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New E-Pace joins hot crossover field

 

The 2018 Jaguar E-Pace is the brand’s second foray into the red-hot SUV/crossover segment. You may be thinking ‘why is Jaguar poaching sales from sister brand Land Rover?’ Because luxury sedans and two-door coupes/convertibles are not selling like luxury SUVs/crossovers.

I tested Jaguar’s latest fully-loaded 2018 E-Pace SE R-Dynamic models. The line of compact crossovers starts with the “S” model then progresses to the SE, with the top version being the HSE R-Dynamic. The E-Pace competes with Audi’s Q3, BMW’s X1, and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class.

The architecture of the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport were tapped for the E-Pace. Designers combined aluminum (hood, roof, front fenders and tailgate), with steel (A-pillar/cowl, rear doors/fenders, frame) to reduce weight while maintaining a rigid body structure.

The Jaguar playbook was used for exterior contours lifted from the larger F-Pace. The nose is tall and upright, and the visual magic designers created make the hood look longer than it is. The 20-inch tires (HSE R-Dynamic) are big and look big in the body giving the E-Pace a long, low ground-hugging stance. From the rockers you follow the contours that finish in athletic, wide rear fenders.

Below that deceiving hood resides a transversely mounted 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbo, 4-cylinder engine. This arrangement is due to the E-Pace’s front-wheel-drive first layout. Backing the gritty 4-cylinder was a somewhat disappointing 9-speed automatic that seemed hesitant to spring into action.

Inside, the E-Pace materials did not match my expectations as the leather felt stiff and all the plastic was, well, plastic. The cabin layout places driver and passenger deeper into the front wheel wells. Front and rear head/shoulder room is better than expected.

The R-Dynamic sports seats had a racy look and feel. Outward visibility is good as is front ingress/egress – rear is tighter. My E-Pace tester featured the latest generation of Jaguar’s Touch Pro infotainment system. I liked the natural voice control technology, optional 12.3-inch touchscreen interface and a reconfigurable main screen. Additional tech goodies included a powerful Meridian Audio system, Arrival Mode 360-degree camera, Activity Key, Head-Up display and 4G Wi-Fi Hotspot for eight devices.

When shopping for a crossover cargo space is a consideration. To that end, E-Pace offers 24.2 cubic feet storage with rear seats up. Our tester came with the handy Gesture Tailgate that works by lifting/swiping your foot under rear bumper like Ford SUV/crossovers.

A surprise was the performance ride of the E-Pace. The higher output turbo in the R-Dynamic also nets you the Active Driveline all-wheel-drive system from the Range Rover Evoque. This setup shifts power front-to-back, and side-to-side – I tested it. The power-based torque vectoring present in the E-Pace provides a sporty drive experience that allows you to push the E-Pace much more aggressively than its competitors. The really amazing part is Jaguar has engineered the E-Pace drive system to sync the rear wheels under certain conditions, which allows you to pivot the rear around like a sports car.

This is a first for me in a compact, front-drive biased crossover. The performance 20-inch (245/45/R20 Pirelli Scorpion Zero) radials are also a big part of the athletic and aggressive corner carving I was able to execute through mountain zig-zag curves.

Acceleration is above average. Thankfully, the paddle shifters work in Dynamic mode to get the gears in line quicker than without them. Jaguar indicates a sub-six second 0-60 time.

Driver connection to the road via the electric power steering is light. The only difference I could discern between Normal and Dynamic modes (Eco and Rain/Snow also) was that the effort was slightly increased in Dynamic mode.

An optional Drive Pack safety suite brings Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Assist, and Intelligent Emergency Braking.

The 2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic is reaching the surging SUV/crossover market during its current sweet spot. Jaguar should be able to garner expanding unit sales – and woo some away from BMW and M-B with a base price of $38,600 Standard and $47,250 R-Dynamic.