The Jaguar E-Pace looks like one of those SUVs that won’t ever leave the com­forts of the city. Cyril Klop­per finds out how it fares in the great out­doors.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents -

Our orig­i­nal plan was to ex­plore the twin­tracks of the Kouga Wilder­ness area of the Langk­loof in the E-Pace, but one af­ter­noon we learnt that snow had be­gun fall­ing in the moun­tains all the way down to the Cape. And so we im­me­di­ately cut short our trip to Ho­eree at the end of the Kouga Wilder­ness 4x4 Trail and bun­dled our warm­est clothes into our suit­cases. Snow, here we come!

Mis­ter Hyde, I pre­sume

We left the Eastern Cape town of Jou­bertina at day­break. The hope was to reach the Swart­berg Moun­tain Pass be­fore Oudt­shoorn’s traf­fic of­fi­cials could close it. Flip­ping through the drive mode set­tings, we switched from Eco to Dy­namic – this was hardly the time to be think­ing about fuel econ­omy. The E-Pace’s de­meanour changed in­stantly, as if it knew there was a race be­tween us and Oudt­shoorn’s law­men. En­gine per­for­mance in­creased and the steer­ing seemed to stiffen up, while the mood light­ing through­out the in­te­rior changed from a ge­nial green to an an­gry red glow. The E-Pace roared through Kra­keel, Louter­wa­ter and Mis­gund, but its stiff sus­pen­sion didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the bumpy tar road. Out­side Haar­lem, the R62 re­gional road im­proved markedly, and stretched out in a dead­straight line all the way to the Outeni­qua Moun­tains. With the twists be­hind us, the all-wheel drive be­gan to di­vert torque from the rear axle to the front wheels, where it’s more ap­pro­pri­ate. Some­where in the depths of the ve­hi­cle an on­board com­puter’s sen­sors were busy mea­sur­ing the yaw rate, steer­ing in­put, and body roll. The in­tel­li­gent nine-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion worked over­time, but nei­ther the driver nor the pas­sen­gers were even

re­motely aware of the elec­tronic and me­chan­i­cal hub­bub hap­pen­ing be­hind the scenes. On the dash­board’s 21:9 su­per-wide dis­play was a vis­ual depic­tion of the all-wheel drive, where one could see how en­gine power was taken from one wheel and given to an­other, de­pend­ing on the road con­di­tions. Clever.

Trou­ble ahead

The clouds lay heav­ily on the Swart­berg moun­tains – it was clearly snow­ing up there. But the moun­tain pass hadn’t been closed yet. A bar­rel stood in the cen­tre of an in­ter­sec­tion at the bot­tom of the pass, but there was no road sign read­ing “closed”, or any po­lice ve­hi­cle in sight. So we took the op­por­tu­nity. The tar road quickly changed to dirt – mud, ac­tu­ally – and snowflakes drifted down around us. Ev­ery now and then we en­coun­tered a mud-splat­tered car com­ing down the moun­tain to­wards us. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of pos­si­ble nas­ti­ness ahead, we switched to rain, ice and snow driv­ing mode. At “Wit­draai”, a kink in the road about 5 km up the pass, there was a traf­fic jam. A Volk­swa­gen Touran had slid back­wards, its fron­twheel drive not able to get the car up the slip­pery moun­tain trail. Off to one side there was an Audi A4 with one of its wheels stuck in a ditch; an­other vic­tim. “Is this a 4x4?” a tourist asked scep­ti­cally as we slowly drove past the stricken ve­hi­cles. “...be­cause oth­er­wise you won’t make it through this.”

Two thirds up the moun­tain we stopped at a view­point to take pho­tos. The snow was fall­ing thick and fast, and the dirt road had turned to por­ridge. Af­ter build­ing the oblig­a­tory snow­man, we hopped back into the E-Pace, shiv­er­ing. The heated seats – in front and at the back – were cranked up to 3, and the air­con cleared the steamy win­dows. To pull away on an icy moun­tain pass is of­ten tricky, but the E-Pace’s sen­sors took a read­ing ev­ery 10 mil­lisec­onds (0,01 sec) on each wheel and ad­justed the power dis­tri­bu­tion ac­cord­ingly. When step­ping on the ac­cel­er­a­tor, it ap­peared at first as if noth­ing was hap­pen­ing; but then you could sense a wheel find­ing trac­tion, fol­lowed by an­other one war­ily turn­ing – and then sud­denly we were off, without skid­ding a sin­gle wheel. At the top of the Swart­berg Pass, at the en­trance to the Swart­berg Kruin 4WD Trail, we con­sid­ered tak­ing the Jaguar deeper into the moun­tains. But first we switched from the 360° cam­era’s bird’s-eye view to the all-wheel-drive graphic. While the E-Pace pushed through kneedeep snow the screen showed a vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of how the two in­de­pen­dent clutches en­gaged on the rear axle to mimic a me­chan­i­cal diff lock. This is when we de­cided to chicken out. The E-Pace’s all­wheel drive might have been able to plough through the deep snow – its rel­a­tively de­cent 204 mm ground clear­ance would have helped with that – but we couldn’t tell if there were lurk­ers be­neath the snow, wait­ing to rip off a bumper. Nah... it’s best to leave that kind of ad­ven­ture for se­ri­ous off-road­ers.

Dr. Jekyll re­gains con­trol

Af­ter the fun and games in the snow, it was time to head north to­wards the N1 high­way and go home. The driv­ing mode but­ton was clicked back to Eco to save fuel, and the adap­tive cruise con­trol was in­structed to slav­ishly fol­low the ve­hi­cle in front of us un­less it ex­ceeded the speed limit. At a fill­ing sta­tion in Laings­burg the petrol at­ten­dants checked out the mucky E-Pace. “Did you get lost?” they wanted to know. It’s one thing to test a hard­core off-roader prop­erly, and lightly knock the chassis on a rock; but when we re­view a soft-roader off the beaten track, there’s al­ways a chance that things will go dis­as­trously wrong. For­tu­nately, the E-Pace

re­turned from the Swart­berg Pass in one piece, without scratches or flat tyres. Of course, it was cov­ered in mud both inside and out; but that’s how it goes, when you play around in the snow. Our E-Pace’s fuel con­sump­tion was not as im­pres­sive as Jaguar’s claimed fig­ure of 6.2 ℓ/100 km. Dur­ing our test we couldn’t do bet­ter than 8 ℓ/100 km, but this in­cluded quite a bit of time in the snow (and the mad dash to reach the pass be­fore the cops could close it). And to be fair, 12 km/ℓ isn’t bad for an SUV.


If you live in a big city, you will un­doubt­edly have en­coun­tered a few E-Paces. Jaguar sells on av­er­age 80 per month, which is rather good for this kind of ve­hi­cle. What you prob­a­bly never would have guessed, though, is how ca­pa­ble this car is on boggy roads. Mod­ern yup­pies will prob­a­bly not be us­ing their E-Paces to muck around in the snow of the Swart­berg Pass – but it’s good to know that you could to­tally do it, should you ever want to.


INSIDE INFO. Jag’s Ac­tive Driv­e­line all-wheel drive fea­tures an in­tel­li­gent torque-bi­as­ing sys­tem to mea­sure out the power. The front sus­pen­sion has light­weight hol­low-cast alu­minium com­po­nents, de­signed to pro­vide ad­di­tional cam­ber for im­proved turn-in and to min­imise un­der­steer.

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