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Driving Jaguar’s affordable luxury cub - the new E-Pace

2018-04-15 00:00

The compact and slightly less expensive E-Pace has sports utility fans salivating. Pictures: Supplied

Melinda Ferguson

Jaguar E-Pace

Price: from R598 500

4/5

Porsche veered away from its 40-year history of producing two-door 911 sports cars with the 2001 release of the Cayenne SUV – a brutish car compared with Porsche’s past creations.

This caused an uproar among motoring journalists and media the world over, and yet consumers loved the Cayenne.

Thanks to the Cayenne and the 2015 introduction of the more compact Macan, Porsche doubled its global sales between 2010 and 2016. This set off a race among luxury brands to outdo one another in the SUV market.

Determined not to be left behind, Jaguar launched its first SUV in 2016 with the highly successful F-Pace, priced from R776 800. And now two years later, the more compact and slightly less expensive E-Pace has got sports utility fans salivating.

Built on the impressive Range Rover Evoque’s platform, the E-Pace, dubbed by its manufacturers as “the cub” to the F-Pace, is surprisingly capable off-road with 240mm ground clearance. It’s able to tackle mud, gravel and up to 500mm of wading water – making it far more robust than its looks suggest. To elaborate on the cub theme for the E-Pace, Jaguar has created and placed on the windscreen a graphic of a silhouette of a mommy Jaguar with her baby in tow. When driving the E-Pace at night, the same graphic is beamed on to the road from the wing mirrors.

I must admit that while I fell in love with the E-Pace’s curvy sport-inspired exterior, it was its interior that truly sealed my love affair. The leather, the ice-cool metal and even the plastics are top notch. The seating and legroom are spacious, while the 12.3-inch
InControl Touch Pro navigator media, which comes standard in all models, is world-class and user-friendly. I loved the 4G Wi-Fi hot spot that can be linked to up to eight devices and there’s even a waterproof activity key. The electric tailgate opens to 425 litres of boot space, growing to an impressive 1 234 litres when the back seats are down.

I took the E-Pace on a road trip along the gorgeous Garden Route and made my way to the iconic The Plettenberg Hotel in Plettenberg Bay. I got behind the wheel of an entry level diesel D150 with its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine – which has outputs of 110kW of power and 380Nm of torque – and was impressed by its thrilling acceleration on straight roads. But while the E-Pace is a Jag, it’s still an SUV and is sedate compared with its sporty sisters, going from zero to 100km/hour in 10 seconds.

The luxurious E-Pace blended right in with its up-market surrounds when we parked at the five-star The Plettenberg Hotel.

Perched on a rocky headland in the bay, this hotel, with its beautiful ocean and mountain views, is undoubtedly set in one of the most breathtaking locations I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting. But, let’s face it, a gorgeous hotel is only worth its stars if its service and cuisine impress. Fortunately, The Plettenberg has earned its world-class status in every respect. While the menu is overseen by group executive chef Peter Tempelhoff, the gem of The Plett is head chef Ritchie Rorich. I was absolutely elated by his seafood soup, the bouillabaisse, which I ate two servings of for dinner and craved it at the delicious buffet breakfast the following morning. If I wasn’t worried about spilling fish soup on the E-Pace’s gorgeous 18-way adjustable leather seats, I would have taken a pot back to Cape Town with me.

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