2019 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic SE
(3.5 / 5)
A building is only as good as its foundation. The truth in this old saying is a principle that applies as much to SUVs as it does to skyscrapers. Which is why vehicles that have been designed with dynamics in mind usually have a bespoke platform.
Think about it – if you want an SUV to go around corners quickly, it needs to have optimal placement of wheels, suspension components, weight distribution and plenty of other prerequisites. Get those parts wrong and it will feel like an elephant on a pogo stick.
Which is why Jaguar has had its work cut out for it when designing the new E-Pace. This compact SUV uses the same platform as the old Range Rover Evoque and the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Sure, the underpinnings have had a nip and a tuck here and there, but effectively, it puts the E-Pace several years behind the competition.
Having tested the diesel version of the E-Pace previously, it was clear that Jaguar struggled to make it feel like a Jaguar. It was missing the lithe, pin-sharp steering and the neutral balance you’ve come to expect from the British manufacturer.
So what about this one? Does having a turbocharged gasoline engine help? And does the R-Dynamic setup live up to its name? Well, after a week behind the wheel, we have the answers.
Firstly, let’s start with how it looks. Again, the platform has compromised the packaging and proportions slightly, but it definitely has the same Jaguar themes as we see in current models. But let’s be honest – it’s not Ian Callum’s finest work. Still, it has the predatory cat on the front and that’s what’s going to matter the most here.
The best view is the rear three-quarter angle where the tail laps from the Jaguar F-Type make an appearance, which is similar to the F-Pace’s rear view.
Inside, you’ll also find the F-Type’s influence. The passenger grab handle secludes the driver, making it a very cockpit-like interior, and the blue stitching of the R-Dynamic pack lifts the ambience from what could be quite a cold and dark cabin; there’s a lot of dark grey in here.
The build quality and materials choices are very nice, however. Lots of durable, soft leather, plenty of tactile plastics, and a good mixture of metallic accents make this a very nice place to sit. It could use a bit more space, however.
The snug fitting seats and wrap-around dash make it feel a bit smaller than it actually is, while the rear seats could use a bit more legroom, though the angle of the seat base does help a little. The sloping tailgate also eats into the usable cargo space but, again, the E-Pace is all about maintaining the Jaguar styling.
Overall, the presentation of the interior is great but it’s the packaging compromises which hurt a little. In saying that, you have to remember this is a compact SUV, so its dimensions are never going to be huge. Whether you’re happy with the room is going to come down to expectations more than anything.
But one thing you will expect is for the E-Pace to drive like a Jaguar. So how does it fare dynamically?
Helping is the powerplant sitting under that curvy hood. It’s a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline in-line four-cylinder which produces 296hp (hence the P300 name in some markets). Unlike other Jaguars, the E-Pace uses the same ZF-designed automatic as found in the Evoque and Disco Sport. That means a nine-speed automatic, not the regular eight-speed gearbox.
We’ve found in the past that the nine-speeder tends to be a bit clunky and doesn’t read driver inputs anywhere near as well as the eight-speeder. Thankfully, in this particular car, most of those issues were sorted. There was the occasional lag, and shunt from second to third, but for the most part, it shifted well and knew which gear it should be in at any given moment. That said, we’d still rather see the eight-speed auto as a permanent fixture.
There are paddle shifters attached to the steering wheel should you want to take manual control and if you’re really gunning it, then that may be preferable. But the paddles’ response isn’t quite as sharp as, say, a dual-clutch transmission.
The engine, which is Jaguar’s own design (called Ingenium) is smooth, free-revving and punchy when called for. It will get the E-Pace to 62 mph in 6.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 146 miles per hour.
The steering is okay, with some weighting, but a bit devoid of natural feel, but it does turn in quite crisply. And we have to say the R-Dynamic option certainly does make a difference when it comes to handling.
The E-Pace’s ability to corner with this setup is definitely better than the Disco Sport and Evoque and it will carry speed through a corner with a nice balance. Keep the foot in and it even will bring the rear wheels around in slight oversteer. We’d suggest not doing that on public roads, however.
Because it’s more playful, more fun, it does feel a bit more like a Jaguar should. But you can’t get around the fact that it’s a heavy beast. It’s mostly made from steel, rather than aluminium like its bigger siblings, and the reason for that is simple – cost.
Steel is cheaper to buy and cheaper to press, and when you have a steel platform you can get a lot of strength very quickly. Making it out of aluminium would have meant a lot more time in research and development, and therefore a lot more time before it was launched. Doing it this way means Jaguar can still put out a compact SUV, which is a market it was keen on grabbing a slice of.
Thus, the E-Pace suffers from being a bit too portly. Which is a shame because if it were 200kg lighter, it would be one of the most lively crossovers around.
What else do you get for your $49,000? Well, the list is as you’d expect:
- 19″ 10-Spoke ‘Style 1039’ Alloy Wheel
- LED headlights with signature Daytime Running Lights
- Auto-dimming, power fold, heated door mirrors with memory and approach lights
- Grained leather 14-way memory front seats
- Meridian™ Sound System
- In addition to the standard Driver Assistance Systems, the E‑PACE R-Dynamic SE also comes with Traffic Sign Recognition with Adaptive Speed Limiter and the Park Package, which includes Park Assist, 360° Parking Aid and Rear Traffic Monitor
- Powered gesture tailgate
And you can option a lot more stuff like larger wheels, louder paint colors and interior upgrades. But it’s going to cost you – Jaguar has jumped on the expensive options bandwagon, so just be careful when you walk into a dealership with a blank cheque.
It’s a bit of a curly one, this E-Pace. You can see where Jag was heading with it and why some people will love it. But if you’re a real Jaguar-lover, the compromises and extra weight may be just enough for you to look around at more competitive offerings.
This model, in R-Dynamic guise, is definitely the pick of the range, but we feel there are other ranges that may be better suited to those wanting a sporting compact SUV.
Jaguar E-Pace Specifications
|Engine||2.0L 296 HP Turbocharged 4-cylinder AWD|
|Top speed (mph)||146|
|Acceleration 0‑60 mph (secs)||6.1|