Jaguar E Pace on the road

The brief was for a small, fam­ily-friendly SUV. The re­al­ity is a posh Golf R, and we’re sold

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Words Ben Barry & Ben Miller | Photography Alex Tap­ley

CAST YOUR MIND way back to 2016; you’ll re­mem­ber the con­tro­versy. We voted Brexit, they voted Trump, and, shock­ingly, the first ever Jaguar SUV hit the road with a name that, on first ac­quain­tance, sounded com­pletely ab­surd. To some it still does. But here in 2017, F-Pace not only rolls off the tongue with far greater flu­ency, it’s also rolling off the pro­duc­tion line so quickly that al­ready it’s Jaguar’s best-sell­ing model.

Now imag­ine you’re Jaguar Land Rover boss Ralf Speth. You have be­fore you a graph of com­pact SUV sales mak­ing like a Mars mis­sion’s tra­jec­tory, and you hap­pen to have a Range Rover Evoque plat­form at your dis­posal. Wouldn’t you build an E-Pace? A down-sized, more af­ford­able Jaguar SUV with trans­verse four-cylin­der en­gines (i-Pace is the elec­tric one) and ei­ther front- or all-wheel drive, per­haps the only sur­pris­ing thing about the new E-Pace is that it’s taken so long.

Or is it? We have two days with Jaguar’s com­pact cross­over to find out: a day in the stu­dio, por­ing over de­sign de­tails in­side and out with Ian Cal­lum and his team. Day two will see us chew­ing the driv­e­train, bodyshell and chas­sis spec with key engi­neers, and rid­ing in the pas­sen­ger seat as ve­hi­cle in­tegrity boss Mike Cross in­tro­duces us to the chal­leng­ing roads that’ve helped de­fine how E-Pace drives.

E-Pace is based on the Evoque’s ex­ist­ing D8 plat­form but sub­stan­tially up­dated – up­dates that’ll flow into the sec­ond Evoque too – as chief en­gi­neer Gra­ham Wilkins ex­plains: ‘The ar­chi­tec­ture is steel like Evoque and Dis­cov­ery Sport but with a num­ber of key changes – we’ve drawn on our ex­per­tise in alu­minium for the bon­net, the tail­gate, wings and the roof. It’s a mas­sively stiff struc­ture; our sec­ond stiffest be­hind F-type coupe. There’s an ul­tra-stiff boron steel plate just ahead of the fuel tank that re­ally stiff­ens the bodyshell, ben­e­fit­ting re­fine­ment, crash strength and also dy­nam­ics.’

To the bodyshell up­dates, Jaguar has added its own twist on the sus­pen­sion, with a rear set-up that draws heav­ily on F-Pace’s In­te­gral Link axle, and front sus­pen­sion with be­spoke E-Pace el­e­ments. ‘We’ve re-tuned the steer­ing fun­da­men­tals and changed the front knuck­les, for ad­di­tional cam­ber, and in­tro­duced hol­low-cast alu­minium sus­pen­sion parts – sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy to the sus­pen­sion on XE,’ con­tin­ues Wilkins. The front sub­frame now also in­cor­po­rates solid rear mounts, with the aim of im­prov­ing steer­ing def­i­ni­tion. ‘We wanted an en­gag­ing, re­ward­ing driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s some­thing we feel our com­peti­tors lack. They’re com­pe­tent and safe but a car that looks like ours should be fun.’

Given how en­thu­si­as­ti­cally Cross is ped­alling over de­serted Welsh twists and turns as we cling on grin­ning in the pas­sen­ger seat, early signs sug­gest the E-Pace might just have the driver ap­peal to jus­tify that con­fi­dence.

‘We wanted to cap­ture the same kind of driver en­gage­ment that we achieved with the XE,’ says Cross. ‘That meant di­rect, in­tu­itive steer­ing, a com­fort­able, con­trolled ride, and the Jaguar char­ac­ter that re­ally al­lows us to pri­ori­tise dy­nam­ics with­out it feel­ing ner­vous. There are sim­i­lar­i­ties with F-Pace, but be­cause E-Pace is smaller, it’s even more ag­ile.’

It might be the dy­nam­ics team’s job to seal the deal on the test drive, but it falls to de­sign to get pun­ters through the show­room door in the first place. With Ian Cal­lum in charge, it’s lit­tle sur­prise that E-Pace is lov­ingly pro­por­tioned – he’s a like-minded petrol­head after all; a man to whom hot rods are as im­por­tant as rear-seat head­room.4

De­spite E-Pace’s cast-iron com­mon sense as a con­cept, Cal­lum main­tains the car is the re­sult not of cus­tomer clin­ics and the ex­ten­sive stress-test­ing of busi­ness cases but of a clay model, which took shape in his stu­dio four years ago. ‘It wasn’t in the cy­cle plan,’ he smiles mis­chie­vously. ‘It was in­sti­gated by a model we cre­ated. That model was chunkier than the fin­ished car – ex­ag­ger­ated to make a point – but E-Pace evolved from there and we got it into the plan.’

As you might ex­pect, that early model was a car­i­ca­ture of a shrunken F-Pace. But as the project took shape, Jaguar’s di­rec­tor of de­sign be­came con­vinced a mini-me ap­proach wasn’t ap­pro­pri­ate. ‘We didn’t just want a clone of F-Pace, which of course is some­thing we’d done be­fore with XE and XF. I wouldn’t say I’ve got re­grets over XE and XF but I wouldn’t go that far again. We’d al­ways liked the idea of the F-type head­lamp on other cars but we’d never made it work. On E-Pace it works. It’s a strong face.’

De­sign cues from Jaguar’s most overtly sport­ing car ap­plied to an SUV might sound like folly, but there’s no doubt it’s given E-Pace an iden­tity all its own. From F-type-in­spired el­e­ments like the head­lamps through the bobbed tail to the pis­tol-style gear­lever and driver-cen­tric cock­pit, it all hints at agility and driv­ing dy­nam­ics a notch or two above the SUV norm.

‘This was only Jaguar’s sec­ond SUV, so we’re still hav­ing fun with this kind of ve­hi­cle,’ ex­plains Wayne Burgess, stu­dio di­rec­tor and linch­pin of Cal­lum’s de­sign team. ‘With the E-type just not rel­e­vant in this in­stance we could be in­flu­enced by our own F-type. It was a big de­ci­sion. Peo­ple were ex­pect­ing a small F-Pace, and it wouldn’t have been wrong to do that, but we thought E-Pace de­served its own per­son­al­ity.’

Ian Cal­lum also in­sists this is a Jaguar you can’t dis­re­gard on grounds of a sub-par in­te­rior. Open the door and you no­tice that while there are inches of fresh air be­tween the wheels and the body­work, the driv­ing po­si­tion is very much of the

‘sports com­mand’ va­ri­ety. The seats feel low-set as you squish just a lit­tle into their bases, and first im­pres­sions sug­gest they’ll of­fer good com­fort on the daily com­mute while hold­ing you with a firm, re­as­sur­ing grip when you get over-ex­cited with the steer­ing. The low-slung seat­ing po­si­tion makes you feel co­cooned by the ar­chi­tec­ture, though not hemmed-in; heav­ily con­cave door cas­ings are piv­otal to that.

‘The in­te­rior had to be right. I didn’t want any ex­cuses, or peo­ple say­ing, “I love the car but I don’t like the in­te­rior”, so we fo­cused on it like never be­fore,’ says Cal­lum. ‘It’s an af­ford­able car but there’s qual­ity and tech­nol­ogy. The de­sign is sim­ple, which let us fo­cus on the ma­te­ri­als, and the F-type re­ally drove that cock­pit con­cept.’

Our stu­dio car features a higher-end trim, but the late-model pro­to­type driven by Mike Cross is more ba­sic. It feels a lit­tle aus­tere in black, and some of the plas­tics in this mule aren’t rep­re­sen­ta­tive of pro­duc­tion, but the drama of the ar­chi­tec­ture still height­ens your ex­pec­ta­tions.

The steer­ing wheel is pur­pose­fully small, its rim nicely slim, and there are echoes of F-type in the ex­ag­ger­ated rake of the dash­board, the pas­sen­ger grab han­dle next to the gear­lever that in­vites you to hold on for a wild ride, and that com­pact lit­tle pis­tol-grip shifter that begs you to punch in the down­shifts like a boxer.

There’s prac­ti­cal­ity, too. ‘Opt­ing for steel over alu­minium is linked to the car’s price but it’s also about the pack­age, as is the trans­verse en­gine,’ ex­plains Gra­ham Wilkins. ‘That pro­vides the best length-to-pack­age ra­tio. While the length is anal­o­gous with Audi’s Q3, in­te­rior space is com­pa­ra­ble to the Q5.

Steel is sim­ply more space-ef­fi­cient, so you can cre­ate a roomier pack­age for a given set of ex­te­rior di­men­sions.’

In ad­di­tion, the E-Pace’s wheel­base stretches by 21mm ver­sus Evoque to 2681mm, un­lock­ing ex­tra in­te­rior space, and the rear over­hang is a lit­tle longer – in to­tal, E-Pace is 25mm longer at 4395mm, and its 577-litre boot 27 litres larger, helped by the com­pact In­te­gral Link rear axle.

‘Be­cause it’s a Jaguar we wanted to make a great-look­ing car that drives bril­liantly, but this seg­ment is all about ev­ery­day life,’ con­tin­ues Wilkins. ‘E-Pace had to be a “no buts” car. It couldn’t be a case of lov­ing the car but hav­ing to put up with it be­ing a pain to get in and out of. We wanted cus­tomers to fall in love with the way it looks, but then feel happy be­cause it does ev­ery­thing they could ask of it.’

Cal­lum does admit to pinch­ing some space be­tween the back of rear pas­sen­gers’ heads and the back of the car but claims it’s space no one but se­rial new-fridge buy­ers uses any­way. There is some­thing of a limbo dance to the way taller pas­sen­gers scoot around the rear wheel arch and duck un­der the slop­ing roof line to get into the back seats, but you’ll still get com­fort­able back there: set the driver’s seat for a 6ft 1in frame and there’s still knee- and head­room for a twin in row two. The door pock­ets look large enough to stow a child and the ‘mega bin’ be­tween the front seats is hun­gry to swal­low any­thing; dis­tended hand­bags, iPads, bot­tles of wine, sacks of wine gums…

Nat­u­rally there’s tech­nol­ogy and con­nec­tiv­ity, too. Ev­ery oc­cu­pant can have the all-im­por­tant USB port, and there’s a wel­come sense of qual­ity to the tech, from the 12.3-inch TFT con­fig­urable driver’s dis­play (a £510 op­tion) through the £920 HUD (slicker than pre­vi­ous Jag ef­forts), to the neat, fuss-free de­sign and re­fresh­ingly high-qual­ity feel to the ma­te­ri­als.

The cen­tral touch­screen runs Jaguar’s fa­mil­iar Touch Pro in­fo­tain­ment, now a nicely re­spon­sive and in­tu­itive set-up. If you opt for Con­fig­urable Dy­nam­ics (£225), the screen’s your por­tal to drive-mode heaven, al­low­ing you to per­son­alise set­tings for steer­ing heft, gear­box shift map, throt­tle re­sponse and damper stiff­ness, the lat­ter only if you tick the adap­tive dampers up­grade. Even if you don’t, you can still choose from pre-de­ter­mined Nor­mal, Dy­namic, Eco and Rain/Ice/Snow modes via a switch near the gear­lever.

Our pro­to­type gets the fixed-damper set-up, along with 20-inch al­loys cho­sen from a range that spans mal­nour­ished 17s to full-donk 21s. At low speeds there’s cer­tainly an ag­i­ta­tion to the damp­ing, but it’s more sporty fo­cus than thumpy an­noy­ance; I’d live with it. At speed, as Cross carves through down­hill esses and ac­cel­er­ates into com­pres­sions, you no­tice a con­trolled elas­tic­ity to the way E-Pace con­ducts it­self – we’re cov­er­ing ground quickly, but there’s al­ways the sense of hav­ing some­thing in re­serve; a layer of com­pli­ance if we hit a pot­hole or awk­ward crest.

‘There’s more low-speed com­fort with the adap­tive dampers, and you also get even more con­trolled body move­ments be­cause the dampers are more proac­tive, but there’s still a lot to be said for the pas­sive set-up,’ reck­ons Cross. The Evoque has to hit Land Rover’s off-road tar­gets, and that means slightly softer springs to al­low for the nec­es­sary axle ar­tic­u­la­tion, and all-sea­son tyres too. Un­bur­dened by this, Jaguar is freed to ac­knowl­edge that most E-Paces will only off-road for the few brief sec­onds after punch­ing a hole in the hedge. ‘We’ve used stiffer springs to re­duce body­roll, and reg­u­lar road tyres,’ says Cross. ‘E-Pace does go through a less heavy-duty off-road test cy­cle than, say, a Land Rover Dis­cov­ery, but you’d be sur­prised how ca­pa­ble it is off-road.’

The E-Pace pow­er­train menu con­sists en­tirely of tur­bocharged four-cylin­der units from JLR’s new In­ge­nium line-up. Un­like pro­duc­tion of the car it­self (out­sourced to Magna Steyr, be­cause the Hale­wood plant on Mersey­side is at ca­pac­ity), all en­gines are man­u­fac­tured in the UK. The range runs from the fleet-spec 148bhp diesel that’s avail­able with ei­ther all-wheel drive and Jaguar’s nine-speed auto if you’ve hit your bonus, or a man­ual ’box and front-wheel drive if you haven’t. Two pok­ier diesel mo­tors with ei­ther 178bhp or 237bhp are also avail­able.

Petrol power comes in 247bhp or 296bhp flavours, both paired with all-wheel drive and the nine-speed auto. Later, we’ll get mild hy­brid set-ups to boost the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines.

Cross de­scribes the mid-level diesel as a favourite. ‘It ex­ceeds your ex­pec­ta­tions. There’s plenty of torque for good drive­abil­ity, it’s eco­nom­i­cal, and we bench­marked Audi for NVH, so it’s very re­fined, he says. We also sam­ple the 296bhp petrol. Com­pared with the en­try-level petrol, the range-top­per gets a new de­sign of pis­ton for a unique com­pres­sion ra­tio, and a sim­i­lar twin-scroll turbo, al­beit with a larger4

Most E Paces will only off-road for the few brief sec­onds after punch­ing a hole in the hedge

tur­bine and com­pres­sor wheel, and ball bear­ings to help those larger wheels spin up faster.

The 2.0-litre can’t ex­ude the overt char­ac­ter we re­cently en­joyed in the new en­try-level F-type, and the E-Pace’s ex­tra heft does knock a lit­tle wind out of its sails, but it still feels punchy from where I’m sit­ting, and growls much more tune­fully than any diesel ever could.

‘When I first joined Jaguar, we had an en­gine that made sim­i­lar power to this,’ smiles Cross. ‘It was the 5.3-litre V12 in the XJS. Pretty amaz­ing progress, re­ally!’

Cross ac­cel­er­ates from low speed, demon­strat­ing the ea­ger re­sponse avail­able from lit­tle over idle speed. At around 2000rpm the push in your back tells you the tur­bocharger’s ig­nited, and an ex­tra wave of en­ergy floods in as the revs climb in one smooth, lin­ear sweep to­wards the 5500rpm power peak. With the gear­box knocked over to the Sport set­ting – no pad­dles on this lower-spec car – the changes seem equally smooth and re­spon­sive, mak­ing for rapid, strik­ingly un­ruf­fled progress.

Along with en­try-level mod­els’ man­ual gear­boxes, there’s also a choice of all-wheel drive sys­tems: ei­ther the Haldex-based Stan­dard Driv­e­line, or the GKN-de­vel­oped Ac­tive Driv­e­line. It’s the lat­ter that’s fit­ted as stan­dard to our P300-spec test car. It can send 50 per cent of the en­gine’s torque to the rear wheels, and then all of that split can di­vert to just one rear wheel for more dy­namic cor­ner­ing. That takes just 0.1sec, con­trolled by a pair

‘This is as close as I’m go­ing to get to de­sign­ing a hot hatch’ – Ian Cal­lum

of wet clutches ei­ther side of the rear dif­fer­en­tial. In steadys­tate driv­ing – cruis­ing along a mo­tor­way, for in­stance – Ac­tive Driv­e­line can switch en­tirely to front-wheel drive, re­duc­ing the losses in­her­ent in driv­ing the rear drive­shafts, just as it does in an Evoque.

Right now, though, it’s ev­i­dent all four Pirellis are dig­ging hard into the sur­face. ‘We wanted to give E-Pace a neu­tral bal­ance, to re­sist un­der­steer very strongly,’ says Cross from be­hind the wheel. ‘It’s not an over­steery car, the lim­its are very high, but it is more rear-bi­ased than an Evoque.’

When we tackle a fast, tight­en­ing up­hill right-han­der, you can clearly feel that rear bias. Cross squeezes the throt­tle to demon­strate, and the E-Pace al­most feels like it’s fold­ing it­self into the cor­ner, like the wheel­base is short­en­ing. You sense that there’s more go­ing on be­neath the sur­face than sim­ply the driver press­ing ped­als and turn­ing the wheel, yet it doesn’t seem to be at all ar­ti­fi­cial, at least from where I’m sit­ting.

While the two all-wheel-drive sys­tems prom­ise dif­fer­ent driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, chief en­gi­neer Gra­ham Wilkins is adamant that the front-driver is no duf­fer, even though it nec­es­sar­ily goes with­out any means of tweak­ing the car’s at­ti­tude be­yond stan­dard brake-based torque vec­tor­ing.

‘It’d be un­fair on buy­ers of the en­try-level car to give them the de­sign and pack­age they wanted but have them think­ing, “Ac­tu­ally, this is a bit crap to drive”,’ he says. ‘Front-wheel drive is not as ca­pa­ble as all-wheel drive but you can still have fun. We went to great trouble with the fun­da­men­tals, the cam­ber and the steer­ing, and they’re there in all the ver­sions, giv­ing you this rear-drive char­ac­ter. We then em­bel­lish that with the first level of all-wheel drive and then, ul­ti­mately, Ac­tive Driv­e­line. It’s sports car tech­nol­ogy: power, adap­tive dy­nam­ics, 21-inch wheels… It’s quite a pack­age.’

Tick all the boxes and it’s per­fectly pos­si­ble to spec your E-Pace to £60k, but there’s no need to spend quite that much. Pric­ing starts at £28,500, with R-Dy­namic trim com­ing in at £30,750, and the First Edi­tion (ex­clu­sive red paint, 20-inch split-spoke wheels, stan­dard black pack and panoramic roof, ebony Wind­sor leather with con­trast stitch­ing, LED head­lights, high-beam as­sis­tant, pow­ered tail­gate) £47,800. If your heart’s set on the range-top­ping petrol en­gine, ex­pect to part with around £52k after a few must-haves, in­clud­ing the black pack and Cal­lum-ap­proved 21-inch wheels. Ex­pect to part with a fair bit of petrol money, too. At around 1800kg the E-Pace might be the smallest Jaguar yet but it’s no light­weight. The of­fi­cial com­bined fig­ure for the fast one is 35.3mpg, though go D150 diesel power, front-drive and DIY gear-chang­ing and that fig­ure soars to a the­o­ret­i­cal 60.1mpg.

No doubt many buy­ers will do just that, and all-wheel drive is un­doubt­edly sur­plus to re­quire­ments for great swathes of most peo­ple’s fly­ing time. But Cal­lum’s un­de­terred: the true E-Pace ex­pe­ri­ence is petrol power, four-wheel drive and get­ting a lit­tle car­ried away. ‘It’s my kind of car,’ he smiles. ‘I love sporty cars – I grew up with hot hatches – and that’s kind of where we are with the E-Pace. This is as close as I’m go­ing to get to de­sign­ing a hot hatch. I love the whole no­tion of it – 296 horse­power in a car this size is more than suf­fi­cient. It makes you want to go and find a moun­tain road or two…’

Jaguar’s dy­nam­ics Gan­dalf Mike Cross; loves Welsh roads, hates un­der­steer. EPace feels the same

F-type cues ex­tend to the in­te­rior, with but­tress/grab han­dle and drive se­lec­tor

Cheeky cub char­ac­ter has been with the project from day one First Edi­tion cars get LED lights with sig­na­ture DRLs as stan­dard – they’re a cost op­tion oth­er­wise

An al­to­gether higher grade of layby smalltalk; spring rates, yaw gain and neu­tral­is­ing push

With­out the adap­tive set-up E Pace is irmly damped – loves to be lung at cor­ners

Rear screen tied with the Fer­rari Dino’s for ti­tle of world’s smallest

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