Virtually all automakers have figured out that the key to current and future business success is in utility vehicles of varying sizes and descriptions.
That lesson hasn’t been lost on Jaguar, which launched the E-Pace for the 2018 model year. It serves as a junior partner to the mid-size F-Pace wagon that arrived for 2017.
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The E-Pace name sounds like it might refer to an electric vehicle, but it uses good-old-fashioned gasoline propulsion. Jaguar’s I-Pace tall hatchback wagon is Jaguar’s sole electric, at least until the 2021 XJ sedan arrives. The E-Pace rests on a front-wheel-drive platform derived from the Land Rover Evoque (Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by the same company). Like the F-Pace, however, the E-Pace has standard all-wheel-drive.
The F-Pace and E-Pace are unmistakable as kin, right down to their similar-looking front-end shapes that are clearly influenced by other Jaguar fleet members. The common thread also extends to the opposite end, where the fashionably sloping liftgate looks attractive enough, but results in reduced cargo space when compared to other more squared-off designs.
The cabin appears equally inviting, especially the cockpit-style driver’s pod that could have been lifted straight out of the F-Type sports car. The touch screen is nice and big and the large, round ventilation controls will no doubt assist the fumble-fingered.
The E-Pace is more than 30 centimetres shorter and nearly nine centimetres narrower than the F-Pace, and is more than 20 centimetres shorter between the front and rear wheels. But the real surprise is that the E-pace actually outweighs the bigger Jag by 34 kilograms, which goes to show that compactness doesn’t necessarily result in a corresponding reduction in heft.
Fortunately, the E-Pace is up to the task of quickly and efficiently hauling passengers and cargo, using a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that’s rated at a respectable 246 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. It’s standard in the P250 models.
For significantly more oomph, the E-Pace P300 R-Dynamic trims come with a turbo 2.0 that puts 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
A nine-speed automatic is the sole transmission choice.
The all-wheel-drive hardware depends on the engine, starting with a permanently engaged setup for the P250 models. The P300 R-Dynamic’s “Active Driveline” powers only the front wheels in normal driving conditions. When traction loss is detected, the system can direct nearly all of the available torque to the rear wheels and to a specific rear wheel, if necessary.
Active Driveline’s standard torque-vectoring system “uses the brakes to (balance) the distribution of engine torque between all four wheels during cornering.” According to the company, this reduces the vehicle’s natural tendency to travel in a straight line even when the steering wheel is turned (called understeer).
Common to all E-Pace models is a low-speed cruise-control system that regulates the vehicle’s speed between two km/h and 30 km/h. Interestingly, active-safety technology such as blind-spot warning and adaptive cruise control are not standard, although lane-keeping assist is.
E-Pace pricing starts at $51,700, including destination charges. For that pile of cash, you get a reasonable level of standard content, but to move closer to the luxury zone you’ll need to select the R-Dynamic or Checkered Flag versions for leather seat coverings, panoramic roof, navigation, head-up info display and 19-inch wheels (18s are standard).
The performance-laden P300 R-Dynamic adds about $5,700 to the base price, but you also get larger brakes, 20-inch wheels plus a bit more comfort content.
Whatever the choice, the E-pace is an enticing little cat, with the looks, luxury and power that fits with the Jaguar name and reputation. And it’s a utility vehicle.
What you should know: 2020 Jaguar E-Pace
Type: Four-door, all-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle
Engine (h.p.): 2.0-litre DOHC I-4, turbocharged (246/296)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Market position: The E-Pace is one of a growing legion of smaller premium utility vehicles. many of which resemble their larger stable mates. In some cases, these models have replaced traditional sedans in their respective lineups.
Points: Nicely balanced design presses all the right “want-it-now” buttons.
• Both base and higher-output versions of the turbo-2.0 engine should prove more than acceptable in the power department. • Jaguar’s aversion to offering manual transmissions is typical of most luxury brands these days. • Surprisingly heavy when compared with similarly sized wagons.
Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (std.); lane-keeping assist (std.)
L/100 km (city/hwy) 11.0/8.4 (base 2.0); Base price (incl. destination) $51,700
Lincoln Corsair AWD
Base price: $46,800
MKC replacement offers two turbo I-4 engines plus standard active-safety tech.
BMW X1 xDrive 28i
Base price: $45,100
Second-generation model uses the Mini Countryman platform. Can get pricey.
Lexus NX 300 AWD
Base price: $46,400
Less than subtle styling breaks from the pack. AWD Hybrid version available.
-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media