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Jaguar's new E-PACE is a compact SUV that sports a chic cabin and engaging driving dynamics that will make it a leader of the pack.

07 May 2018

What We Dislike
Could do with a little powertrain refinement

They say a sequel is rarely as satisfying as the original. Take the movie Speed 2: Cruise Control that Keanu Reeves wisely decided not to return for, for example. But there are exceptions to every rule and the new E-PACE is one such example.

It's the second sport utility vehicle from Jaguar and is positioned below the F-PACE, earning it the nickname of 'cub', something the British manufacturer vivifies on its windshield.

And as the F-PACE is Jaguar's answer to the Audi Q5, the BMW X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC, the E-PACE rivals the Audi Q3, the BMW X2 (or X1, the lines are a little blurred), the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Volvo XC40.

That's tough competition to be up against…

It definitely is. But the E-PACE is well-armed to take them head on. For one, it wears its big brother's sharp, charismatic sheet metal design, which you'd probably know by now is a nip-and-tuck of the devilishly handsome F-TYPE.

A specialty of the First Edition trim is the unique-looking, matte-finished 20-inch rims

In First Edition trim, the car is also blessed with aggressive-looking matte-finished 20-inch rims. Paired to flared, muscular haunches, it oozes the most charm and road presence amongst its peers.

And even though being based on the architecture of the Range Rover Evoque makes it the shortest one in its class; the E-PACE is anything but lacking in space on the inside.

It's got a lengthy 2,681mm wheelbase, which translates to more than enough legroom, a surprising amount of headroom despite its tapering roofline and an ample 484 litres of boot space (more than the BMW X2 or the Volvo XC40). Storage is also excellent, with plenty of cubby holes stippled around the cabin and deep bins in the doors.

Enough space for up to three at the back although the backrests may be a little short for taller adults

More importantly, the design of its cabin has the ability to seduce you as easily as its sheet metal does. Bearing much of the layout of the F-TYPE, its dashboard slopes away from the driver in a rather dramatic fashion, emphasised by a sporty wrap-around centre stack design.

It also ditches the rotary gear knob of the F-PACE for a pull-trigger configuration like in the F-TYPE.

The soft leather and suede-like trims used are also an improvement over some of Jag's other models, while the front seats offer a great amount of comfort and support.

Design and execution of the cabin is definitely an upgrade over its bigger brother the F-PACE

Still, if you're nitpicky, the fit and finish is not without flaws. Some of the plastic switchgear such as the paddle shifters and rotary air-con dials, while acceptable to most, still don't feel as premium as you'd expect for a car that costs quite a bit over $222,999 (as of 19th April 2018).
Does that dampen the appeal of the car much, though?

Luckily not, especially if you're someone who is more appreciative of how something drives. It's a tall and heavy car but the E-PACE has a rather remarkable talent of bending the laws of physics.

It has a knack for whisking effortlessly from corner to corner, displaying the sort of chuckability and playfulness that's reminiscent of a hot hatch (but one on stilts). The car's steering is direct and the chassis responds promptly to inputs.

Steering feedback and feel is one of the better ones offered in this class

Yet, it's also able to cruise along poorer tarmac in the sort of unbothered fashion that people buy these things for.

In a straight line, Jaguar says it'll do 0-100km/h in seven seconds courtesy of its turbocharged 2.0-litre Ingenium engine that's good for 245bhp and 365Nm of torque. But in reality, it feels quicker, even though the 'cub' is quite the fat boy weighing a hefty 1.8 tonnes.

There's a reasonable amount of grunt to go around for all occasions, with only a slight whiff of breathlessness if you full load the car. For a little more puissance, however, there's still a slightly more expensive 296bhp R-Dynamic version to consider.

The 245bhp engine is good for a seven-second century sprint, although lacking slightly in overall refinement

Alas, despite its commendable dynamics, its engine and transmission pairing is not without niggles. For example, its power delivery isn't as polished or linear as BMW's and its transmission is noticeably much less decisive than Audi's. Nonetheless, it's only truly a worriment if you're constantly paying close attention.

So the E-PACE is still a worthy consideration, then?

As a sequel to the F-PACE and as an overall package, the E-PACE definitely doesn't disappoint. It's better looking in our opinion, more lavishly furnished and more fun to drive.

While Jaguar hasn't caught onto the Apple CarPlay trend, its crisp Touch Pro system is just as user-friendly

And while the competitiveness of the segment may mean the E-PACE certainly has its work cut out for it, it's got sharp enough claws to sway non-believers into considering a Jag if they can look past its minor imperfections.

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