Jaguar’s E-Pace in­tent on buck­ing SUV en­gine-trend

South Canterbury Herald - - MOTORING - DAVID LINKLATER

If there’s one theme emerg­ing in the rush of pre­mium-com­pact fash­ion-for­ward SUVs into New Zealand, it’s a pref­er­ence for petrol power.

Audi’s Q2 and Q3 only come with turbo-petrol en­gines. Same for the BMW X2. And in­deed the forth­com­ing Volvo XC40. Diesel op­tions are avail­able for all in­ter­na­tion­ally, but the NZ dis­trib­u­tors for these mod­els seem to feel com­pres­sion-ig­ni­tion has had its day for small-medium SUVs.

Not Jaguar NZ. The new E-Pace has been launched here in six dif­fer­ent mod­els, pow­ered by two turbo-petrol and two tur­bod­iesel pow­er­plants (both 2.0-litre units) from the brand’s new In­ge­nium en­gine fam­ily.

‘‘We see the [E-Pace] mix at about 60/40 petrol/diesel,’’ says Mo­tor­corp Dis­trib­u­tors gen­eral man­ager Steve Kench­ing­ton. ‘‘We ac­tu­ally see it as a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, es­pe­cially against our Ger­man friends who aren’t bring­ing diesel at all.

‘‘There’s def­i­nitely still a huge mar­ket for diesel in this coun­try and we don’t see it end­ing any time soon. We’ve not seen any drop-off at all.’’

There’s an­other trend in this bur­geon­ing pre­mium-com­pact SUV seg­ment and that’s fron­twheel drive. All of the above in­clude two-wheel drive mod­els in their ranges. Well, all ex­cept Jaguar: all E-Pace mod­els in NZ have all-wheel drive with torque vec­tor­ing.

That’s in line with the brand’s claim that E-Pace is the most driver-fo­cused ve­hi­cle in the seg­ment.

Jaguar is aim­ing to make a strong im­pres­sion with the E-Pace. How­ever, it’s mak­ing it via a typ­i­cally con­fus­ing blend of pow­er­trains and spec­i­fi­ca­tions. There are S and SE mod­els, both se­lec­tively com­bined with the R-Dy­namic styling pack­age. The two petrol and two diesel en­gines are then mixed-and-matched among them.

The E-Pace lineup opens with the S D150 (D-for-diesel) at $69,900. It makes 110kW/380Nm, achieves 5.6 litres per 100km and does the bench­mark 0-100kmh sprint in 10.5 sec­onds.

The S petrol op­tion is the P250 (P for . . . never mind) at $74,900. It serves up 184kW/365Nm (7.7l, 7.0sec).

Then you move up to the R-Dy­namic S, which comes as a D180 (132kW/430Nm, 5.6l/9.3sec) or P250 (as above). They’re the same $79,900, so you have a free choice be­tween diesel and petrol.

The flag­ship spec­i­fi­ca­tion is R-Dy­namic SE, which comes in two petrol vari­ants: the $84,900 P250 or $89,900 P300 (221kW/ 400Nm, 8.0l/6.4sec).

All mod­els get LED lights, leather up­hol­stery with front heat­ing and power ad­just­ment, Jaguar’s Pro nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem with wi-fi hotspot ca­pa­bil­ity, 360-de­gree park­ing cam­eras, rear traf­fic mon­i­tor and park as­sist.

The R-Dy­namic S adds up­sized 19-inch wheels (the S is on 18s) and con­trast stitch­ing on the up­hol­stery, while the R-Dy­namic SE has 20-inch wheels, au­to­matic high-beam lights, power tail­gate, key­less en­try, more ad­just­ment for the front seats, Merid­ian sound sys­tem and the Drive Pack that in­cludes adap­tive cruise con­trol with ‘‘queue as­sist’’, high­speed au­ton­o­mous brak­ing and blind spot as­sist.

Both R-Dy­namic mod­els have satin ex­te­rior trim, unique grille and front bumper, twin tailpipes, grained sports seats, unique head­lin­ing in the cabin, metal tread­plates and metal pedals. Got all that? Good. There’s also an E-Pace First Edi­tion model that has ev­ery­thing from the R-Dy­namic SE plus panoramic roof, ex­te­rior Black Pack, unique wheels, be­spoke trim in­clud­ing Ebony Wind­sor leather seats with 18-way ad­just­ment, suede head­lin­ing, con­fig­urable in­te­rior light­ing, load­space stor­age rails, ad­di­tional power sock­ets, head-up dis­play, Ac­tiv­ity Key, ‘‘ges­ture’’ tail­gate and Con­fig­urable Dy­nam­ics.

Buy the First Edi­tion and you’ll still get change from $100,000. A hun­dred bucks change, but still.

Note that the First Edi­tion is based not on the flag­ship P300, but the P250.

Can’t say we can give you a de­fin­i­tive ver­dict on E-Pace’s per­for­mance on Kiwi roads, af­ter a brief preview drive that cov­ered some re­ally wet roads and a lot of road works and not a lot else that wasn’t ei­ther re­ally slip­pery or coned off.

But Jag’s new baby does im­press as a beau­ti­fully fin­ished and smooth-driv­ing ma­chine. We had quick spins in the P250 and D180, en­joy­ing the slick nine­speed au­to­matic and ac­com­plished all-wheel drive sys­tem. The D150/180 and P180 have torque vec­tor­ing by brak­ing, which brakes one rear wheel to send more power to the other when re­quired in cor­ners.

The flag­ship P300 has true torque vec­tor­ing, which does not re­quire brak­ing and can send 100 per cent of the rear axle’s power to just one wheel al­most in­stantly.

There’s se­ri­ous hard­ware un­der­neath the E-Pace, but the rules of the game in this bur­geon­ing seg­ment stip­u­late that new prod­ucts must also be a bit tongue-in-cheek.

There are many de­sign el­e­ments from the F-Type coupe (in­side and out). Jaguar styling guru Ian Cal­lum also likens the E-Pace to a cub: ‘‘One of the things about young-adult wild cats is they have big eyes and big paws. We adore them for that rea­son be­cause they’re dis­pro­por­tion­ate.

‘‘We call this car the cub of the Jaguar fam­ily.’’

Jaguar NZ ex­pects to sell 250 E-Pace mod­els per year, mak­ing this baby the big­gest seller in its range.

De­spite the name, don’t con­fuse E-Pace with Jaguar’s much-talked-about elec­tric SUV: that’s the i-Pace, due in NZ March-2019.

Jaguar reck­ons E-Pace’s big eyes (well, lights) and over­sized paws (wheels) make it adorable, like a cub. Okay then.

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