WEE FANCY

THREE MINI-LUXE UTES LURE MIL­LEN­NI­ALS LOOK­ING TO MOVE UP

Motor Trend - - Contents - Frank Markus

2018 BMW X2 xdrive28i vs. 2018 Jaguar E-pace P250 AWD SE vs. 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-de­sign Three mini-luxe utes lure mil­len­ni­als look­ing to move up.

Your first job out of col­lege agrees with you. You just earned a sweet raise and pro­mo­tion and made a solid dent in your stu­dent loan debt. It’s time to chuck that Civic, Corolla, or Golf that your nana helped you buy when you grad­u­ated and up­grade to a brand that fel­low users of the man­age­rial washrooms will re­spect.

Your fam­ily needs are min­i­mal, but you’re still out­doorsy (or seek to project that im­age, given the hours you’re putting in at the of­fice), so you’re look­ing to join the stam­pede away from cars and into a fancy-brand small SUV. You de­mand easy, seam­less con­nec­tiv­ity to your de­vices, rea­son­able road­trip room for your pals and stuff, and suf­fi­cient style to swivel some heads.

To this de­mand­ing mil­len­nial buyer, we sug­gest three fetch­ing new en­tries into one of the fastest grow­ing and most vi­tal seg­ments in the car biz.

From BMW, the X2 rein­ter­prets the sport-ute-coupe idea, ditch­ing the hunch­back pro­file of the other Bim­mer X-mo­biles in fa­vor of a more hot-hatchy look.

Jaguar’s new E-pace cloaks off-road­ca­pable un­der­pin­nings from the Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport and Range Rover Evoque in dash­ing new feline body­work penned by Ian Cal­lum.

And fi­nally, Volvo of­fers the XC40, which makes its unique, an­gu­lar ex­te­rior styling and shared Ikea-chic in­te­rior from the XC90 and XC60 af­ford­able to younger buy­ers—with­out wa­ter­ing down the safety gear or los­ing the fa­mil­iar mini-tesla touchtablet Sen­sus in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem.

To get the pric­ing and con­fig­u­ra­tion as close as pos­si­ble, we gath­ered up a toptrim BMW X2 xdrive28i (a sharp in­hale at its $50,920 as-tested price), a seem­ingly

lower-level Jaguar E-pace P250 AWD SE (eye-wa­ter­ing at $54,190), and a mid-spec Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-de­sign (a seem­ing bar­gain at $45,935).

To de­ter­mine which ve­hi­cle is wor­thi­est of our hy­po­thet­i­cal mil­len­nial man­ager’s at­ten­tion, we rounded up writ­ers from this oft-ma­ligned age group, en­cour­aged them to imag­ine earn­ing ju­nior-ex­ec­u­tive pay had they made a more lu­cra­tive ca­reer choice, and road-tripped the trio to our high-desert eval­u­a­tion re­treat in Te­hachapi, Cal­i­for­nia.

Con­nect­ing

We start this com­par­i­son the way our tar­get buy­ers be­gin their re­la­tion­ship with any ve­hi­cle: by pair­ing our phones.

Right out of the gates, BMW makes a great first im­pres­sion with its cut­tingedge abil­ity to con­nect to Ap­ple Carplay via a ded­i­cated Wi-fi con­nec­tion in­stead of a cord. Mi­nor buz­zkills: the $300 op­tion cost and the prospect of pay­ing a monthly sub­scrip­tion for Carplay as part of a nav­i­ga­tion pack­age from 2019 on­ward. Oh, and An­droid Auto is not sup­ported. On the flip side, Volvo pro­vides both Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto in­te­gra­tion via USB for free. (Bless those so­cial­ist Swedes!)

But the Jag sup­ports nei­ther Carplay nor An­droid Auto, of­fer­ing in­stead a con­nec­tion via the USB cord and a balky In­con­trol app on your phone to pro­vide some mir­ror­ing fea­tures (plus re­mote start­ing, lock/un­lock, and other fea­tures us­ing your phone). It also of­fers a ba­sic con­nec­tion via Blue­tooth for the phone and USB for mu­sic with­out the app. Jaguar has since an­nounced it will of­fer Carplay and An­droid Auto on 2019 mod­els as a $280 op­tion, flash-upgradable to ear­lier cars like our E-pace.

Our BMW X2 fea­tures a $500 op­tional Qi wire­less phone charger, but its holder is too small to ac­com­mo­date self-ap­pointed in­fo­tain­ment guru Ste­fan Og­bac’s Sam­sung S9+ phone—and there’s but a sin­gle USB charg­ing port in the en­tire car. The Volvo’s wire­less charg­ing pad fits big phones and comes bun­dled in a com­pre­hen­sive $900 pre­mium pack­age (along with Pi­lot As­sist smart cruise and lane cen­ter­ing, Homelink, etc.), and there are three USB ports. The Jag doesn’t of­fer wire­less charg­ing, but our E-pace fea­tures an im­pres­sive five USB ports (three of which are in­cluded as a $230 op­tion).

In liv­ing with th­ese in­fo­tain­ment sys­tems over the course of a week, sev­eral of us ex­pe­ri­enced bugs in the Jaguar’s In­con­trol Touch Pro in­ter­face. On mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions our mu­sic feed via the USB cord sud­denly turned to static. Some­times dis­con­nect­ing and re­con­nect­ing the cord re­stored full func­tion­al­ity; other times it re­sulted in silent “play­ing” of the mu­sic, ev­i­denced only by the progress bar on the screen. A few times the rearview cam­era feed sud­denly dropped as we were re­vers­ing.

Even when the Jaguar’s sys­tem was work­ing prop­erly, as­so­ciate on­line ed­i­tor Collin Woodard was vexed by its habit of de­fault­ing to FM ra­dio when­ever the cord gets dis­con­nected. Worst of all, ab­so­lutely no­body could see the sharply an­gled screen with the mid­day sun shin­ing on it.

But enough com­plain­ing: BMW’S idrive sys­tem has been re­fined to a point where we all find it fairly user-friendly; no­body ended up ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any glitches. But it’s the Volvo Sen­sus sys­tem that draws uni­ver­sal praise from users of all ages. The swipe-left, swipe-right user in­ter­face is quickly learned, and the icons are well marked and func­tional.

Car­ry­ing

Our mil­len­nial judges agree that it’s vi­tal any such move-up ve­hi­cle have the seat­ing space to carry three or four pals, plus cargo room to sup­port the oc­ca­sional camp­ing ex­cur­sion or road trip, be­cause this will often be an owner’s only ve­hi­cle.

Here, the Volvo hand­ily wins the space race. The num­bers show su­perla­tive leg- and shoul­der room front and rear, and the XC40 has the only back seat that ac­com­mo­dates three in mod­er­ate com­fort. The cargo area is also the largest, both by SAE’S mea­sure­ments and via our own tape mea­sure. It’s the only one to of­fer elec­tric re­leases to fold the seat backs flat with the load floor, and it boasts the largest hatch open­ing. There’s a gen­er­ous 3.5-inch-deep well un­der the floor, and—with the Pre­mium pack­age—a load floor that folds to form a cargo-area di­vider with three in­te­grated bag hooks (in ad­di­tion to the two on the side walls). There’s also a broad elas­tic strap to hold items against the pas­sen­ger side­wall and the group’s only pass-through for skis.

No­tice­ably small­est is the BMW, which feels tinier than its num­bers sug­gest, with tight head- and shoul­der room in back and the small­est tail­gate open­ing. Our judges also ranked the X2 worst in terms of ingress and egress, and once aboard ev­ery­body rides lower than in a “tra­di­tional” cross­over. It’s the only one with its load floor sunk 3.5 inches be­low the hatch open­ing. On the plus side, the rear seats re­cline, and there’s a con­ve­nient 40/20/40 split-fold­ing rear seat and a 7-inch-deep, 3.7-cu­bic-foot well be­neath the rear floor where the $150 op­tional spare would oth­er­wise go. (Our other con­tes­tants have stan­dard spare tires.)

The Jag is our tweener, split­ting the pas­sen­ger space dif­fer­ence and mea­sur­ing small­est in cargo vol­ume by the SAE’S rulers while of­fer­ing slightly more space be­neath its two-piece cargo cover than even the Volvo by our own mea­sure­ments. It’s the only one that doesn’t al­low you to lock the car while clos­ing the power hatch.

Stylin’ ’n’ Pro­filin’

The whole point of step­ping up to th­ese brands is to treat your­self and to tell the world you’re adult­ing—oth­er­wise, a larger Honda CR-V Tour­ing ac­com­plishes the same tasks at con­sid­er­ably lower buy-in and op­er­at­ing costs.

Each of our con­tenders does its goldan­gdest to scale its brand’s bucks-up styling cues down to size-and-price petite, and we think each pulls it off suc­cess­fully on the ex­te­rior. In terms of style, our judges ranked them Volvo, Jaguar, then BMW.

Test­ing di­rec­tor Kim Reynolds, who’s old enough to have shared the road with AMC Grem­lins, drew an un­flat­ter­ing com­par­i­son be­tween the C-pil­lars of that car and the XC40, but fea­tures ed­i­tor and bona fide mil­len­nial Chris­tian Se­abaugh found the ex­te­rior “unique, young, and distinc­tive.”

In­side, the de­gree of suc­cess varies a bit more. Only the Jaguar fea­tures gen­uine sup­ple leather, but it’s a $1,530 op­tion that in­cludes 18-way front seats. It looks rich, and the cock­pit comes off as a touch swankier than even the F-pace’s, though some find the plas­tic of the touch­screen sur­round and steer­ing wheel con­sole to be a bit ratchet.

BMW’S in­te­rior tele­graphs its spiffedup-econobox ori­gins. Sure, BMW has some­how faked the look of con­trast French stitch­ing us­ing real thread in a molded plas­tic in­stru­ment panel, but plac­ing it inches from ma­te­ri­als that are gen­uinely sewn on the cen­ter con­sole high­lights the dif­fer­ence. It also strikes us that with pric­ing that starts $3,200 above the XC40’S base and ends up $4,985 higher than its test price, the X2 should in­clude leather seat­ing, but nope. That amenity would add an­other $1,450.

Volvo uses egre­giously hard plas­tic in some ar­eas of its in­stru­ment panel and doors, but Se­abaugh was will­ing to for­give this, find­ing the over­all de­sign “un­ex­pect­edly fash­ion­able for a car at this price point.” The Volvo’s suede-look Nubuck in­serts on supremely com­fort­able seats don’t have us pin­ing for the full leather that comes on the $2,050-pricier In­scrip­tion trim. And al­though most of us loved the Or­ange Lava car­pet and door in­serts, they’re a $100 stand-alone op­tion that H8ers can eas­ily can­cel.

Driv­ing

We’ve come this far with­out men­tion­ing what th­ese cars are like to drive be­cause— and this is Se­abaugh speak­ing—“it’s ar­guably the least im­por­tant as­pect of the ex­pe­ri­ence for its tar­get mar­ket.”

But for those who traf­fic in such de­tails, the X2’s Ukl2-plat­form run­ning gear is shared with the roomier sec­ond-gen X1 and two Mini sib­lings, the Coun­try­man and Club­man. Our ob­jec­tive tests in­di­cate that the feath­er­weight 3,684-pound, 228-hp eight-speed X2 ac­cel­er­ated quick­est, stopped short­est, cor­nered hard­est, and cir­cled our fig­ure eight most adroitly. If you are the rare en­thu­si­ast mil­len­nial, this might be the ride for you.

Rel­a­tive to that “Ul­ti­mate Driv­ing” cute ute, the oth­ers aren’t far be­hind. The 246-hp Jag weighs 528 pounds more but runs on a shorter-geared nine-speed; the 248-hp Volvo comes in a slight 170 pounds heav­ier and uses the ex­act same trans­mis­sion as the BMW. Re­spec­tively, they’re 5 and 6 per­cent slower through the quar­ter mile, their stop­ping dis­tances from 60 mph are 7 and 8 per­cent longer, and they run our fig­ure-eight course 5 and 4 per­cent slower. Not ex­actly a hare ver­sus two tor­toises. For most driv­ers, th­ese are round­ing er­rors; your pas­sen­gers likely won’t no­tice the dif­fer­ence.

How­ever, the sim­i­lar­i­ties van­ish once you hit real-world twists and turns. Re­al­world mil­len­nial Woodard pro­claimed the Jaguar the only one of the three he wants to keep driv­ing: “It feels like it could use stick­ier tires, but with the best-sound­ing ex­haust note and its sport-tuned sus­pen­sion, the E-pace is le­git­i­mately fun to drive.” Og­bac noted, “Ride and han­dling bal­ance is ex­cel­lent; it keeps you com­fort­able with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the dy­nam­ics you ex­pect of a Jaguar.”

Most agreed that the E-pace drives way bet­ter on-road than its Land Rover sib­lings, but Mo­tor Trend en Es­pañol man­ag­ing ed­i­tor and Mex-en­nial Miguel Cortina was less im­pressed: “The E-pace feels heavy and un­der­pow­ered com­pared to the XC40 and X2.” He’d un­doubt­edly change his tune with the zip­pier 296-hp E-pace P300 model, which opens at $49,995, but among the ex­ist­ing trio he pre­ferred the BMW’S dy­nam­ics.

The XC40’S ac­cel­er­a­tion per­for­mance trails the pack by a slight mar­gin, and when flogged, its en­gine’s “an­gry Hoover” ex­haust note struck some as a plea for mercy. Some judges find the steer­ing and brake in­puts to be slightly non­lin­ear, re­sult­ing in the need for oc­ca­sional course cor­rec­tion. But Pirelli Scor­pion Zero tires much like the ones used on the Jaguar squeal a lot less on the Volvo and might con­trib­ute to bet­ter per­for­mance on our fig­ure eight. The XC40 is just not happy be­ing driven at ten-tenths on our closed han­dling track, but how often are you go­ing to do that? It’s per­fectly happy keep­ing up with the oth­ers at a brisk pace on pub­lic roads, and in th­ese con­di­tions it feels far nim­bler than the Jag. Of course, some of the weight dif­fer­ence rel­a­tive to the Jag might come cour­tesy of skimp­ing on sound dead­en­ing, as the Volvo’s high­way tire and en­gine noise ranked only slightly bet­ter than the BMW’S.

Mil­len­ni­als will en­joy let­ting Volvo as­sume some of the tasks of driv­ing. Its Pi­lot As­sist, which ac­ti­vates with a press of the uniden­ti­fied left or right ar­rows on the left steer­ing wheel mul­ti­func­tion switch, does the best job of keep­ing the ve­hi­cle cen­tered in its lane while pro­vid­ing de­ci­sive, min­i­mally harsh ac­cel­er­a­tion and de­cel­er­a­tion dur­ing adap­tive cruise con­trol op­er­a­tion. Jaguar’s lane keep as­sist nudges you away from the lines, and BMW merely nags you when you veer over a line.

The Volvo’s park­ing as­sist func­tion is also su­pe­rior to those in the Jaguar and BMW; it cleanly ex­e­cutes par­al­lel park-in and park-out ma­neu­vers and backs the ve­hi­cle into a per­pen­dic­u­lar spot with rel­a­tive ease. The Jaguar’s sys­tem func­tioned as well, but it dis­plays driver in­struc­tions on the in­stru­ment panel when the driver should be mon­i­tor­ing the cam­era views on the cen­ter dis­play (where Volvo over­lays its in­struc­tions). BMW’S sys­tem doesn’t pro­vide park-out as­sis­tance in par­al­lel park­ing and can­not do per­pen­dic­u­lar park­ing at all.

Off-road­ing

This cat­e­gory is likely even less per­ti­nent to our tar­get au­di­ence, but in the in­ter­est of science (and trips to the fam­ily ski lodge in Breckenridge) we ven­ture into deep sand as a sub­sti­tute for slushy snow, rat­tle our mo­lars over wash­board gravel, and climb steep, slip­pery hills. All three ve­hi­cles sur­vive our tests un­scathed.

Each has a hill-de­scent con­trol sys­tem to reg­u­late down­hill speeds. Volvo boasts the great­est ground clear­ance (8.3 inches) and of­fers an off-road mode that op­ti­mizes trac­tion at low speeds and places a com­pass in the cen­ter of the in­stru­ment clus­ter. Jaguar cribs some Land Rover tech for its All Sur­face Progress Con­trol (off-road cruise con­trol), and it worked flaw­lessly. BMW is least pre­pared for se­ri­ous off-road­ing with but 6.8 inches of clear­ance and no off-road modes.

Ac­quir­ing

The Volvo is the most af­ford­able of th­ese three, with the 187-hp T4 front-drive model open­ing at $34,195 and a fully equipped T5 In­scrip­tion top­ping out at $47,490. Next up is the front-drive BMW at $37,395, with fully loaded all-wheeldrive mod­els top­ping out at $53,520. All E-paces get all-wheel drive, with the base model start­ing at $39,595 and a loaded P300 HSE top­ping out north of $68,000.

Don’t dig tra­di­tional buy/lease plans? Sub­scribe to the Care By Volvo plan, and pay $650 or $750 a month (de­pend­ing on trim level) for 24 months, in­clud­ing in­sur­ance and main­te­nance. (Ac­cess by BMW also of­fers sub­scrip­tions, start­ing at $1,099 a month, but the ser­vice is only avail­able in Nashville as of press time.) Re­gard­less of whether it’s a sale, lease, or sub­scrip­tion, the Volvo will be eas­i­est on the wal­let, with the high­est (26 mpg) EPA com­bined fuel econ­omy. (Main­te­nance is free for the first three years at BMW and Volvo or five years with Jaguar.)

Af­ter a week of in­tense eval­u­a­tion, our mil­len­nial con­sul­tants con­cluded that the cramped, loud, but fun-to-drive BMW just didn’t have the chops (or the USB ports) to win them over. The beau­ti­ful and dy­namic (but pricey) Jaguar’s glitchy in­fo­tain­ment tech and sec­ond-best packaging earned it the sil­ver. Which leaves our stylish, tech-savvy, value-con­scious Volvo in the win­ner’s cir­cle. n

BMW VOLVO

JAGUARTHRONE ROOMS You’ll find real leather all over the Jaguar seats, on the Volvo bol­sters, and on the unchecked op­tions list of the BMW. Nubuck faux suede in­serts hold XC40 pi­lots se­curely.

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