2018 Jaguar E-Pace

New compact utility vehicle hits the sweet spot on price, size and features

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

Virtually all automakers have figured out that their key to current and future success lies with building utility wagons of varying sizes and descriptions.

That lesson hasn’t been lost on Jaguar. Beginning in early 2018, it will introduce the compact E-Pace as a junior partner to the mid-size F-Pace wagon that arrived for 2017.

The E-Pace name sounds like it might refer to an electric vehicle, but it uses good-old-fashioned gasoline propulsion. Jaguar’s upcoming 2019 I-Pace tall wagon will actually be the brand’s first electric.

What is unique about the E-Pace is that it rests on a front-wheel-drive platform derived from the Land Rover Evoque (Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by the same company). Like the F-Pace, however, the E-Pace has standard all-wheel-drive.

The F-Pace and E-Pace are unmistakable as kin, right down to their similar-looking front-end shapes that are clearly influenced by other Jaguar fleet members. The common thread also extends to the opposite end, where the fashionably sloping liftgate looks attractive enough, but results in reduced cargo space when compared to other more squared-off designs.

The cabin appears equally inviting, especially the cockpit-style driver’s pod that could have been lifted straight out of the F-Type sports car. The touch screen is nice and big and the large, round ventilation controls will no doubt assist the fumble-fingered.

The E-Pace is more than a foot shorter and nearly 3.5 inches narrower than the F-Pace and has more than eight inches less distance between the front and rear wheels. But the real head scratcher is that the E-pace actually outweighs the bigger Jag by 155 pounds, which goes to show that compactness doesn’t necessarily result in a corresponding reduction in heft.

Fortunately, the E-Pace is up to the task of quickly and efficiently hauling passengers and cargo, using a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that’s rated at a respectable 246 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque.

For significantly more oomph, the E-Pace’s R-Dynamic package comes with a turbo 2.0 that puts 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque at the driver’s command.

With either engine, a nine-speed automatic is the sole transmission choice.

The all-wheel-drive hardware depends on the engine, starting with a permanently engaged setup for base models. The R-Dynamic’s “Active Driveline” keeps only the front wheels turning in normal driving conditions. When traction loss is detected, the system can direct nearly all of the available torque to the rear axle and to a specific rear wheel, if necessary.

Active Driveline’s standard torque-vectoring system lightly applies the brakes to the inside wheel when cornering, which reduces the vehicle’s naturally tendency to travel in a straight line even when the wheel is turned (called understeer).

Common to all E-Pace models is a low-speed cruise-control system that regulates the vehicle’s speed between 1.1 and 18 mph. Interestingly, active-safety technology such as blind-spot warning and adaptive cruise control are not standard, although lane-keeping assist is.

E-Pace pricing starts at $39,600, including delivery charges. For that pile of cash, you get a reasonable level of standard content, but to move closer to the luxury zone you’ll need to select the S or SE versions to get leather seat coverings, a panoramic roof, navigation, head-up info display and 18- or 19-inch wheels (17-inchers are standard).

Opting for the performance-laden R-Dynamic package adds about $8,500 to the base price, but you also get larger brakes plus a bit more comfort content along with the upgraded driveline.

Atop the field is the E-Pace First Edition, available for 2018 only, that bundles up most of the extra-cost luxury options into one very complete trim level, but takes the E-Pace into the mid-$50,000 territory.

Whatever the choice, the E-pace wagon appears to be an enticing little cat, with the looks, luxury and power that fits with the Jaguar name and reputation.

What you should know:
2018 Jaguar E-Pace

Type: Four-door, all-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle

Engine (h.p.):
2.0-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged (246/296)

Transmission: Six-speed manual; continuously variable (CVT)

Market position: The E-Pace joins the legion of smaller premium utility vehicles, many of which are derivatives of mid-size or larger tall wagons. In some cases, these models are replacing traditional sedans in their respective lineups.

Points:
• Nicely balanced design presses all the right “want-it-now” buttons.
• Both base and higher-output versions of the turbo-2.0 engine should prove more than acceptable in the power department.
• Jaguar’s aversion to offering manual transmissions is unfortunate.
• Surprisingly heavy when compared to similarly sized wagons.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (opt.); lane-keeping assist (std.) MPG (city/hwy) n.a.

Base price (incl. destination): $39,600

By Comparison:

Audi Q3 Quattro
Base price: $36,000
Good-looking wagon is well priced. Quattro AWD is considered a top system.

BMW X1 xDrive
Base price: $36,750
Second-generation model uses the Mini Countryman platform. Can get pricey.

Lexus NX
Base price: $37,500
Less than subtle styling breaks from the pack. AWD Hybrid version available.