Road Tests

First Drive: Jaguar E-Pace (2018) isn’t that electrifying

A Jaguar E-Pace; is that just a smaller F-Pace?

Essentially yes, although the E-Pace sits on the Range Rover Sport/Evoque platform rather than a bespoke Jaguar skeleton. So it’s pretty heavy – depending on spec, the same as the bigger F, despite being a fair bit smaller.

Jaguar jokingly refers to it as the ‘Cub’ to the F-Pace, and you can see the kinship immediately – there’s the familiar Jaguar wide grille and restrained surfacing, though it does appear to be a bit stubby from certain angles.

Weirdly, if you put your hand over the bottom half of the car, it looks very pretty on top – lovely window line and all – but then the bottom makes it look a little tubbier.

It’s not the most striking or exciting of Jaguar’s product, but it’s largely inoffensive. Certainly no worse than most smaller SUVs. In the bottom corner of the windscreen is a small silhouette of a mummy Jaguar and a little cub following along. I quite liked that, but then, I’m a bit sad.

So what’s it for?

Well, it’s Jaguar’s smallest SUV. So a five-seater with a decent boot and a full-ish set of ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engines.

There’s diesel (110kW, 133kW or 177kW) or petrol (183kW, 221kW), you can get front-drive only on the base models (with a six-speed manual), right up to a pair of different AWD options mated to a nine-speed auto at the top, all of them front-biased until you start to slip.

Does it feel small?

Smaller than an F-Pace, yes. Inside, there’s plenty of space for five – though the rear seats suffer slightly with that kicked-up rear window line – and plenty of thoughtful storage and general gubbins.

The interior is familiar Jaguar kit, nicely ergonomic and very clean and tidy, although the sat nav did glitch and slow down a bit during our test drive. You’ll recognise a lot of it from the Jaguar parts bin, but that’s no problem at all. And the view is what you expect from an SUV – with the E-Pace get bonus sightlines from the ‘command’ driving position, and it fits where an F-Pace wouldn’t.

Is it more agile, then?

It’s got a handy line in being relatively nippy. The transmission on the cars we drove were all all-wheel drive, and they seem keen enough. Body control is good – it certainly doesn’t flop about – and there’s enough transparency to the steering to keep the E-Pace placed accurately even when trotting along at a fair pace.

It never really feels very Jaguar-ish though – it’ll push the nose fairly hard before tucking in the rear if you stay on the power. Safe and secure, but nothing to write home about. Good for an SUV, a bit bland for a Jag.

And off road?

Surprisingly, it’s fairly adept. Yes, it’ll be limited by tyres more than anything, but the AWD system is clever and useful, and you’ll be able to totter around a field if you really have to. I’m not sure that’s particularly relevant to the kind of people who buy Jaguar SUVs, but nice to know, in any case.

Buy, or deny?

Not for me, I’m afraid. The E-Pace is a perfectly good car, well-executed. Hands up, I’m not a big fan of SUVs in general, seeing as they’re less good than a traditional hatch or estate at pretty much everything except looking like an SUV, but the E-Pace feels like a car designed to make money and take advantage of a popular niche.

There’s nothing wrong with that – you can’t blame Jaguar for wanting to make cash – but even in the company’s own range there are cars that appeal more. If you remain convinced you really need a small, premium SUV, I’m afraid the Porsche Macan is still a more compelling case.

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