“The times are tough.” A general-purpose phrase that has become a bit of a social catalyst over the last year or so. Waiting in a two-hour queue at the bank, for instance, it’s a sure-fire way of eliciting a response from the socially appropriate distant guy seated next to you, followed by his entire life’s story. The last bit I didn’t expect, I was just looking to break the awkward silence. My point is; tough times are just that, time, it’s temporary; it builds character. Take Jaguar as an example.
In its 99-year history, since it started trading as the Swallow Sidecar Company, calling its journey ‘interesting interspersed with rock-strewn detours’ would be considered tactful. The Jag story as we know it today only really started in 1934 when co-founder, William Walmsley, sold his shares in the then motorcycle company to form S.S Cars or Swallow Sidecar Cars. Then in 1935, the S.S Jaguar 100 was launched and for a few decades, all looked to be rosy.
The 100 was also the predecessor of the sleek-line aluminium-bodied XK 120 that would eventually evolve into the E-Type, a sportscar that even today captures the imagination and is still widely regarded as one of the prettiest cars ever made. But in 1965, just four years after the launch of the E-Type, Jaguar merged with the British Motor Corporation which, well, didn’t really work out all that well.
Following a brief period of independence, Ford took over custodianship of Jaguar, a move that would net the British carmaker no profits. The American giant also had Land Rover in its portfolio and decided in 2008 to offload both companies to then highest-bidder, Tata, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Its present, however, is an entirely different story. Yes, it still made sporty-adjacent sedans with its XE and XF ranges and its know-how of executive sedans also didn't falter with the XJ. It could still do the beautifully sleek coupes as well as seen with the F-Type but at the time, the market demanded more. To survive, Jag needed to adapt. Cue the launch of the F-Pace and its smaller E-Pace sibling, two model ranges that would prove crucial to the British marque’s continued survival.
Our tester was the latter and it has now been updated to be better in line with Jaguar’s luxury ethos. In the process, though, I was looking to disprove some of the harsher critiques that have been levelled towards the lavish crossover SUV: “Condensed and bottled F-Pace spec” it’s been called in some circles. Some of our peers across the pond even said the E-Pace is “Jag’s tiny SUV without much Jaguarishness”. That last one is especially unforgiving, but not entirely untrue.
This is an area where Jaguar has, for the most part, always managed to distinguish itself from its German rivals. Where the cabins of cars hailing from the European mainland would always be joined with a thread of common sense, Jag would favour luxurious niceties and touchpoints.
It’s no different with the E-Pace D200 R-Dynamic HSE. Your eyes can’t help but mosey to all the minute details that have so meticulously been integrated into the cabin. Just a singular example, but I couldn't help wondering, if even something as seemingly irrelevant as the angle at which the infotainment system has been fitted has something to do with what’s the most pleasant angle of flex for the human arm.
Sure, there’s no escaping the fact that there’s some Range Rover-donated bits and bobs scattered all over the place; like the digitised instrument binnacle and even the switchable camera-operated rear-view mirror that was conceived based on having an unobstructed view. Two years after first encountering it, I still find it bewildering to have such a direct perspective, so I just switched it off for the duration of my stint. Does this then make it less Jagish? Nope. It’s still a great space to be in even though it’s marginally less posh than its RR Evoque cousin.
The business of driving a Jaguar is supposed to be a sense of occasion, that’s the whole point, right? Well, if then, there’s less roar and more diesel-clatter as was the case with our D200 unit that’s powered by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel mill producing 147 kW and 430 Nm of torque, does it detract from the occasion?
Yes and no. As is often the case with cars adorned ‘R’ badging, you expect a dose of drama when you push the pulsating START button. No drama, theatrics or pops here, sadly.
On the go, however, it redeems itself with the eagerness of the throttle. Then it gets some momentum going and the rate at which it gathers pace is quite deceiving. It’s no slouch! Dial it into its sportier modes and it’s hard to believe that it is in fact powered by a diesel engine. It becomes a focussed distance bruiser with just an oil-burning overtone that remains.
Even its handling characteristics change. Where the E-Pace would usually be very proficient at the business of easy cruising, even with its 20” wheels, it now feels irritated and ready to pounce. Please forgive the cat metaphor.
Its Adaptive Dynamics pack, which falls under Jag’s Dynamic Handling Pack, is responsible for this change in attitude with its constant monitoring of everything from wheel position, body movement and even steering and brake inputs. It would then adjust the electronically-controlled dampers 100 times a second to find the sweet spot of your specific demands. I’d say that’s very, very Jag-like.
Unfortunately, if you were pinning your hopes on a bargain, you might be a tad disappointed. The E-Pace D200 R-Dynamic HSE doesn’t come cheap. Just its base price equates to R938 800 with the options of our tester adding a further R117 500 to the equation. So, you must be wondering, for that price, it must come standard with a full-house of nice-to-haves.
Yes. It does. You get pretty much all the driver assistance items like Lane Keep Assist, Blind-Spot Assist, 3D top-view camera, also Front and Rear Park Distance Control. Add to that an 11.4" touchscreen that does the whole Apple and Android phone mirroring business, a power tailgate, R-Dynamic badges in all the right places, just to name a few, and the price tag starts to make some sense.
While we can’t possibly give a detailed mention of all the options, our favourites included the Dynamic Handling Pack, the Premium Interior Upgrade Pack that includes additional interior lighting and Jaguar-scripted metal tread plates, while the Meridian surround-sound system adds an extra dimension of luxury.
I’d say there’s plenty of Jagishness (or whatever play on the word you prefer) to go around. Sure, it shares a platform with the Evoque and, yes, there are several elements of Range Rover’s SUV to be found in and around the E-Pace, but at its core, it still feels special. Like any Jaguar worth its salt should.
The times are indeed quite tough and there’s no point in criticising this SUV because it uses donor parts from other members in the JLR stable. The reality is that nowadays everybody is doing it. If that minute detail contributes to the continued survival of some iconic brands, then I subscribe to this train of thought!