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Jaguar's latest SA-bound SUV: We drive the new E-Pace!

2018-01-27 13:32

Ferdi De Vos

Vecchio (Corsica) – “The Cub”. That’s how the development team in Whitley, Coventry, dubbed the E-Pace – the newest arrival in the Jaguar litter and the third SUV in the pride – launched on the island of Corsica this week and expected to make its African debut in two months’ time.

With its smaller dimensions and more compact design the E-Pace looks more energetic, agile and playful that its bigger World Car of the Year-winning F-Pace sibling, and the all-electric I-Pace.
According to Jaguar director of designer Ian Callum the big “eyes” – newly designed headlights – and outsized “paws” – alloy wheels of up to 21" wide –  of the E-Pace earned it the nickname “cub” within the development and design team.

The local range

With Jaguar Land Rover’s facilities in the UK close to capacity, the company has formed a partnership with engineering and manufacturing specialist Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, and the E-Pace will be the first vehicle produced in Austria under this arrangement.

The local E-Pace range, to be launched in March, will consist of no less than 38 AWD model derivatives – an indication of just how important this model is to Jaguar…

They will all be sourced from Graz, and prices range from just under R600 000 (R598,500) for the entry-level 110kW 2.0-litre diesel model to R895,700 for the 184kW 2.0-litre petrol First Edition derivative.

Prices include Jaguar’s Five-year Care Plan consisting of a five-year/100 000km service plan, a five-year/100 000km maintenance plan and a five-year/100 000km warranty, as standard.

Will the E-Pace sell in South Africa? For sure. 

It packs Jaguar’s alluring design and good performance into a spacious, practical and connected all-wheel-drive package, at a good price entry point for the British marque. This will attract many new drivers into the fold, as long as they do not expect real sports car performance in the F-Type vein from its taller sibling.




Tough competition

The smallest Jag SUV is squarely aimed at the newly launched BMW X2, which ostensibly served as benchmark for its design and development, as well as other small premium SUVs such as the Porsche Macan, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3, Lexus NX, Mini Countryman and Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
However, similarly to the F-Pace it falls in-between classes in terms of size and dimensions and can also be viewed as a contender for the BMW X3, Audi Q2 and Mercedes-Benz CLC.

The E-Pace’s more mischievous, lively nature and its position within the Coventry Cat line-up is further emphasised by a couple of light-hearted, but apt, touches…

A graphic in the windscreen corner showing the silhouette of a Jaguar and her cub, the front door mirror pool lights displaying the same design when you unlock or open them at night, and in top models the inside of the central storage compartment is covered with subtle jaguar coat spots…
But, besides these fun elements the five-seat E-Pace has a lot of grown-up technology inside, and an adult approach to interior practicality and class-leading connectivity.

Traces of F-Type

The exterior design is characterised by the distinctive Jaguar grille, lean, muscular proportions, short overhangs and powerful haunches, and the headlights (with the optional LED lights featuring signature J-blade daytime running lights) are similar to those used on the F-Type sports car. The slim, blade-like rear lamps featuring full LED technology also show definite traces of the F-Type sports car.

However, according to the design team it was quite a challenge to get the proportions right; more so as the E-Pace – based on the same platform as the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Evoque – has a transverse engine driving the front wheels in normal driving conditions.

This means longer overhangs and front wheels positioned further back, but the development team managed to disguise the overhangs well with outsized pulled-back headlights and big side inlets, and together with the fast sweep of the roofline and distinctive side window graphic it gives the E-Pace a sporty and bold stance.

The E-Type’s smaller size also meant it was impossible and impractical to use aluminium for the body panels (in contrast to its bigger F-Pace sibling), but by using aluminium for suspension parts, the bonnet, front fenders, tailgate and roof the team managed to save some 30kg of weight.
Ultra-high tensile steel and a core structure made from super-strong boron steel gives the E-Pace a torsional stiffness of 28.7kN/degree, resulting in better dynamics and a five-star NCAP crash safety rating, without adding weight.

That said, weighing in at close to 1.8 tons the E-Pace is nearly as heavy as the bigger F-Pace, and this does affect its dynamic performance.

According to Jaguar the E-Pace’s huge “paws” – it is the first vehicle in its class to be offered with alloy wheels of up to 21-inch – instantly communicate purposefulness and dynamic agility, making it “immediately recognisable as the sports car of its class”, to quote Callum.

The E-Pace can be specified in eleven exterior colours; Caldera Red (First Edition only), Fuji White (Solid); Borasco Grey, Firenze Red, Caesium Blue, Yulong White, Indus Silver, Santorini Black or Corris Grey (Metallic); and Farallon Pearl Black or Silicon Silver (Premium Metallic).

Connecting the family
With the new compact SUV aimed at modern families – people who besides purity of design and performance also expect practical interior space, connectivity and security, according to Callum – the E-Pace is one of the most connected and intelligent vehicles in its class.

Digital connectivity is found throughout the cabin (up to four 12-volt charging points and five USB connections as well as a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices) and a next-generation touchscreen infotainment system can connect occupants to their favourite apps.

Other interior features emulating the F-Type design lead can be seen in the asymmetric instrument panel embracing the driver, and an F-Type derived gear selector for the auto versions – rather than the rotary drum used in Jaguar’s saloons and the F-Pace.

The compact SUV (with a length of 4,395mm and a wheelbase of 2,681mm) has generous rear legroom (892mm), making it quite comfortable at the back, and sumptuous luggage capacity (577 litres), compared to rivals such as the Macan, GLC, X3 and Stelvio, made possible by the automaker's sophisticated Integral Link rear suspension architecture. However, with the rear seats folded down it has less boot space than some of its competitors.

Besides maximising cabin space, the new chassis hardware also provides a good basis for the E-Pace’s all-surface dynamic capabilities, while Configurable Dynamics gives the driver more control with individual settings for the throttle, auto transmission, steering and, where fitted, the Adaptive Dynamics suspension system. 

Engine choices and trim lines

Available with S, SE and HSE specification packs, in core or R-Dynamic body styles, the E-Pace is offered with a choice of five powertrains – three Ingenium diesel and two petrol 2.0-litre engines paired with either an intelligent nine-speed automatic 

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel models are available in 110kW, 132kW and 177kW output form, while the pair of 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo units deliver 183kW or 221kW. All models are fitted with a ZF nine-speed automatic transmission or a quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission.

Jaguar claims the top-of-the-line 221kW petrol turbo engine will power the E-Pace from 0-100km/h in just 6.4 seconds before reaching an electronically-limited top speed of 243 km/h.

The high-powered 177kW diesel produces 500Nm of torque thanks to its series sequential turbo’s, enough to power the auto version from standstill to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds and delivering CO2 emissions of 162g/km.

A front-wheel drive only entry-level 110kW diesel derivative is available overseas, but only AWD models have been specified for South Africa, starting with the 110kW Base version, available for R598 500 at launch.

Besides the base model a R-Dynamic Pack version with a sports-focused interior, including a branded steering wheel and gearshift paddles, and exclusive visual enhancements outside, such as a unique front bumper with small fog lights, body-coloured sills and satin-chrome detailing, is available with Standard, S, SE and HSE specification packs.

The range also features the latest safety and driver assistance technologies as options, including a stereo camera for the emergency braking system which also provides pedestrian detection, deliver a Blind Spot assist function and supports Lane Keep Assist.

First Edition

A First Edition model is also available for the 2018 build year. This model is exclusively available with the 132kW diesel or 183kW petrol engines and nine-speed ZF automatic transmission. 
It features special paint colour options, gloss black detailing and distinctive 20-inch alloys, a soft-grain leather interior with red contrast stitching, a panoramic roof and TFT Head-Up Display (available as options on the other grades). Other highlights include Configurable Dynamics, a gesture-controlled tailgate and Jaguar Activity Key, along with unique First Edition carpet mats and treadplates.

Tour de Corse

A selection of 177kW (D240) diesel models and 221kW (P300) petrol derivatives, splendidly turned out in red, grey, white and blue, awaited us near Porto Vecchio.

The launch route, touring through the mountainous areas of Corsica, included sections used for the Tour de Corse rally – real driver roads twisting up and down the mountain sides with a hairpin every third corner, sometimes on broken tar surfaces with no run-off areas and a gaping chasm, guarded only by wheel-height rocks, awaiting you if you get it wrong…

Bequeathed with 20-inch Pirelli rubber, the firm ride quality of our red S-specification diesel was immediately apparent. Even in Comfort mode it was quite hard, mostly due to the wide, low-profile tyres.

In auto setting the seamless changes of the nine-speed auto ’box was impressive, but in the short hairpin bends it was prone to kicking down too far if you weren’t careful with modulating the accelerator when exiting the corner.

However, by selecting Sport mode and swinging the pistol-grip gear lever over to manual alleviated this tendency. The soft rumble of the 2-litre diesel also became more pronounced and engine and gearbox reaction quicker – but not sporty by any stretch of the imagination…


Dynamic attributes

The new front suspension, on its own subframe, and compact rear suspension worked well to check body roll in the tight bends and to transfer the E-Pace’s considerable weight in the switchbacks, making it easier to balance the SUV before entering the next twist in a seemingly unending series of corners.

The Active Driveline AWD system – a technological first for Jaguar – that transfer virtually all engine torque to the rear axle in extreme conditions, worked well with the 500Nm of twisting force (available at a low 1,500rpm) of the D240 diesel when accelerating out of the corners.

To avert understeer on turn-in (inherent on all front-wheel drive vehicles) and use the system to full potential, it soon became clear the trick was to brake slightly earlier (taking advantage of the Torque Vectoring system) and get on the gas sooner, relying on the E-Pace’s DSC to keep things in shape mid-corner…

(The system’s All Surface Progress Control (ASPC) attributes– with the level of intervention varying according to the selected JaguarDrive mode – were best displayed over a short low-friction dirt section where it allowed you to initiate power-on oversteer and maintain a controlled drift.)

Having sampled the impressive torque of the most powerful diesel model, we tried the flagship petrol derivative in similar conditions. With less torque (400Nm) it did not feel as quick accelerating out of tight corners, but the free-revving mill made it speedier through the longer curves.

With all those short corners the red-calipered brakes took a hammering, but while they became pretty hot at times, there wasn’t much brake fade.

It’s engine sound, though, was disappointing. One would have expected more of a sporty roar, yet even in Sport mode its snarl was quite muted and subdued, with none of imbued crackles and pops nowadays associated with sporty new-generation turbo vehicles.

And while both E-Pace models showed it is more than competent dynamically, it did not feel overtly sporty – in contrast with its F-Type sibling – and the whole experience lacked driver involvement. 
Its steering, while accurate, felt quite numb – further adding to the sense of detachment and remoteness from what is happening on the road, and in this respect the Macan and Stelvio provides for a much more immersed and rewarding drive.

In my view the E-Pace is actually “over-tyred” on those 20-inchers (not to even mention the 21-inch options), and besides influencing its ride quality also contribute to the lack of feel, constraining its inherent sportiness. 

It remains to be seen whether the standard 18-inch or 19-inch will alleviate this, but I would anyway suggest sticking to these sizes for South African road conditions.


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