it needs to.
You can see that Jag has tried to reduce the overall weight using aluminum parts like the front fenders, hood, tailgate and some of the vehicle’s roof (as long as there’s no sunroof). Doing this shaves around 65 lbs. Underneath, there are sprinkles of aluminum through the suspension which also helps.
However, the main component is steel, and that all adds up, creating a dry weight of 4060 lbs. Imagine what adding four people does to that figure.
It’s not an engine issue, but more a balance problem. The E-Pace just doesn’t live up to the leaper up front, with a less pointy front end.
Jaguar has a solution, and it’s called the R-Dynamic option, which stiffens the springs and adds blue stitching and other sportier items, but a Jaguar should feel a bit more lively than this in standard trim.
The real bugbear is the E-Pace’s handling balance. As you turn in, normally the car would rest on its outside two wheels. Instead, it pushes wide, and ends up transitioning to understeer.
You would think that with firm suspension and larger wheels, it would be like its big brother, the Jaguar F-Pace, but in this particular model, it just hasn’t quite done the job.
Where the E-Pace is happiest is when the roads become more flowing. Thanks to an excellent (and rear-biased) AWD system, the Jag feels more at home, and with this diesel under the hood, it rides the wave of torque effectively.
The steering is very good, having progressive heft and good feel. Couple that with brakes that work well enough (though are a little spongy) and you have a crossover that’s a bit left of center in terms of dynamics.
Open the hood and you’ll find Jaguar’s 2.0-liter Ingenium turbocharged diesel which is also found in Land Rover models. There are three versions, and our test car had the mid-spec version which offers 177 hp (132 kW) and 317 lb-ft (430 Nm) of torque. Jaguar says it’ll get to 62 mph (100 kmh) in 9.3 seconds, which feels about right.
JLR continues to use the same nine-speed auto found in the Discovery Sport and while it has made a huge improvement in driveability, it’s still not a patch on the ZF eight-speed auto used in other JLR products. There’s still a hesitant start from rest in certain scenarios (like when the stop-start feature kicks in), and its tendency to not change when it should, either up or down. But like we said, these niggles are less common than they used to be.
Thankfully, the interior is styled like a Jaguar should be. In fact, the interior of the E-Pace has more in common with the gorgeous F-Type than just about any other Jaguar. Witness the grab handle which segments the driver from the passenger, giving a cockpit-like cabin. The seats are also quite sporty.
In the center you’ll find a high-definition touchscreen running Jaguar’s InControl infotainment system. Our test car, being the HSE-spec also gets digital instruments, which can be personalized.
We love the clarity and bass of the 825-watt Meridian sound system sounds great, and there are a stack of apps in the system to keep technophiles happy, and there’s a 4G hot-spot as an option.
The front seats, as you’d expect in an HSE, are adjusted electrically and the padding and bolstering are very good, and sit well with the brand. As a driving position, we did find the steering wheel is a bit low (even at its highest position).
All the controls are laid out ergonomically, the build quality is good and the materials are mostly high end, with only the lower surfaces being a bit harder. The overall presentation is well done.
But again, thanks to this platform, this isn’t a large vehicle. The segmented design in the front keeps drivers and passengers separate, while the rear bench has good shapingand is angled upward, lifting the knees and using the packaging quite well.
Open the tailgate and you get 24.2 ft³ of space, which isn’t huge, so you can drop the back seats liberating 52.7 ft³. The seats can be split in a 60-40 fashion, so if you want to load in some longer items, it’s able to take it.
Here’s the deal, though. If you’re happy to put up with a few less niceties, we’d recommend the SE as the one to go for. Sure, you don’t get a digital instrument screen and there’s less leather across the dash, but it drives similarly and is far better value for money.
However, there are even more convincing packages out there. You only have to look at the Audi Q3 or BMW X1, which are cheaper and have more room. Dynamically, they’re on par as well.
We can see why Jag has gone for the luxury compact SUV market, but we feel that it needs a bit more work (or a better platform) to make it more appealing.