Chubby but likeable SUV delivers a range and options overload
Likeable medium SUV packs a heavy punch
TAKE a deep breath, because the next few paragraphs are going to be dense. The E-pace has arrived in Oz with a model range so broad Jag says its one compact SUV will compete with the BMW X1, X2, X3 and X4, and the small to midsize SUVS from Audi and Mercedes to boot.
Pricing starts at $ 47,750 and spans an almighty spectrum of 38 variants to top out at $ 84,370 – before options. At launch the breakdown includes five engines (three diesels, two petrols) and five trim grades ( E-pace, S, SE, HSE and First Edition), and nearly any combination is possible. An R-dynamic interior and exterior styling package available on most permutations adds yet more depth to the line-up.
All engines are 2.0-litre fourcylinder Ingenium units linked to a nine-speed auto and AWD. The walk-up of outputs (and cost) starts with the oil-burners, from the 110kw/380nm D150 to the 132kw/430nm D180 to the twinturbo 177kw/500nm D240. Going petrol nets 183kw/365nm from the P250 or 221kw/400nm from the P300 range-topper.
Picking a sweet spot isn’t easy, but Jaguar predicts the D180 SE ($ 62,430) will be its volume seller.
Diesel certainly makes sense from a day-to-day driveability perspective. The D180 and D240 offer strong, economical low-end torque that more easily shifts the E-pace’s heft, and that’s good, because dense is a suitable descriptor for the E-pace itself.
Riding on a revised version of JLR’S ageing D8 platform adapted from Land Rover’s smaller offerings including Evoque and Discovery Sport, E-pace is heavier than its scaled-up bigger brother, the F-pace, which sits on the aluminium-intensive iq platform.
In its lightest Australiandelivered form, the E-pace weighs 1832kg and swells to 1926kg in basic trim. So it should handle like it just crawled from a vat of double cream at Wimbledon, but somehow doesn’t. Initially the E-pace’s steering is disconcertingly sharp in urban environs. Take a moment to recalibrate your inputs and the front end’s responsiveness starts to gel, particularly when the road opens. The E-pace responds enthusiastically to speed. It takes careful management of its weight transfer to extract the sweetness of its dynamics, but factored in there’s tasty mid-corner poise and traction for drivers to relish in.
Models without the R-dynamic pack have no paddle shifters for managing the auto’s eco-minded tune that favours low-rpm upshifts. Combating that means reaching for the trigger lever on the console that takes the place of Jag’s rotary dial. Sport mode holds gears for longer, but is occasionally slow to kick down.
A lack of adaptive damping at launch means making do with a firm yet springy passive suspension tune that becomes more compliant at higher speeds and is agreeable enough for long distance cruising.
The E-pace’s striking looks and stumpy proportions precisely ape the trendsetting F-pace in smaller scale, and hide a generous rear seat with broad shoulder room and a sizeable cargo area. Its clever, F-type-inspired cabin layout and handy storage have family-car cred.
While bang for buck isn’t an E-pace strength, it is a uniquely compelling alternative to premium offerings from Germany when prudently specified, particularly for those with a penchant for backroad tomfoolery. There are rivals with more performance for the price, but the E-pace’s highstreet flair and customisation should find favour in a market that demands the personal touch.