Chubby but like­able SUV de­liv­ers a range and op­tions over­load

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - RYAN LEWIS

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.

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