Scouting for cubs. Mark Dixon drives the E-Pace, a Jaguar aimed at younger buyers.
In the media pack’s introduction to the E-Pace, Jaguar uses the word ‘connect’ and variations of it four times within as many paragraphs. That’s a good clue to the market at which its new compact SUV is targeted: the smartphone generation. Think 30-something professionals, with a baby in tow or one on the way. There’s even a humorous ‘Jaguar with cub’ silhouette in the windscreen surround and the door puddle lighting.
Despite this hip demographic, the ‘E’ in E-Pace has nothing to do with today’s faddy method of propulsion, electricity. There isn’t even a hybrid version of the E-Pace; instead, there are two petrol and three diesel models, all based on JLR’s Ingenium 2.0-litre. In theory, there’s a two-wheel-drive option available on the entry-level diesel, but the majority of E-Paces will be four-wheel drive.
We tried the most powerful, HSE-level petrol model (296bhp) and the mid-range diesel (176bhp) in First Edition spec. Surprisingly, there’s less to choose between them than you might think: the torque figures are broadly comparable – 295lb ft at 1500-4000rpm for the petrol, 317lb ft at 1750rpm for the diesel – and those are the important statistics here, because the E-Pace’s nine-speed automatic can keep things on the boil in a very narrow band low-down the rev range.
Moreover, the Ingenium petrol engine emits a gruff kind of sound befitting a big four, and the diesel isn’t significantly noisier. Occasionally you get a bit of diesel ‘tingle’ but, to be honest, it’s not something to lose sleep over. Either version benefits from being driven in the Dynamic suspension setting and Sport gearbox mode, which together make the E-Pace enjoyable to hustle; the transmission’s ability to send up to 100% of torque to the outside rear wheel in a corner really helps the vehicle tighten its line. And, while the E-Pace doesn’t pretend to be a serious off-roader, the ‘Rain, Ice and Snow’ setting will cope just fine with a muddy field.
With its target audience in mind, Jaguar has gone to great lengths to make the E-Pace a pleasure to live with. There’s loads of storage space, more USB sockets than you can shake a memory-stick at, and a capacious load area. Grumbles? Mainly that the interior is unremittingly black or, at best, black and beige. But the dash is pleasantly uncluttered and has proper old-fashioned metal knobs to control temperature; inspired, so they say, by a Leica camera.
However… We found the ride quality, even in supposed ‘Comfort’ mode, poor – at least on the 20in alloys fitted to Octane’s test vehicles – and this reviewer will admit that his dad-bod flabby bits were wobbling like jelly on a plate while negotiating a typical B-road. Paradoxically, selecting the more sporty Dynamic setting seemed to improve things marginally, perhaps because the suspension’s reactions to the road surface are more tightly and rapidly controlled.
Fortunately, 17in rims are standard on the £28,500 entry-level model and, since it has most of the important bells and whistles of the £47,800 First Edition, we suspect a base-spec E-Pace will be the most comfortable purchase in more than one respect.
Right and below Jaguar’s new compact SUV is aimed at a younger demographic than most of its products; interior is relentlessly black (red stitching on First Edition only).