Jaguar E-pace P300 HSE R-dynamic AWD
Jaguar’s smallest SUV has its claws fully extended in search of a solid segment foothold
AMID the urry of excitement and, ahem, buzz surrounding Jaguar Land Rover’s plans to introduce its rst-ever all-electric vehicle to the South African market next year, the Jaguar brand especially will be hoping the arrival of the I-pace will raise the pro le of an already established family of leaping-feline-branded SUVS. The success of these plans seems inescapably hinged on the rand-pound exchange rate. As impressive as the F-type Coupé and F-pace SUV are, for example, the pricing structures associated with these ranges continue to place them at the mercy of some serious competition.
Another example of this unfortunate scal trend is the E-pace midsize range launched early this year. Boasting the kind of fresh, distinct lines and clever packaging demanded in this fast-growing, notably image-conscious segment, the summary of our maiden E-pace road test (D240 HSE AWD; June 2018) concluded with a con-
cern about where the asking price of that particular model placed it relative to its opponents.
Of course, the cost of the D240 wasn’t the only somewhat disappointing element of the package, and it afflicts this P300 test vehicle, too. The CAR team was once again aghast when confronted with the digital readout on our scales showing a figure edging towards two tonnes. Loaded with both an R-dynamic kit and full-house HSE specification, the elephant in the Jaguar playroom remains the fact its “baby” SUV is built on the brand’s dated, steelbased – and therefore heavy – D8 platform (unlike the F-pace, which sits on lighter, newer aluminium underpinnings). D8 harks back to the days of the Freelander 2 and is shared with the Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport.
From a comfortable, raised driving position, ensconced behind a thick-rimmed steering wheel in our test unit’s darkcoloured interior, it’s impossible to ignore just how lead-footed the E-pace feels on the road. While some buyers may appreciate the corresponding sense of sturdiness – furthered by the comparatively heavy steering – a short drive in any one of the Jaguar’s direct rivals, including the svelte Volvo XC40 and racy BMW X2, shows the Brit to be ponderous by comparison, especially in the confines of an urban environment.
It’s not all bad news, however, as both E-pace models we’ve tested offer near class-leading levels of ride finesse (ironically, likely
aided by the weight resting on each damper), as well as a re ned ability to soak up open-road kilometres. Coupled with suf cient luggage space, commendable rear-passenger comfort and an interior that’s well equipped in HSE spec and nicely nished, too, the E-pace makes a great tourer.
Boasting 221 kw and 400 N.m of torque, the transversely mounted 2,0-litre Ingenium engine tted to the P300 model may not be particularly characterful in its workings (including the exhaust note). However, it offers admirable performance despite the 1 924 kg mass and the relatively slow reactions of a standard Zf-sourced ninespeed automatic transmission. The downside to relatively brisk overtaking acceleration times – and, again, affected by the weight – is a corresponding fuel consumption penalty; on our average-speed fuel route, the P300 returned a decidedly average 9,6 L/100 km.
As with all E-pace derivatives sold locally, there’s a welcome level of surefootedness afforded by a Haldex-sourced all-wheeldrive system. On performance- oriented models such as the P300 (and D240), an electronically controlled Active Driveline setup can send 100% of available torque to the rear wheels for both improved levels of grip in all conditions, as well as – Jaguar claims – a hint of rear-wheeldrive precision
Setting aside the nearly R115 000 worth of options tted to our test unit – ignoring for a moment its relatively spritely straight-line performance – a base price of R909 317 positions the E-pace P300 HSE R-dynamic uncomfortably close to established German rivals in segments some way beyond the average midsize-suv mandate (i.e. Q5, X3/X4 and GLC). Were it priced lower, however, it would still be vulnerable to the Q3, X2 and XC40, all vehicles making more of their powertrains and newer underpinnings.
Lovely to look at and suitably covetable the E-pace P300 may be but, as before, our advice is to either seek a lower-priced derivative – in this case, the P250 S – or to stop at a Volvo dealership to sample an XC40.
The Volvo XC40 T5 looks like the bargain of the century by comparison Ian Mclaren
Looks great and drives well despite the pervasive bloat Terence Steenkamp
Classy ride quality but powerful engine lacks character Peter Palm
Clockwise from below Matrix LED headlamps are a R22 600 option; R-dynamic adds unique grille; E-pace offers lots of kerb appeal.