For decades, Jaguar has been known for one thing: great and gorgeous cars. Take note: cars. Not vans, not pick-ups, not crossovers or SUVs. Luxury saloons, sweet handling sedans and lively sports cars are to Jaguar in the same way that tea and English breakfasts are to the, uh, English.
While Jaguar is exceptional at luxurious passengers cars, they had been losing out to the competition which had long started branching out to produce crossovers SUVs. Jaguar didn't flinch; let's call it a measured degree of stubbornness. They left the SUVs to the Wellington-clad laddies over at Land Rover, opting to stick to the passenger car formula. All this was happening while the competition walked happily over to the bank with massive sales in crossovers.
The tale of the tape is telling. Lexus was really the first premium automaker to venture into crossover territory with the RX back in the 90's, and now they have expanded that range to include the NX and the new UX. But it was BMW that became the first true competitor of Jaguar that recognized the trend and came out with the X5; so successful was the X5 that it spawned a new range for BMW, and now you can get a BMW crossover from the X1 all the way up to the X7. Mercedes-Benz and Audi all have their own crossover models, and so do Bentley and Rolls-Royce.
The Pace (stylized PACE) lineup represents the inevitable: Jaguar had finally conceded that crossovers are essential to truly achieving growth. They kickstarted their crossover range with the F-Pace, and then they followed it up with this: the E-Pace. We'll spend a few days with this E-Pace R-Dynamic S D150 AWD to find out if the long wait was truly worth it.
Walking up to any car that wears Jaguar badge is always special prospect, something that many other automotive journalists call as a sense of occasion. Perhaps it's because of the svelte lines that we've known Jaguar to possess, or of the fact that Jaguar produced some of the greatest racing and performance icons in automobile history, or that there are holders with a Royal Warrant of Appointment from the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Her Majesty the Queen herself. For the unfamiliar, these warrants usually begin with: By appointment to HM the Queen.
There's something special about walking up to the Jaguar E-Pace at their dealership in Metro Manila, but its of a different sort. It's not about occasion or history or heritage, but of excitement to drive it beyond those three time honored Jaguar qualities. This is a modern Jag, one that's shying away from the old world perception and evoking something new.
The front looks purposeful, like it's shaped to take in air yet leaves an impression that it wants to go fast, especially with that signature grille with the Jag badge and the gaping lower intakes flanking it. Of course, being a taller crossover makes it look much bulkier than any Jaguar we've driven, but that didn't stop the designers from making it look more sleek and proper for a modern Jag, particularly that fastback-style rear end. While I like the overall look, the wheels look a bit too plain for this E-Pace.
The expectations of a Jaguar's interior can be rather odd. Many still have the perception that cabins on Jags should have wood panels, leather on everything, and an overall old world feel to it. But that's not the case for the E-Pace as the inside is a mix of black plastics, black leather, and polished metal accents. It looks clean, crisp, and feels rather cozy.
I like the straightforward nature of the dashboard and the controls. The wheel has a nice grip and the leather has a good texture to it. The dual binnacle gauge cluster is neat to look at, and has a multi-info display in the middle, per the conventions of modern automobiles. I like the cleanliness of the climate control's triple dial execution and the central screen is easy to use; of course it comes with what you expect of a new infotainment system like Bluetooth and USB input but, unusually, no mirroring like Apple CarPlay. The rather fighter-jet joystick for a gear selector was a nice touch, though.
The front seats on the E-Pace offer a nice balance between comfort and function; the cushioning is good, along with the bolsters for spirited driving around the mountains. Rear legroom is pretty good (so long as you're not too tall) though I wish they did more to improve the hold of the seats on the body; they seem a bit too bench-like, and rear passengers would slide about if going through corners at speed. Boot space is good at 484 liters but not class-leading.
The engine is a 2.0 liter turbodiesel that makes 150 horsepower and plenty of torque at 380 Newton meters from a lowly 1750 rpm; that should help with fuel economy. The gearbox is a 9-speed automatic, and has multiple modes for casual driving or for faster paced thrills. But the biggest surprise about the powertrain is how the engine is mounted: it's transverse. That's a clear indicator that the E-Pace is primarily a front-wheeler that can also drive the rear, as opposed to a longitudinal engine which would be typical of a Jaguar.
In the city, the orientation of the engine doesn't really matter much. The E-Pace drives as normally as you would expect, with a ride that's definitely balanced (not biased) for comfort. Visibility is really good, making maneuvering around tight streets rather easy, and it'd be difficult to misjudge a corner if the driver is seated properly. As expected, fuel economy is rather good: 10.2 km/l at a 21 km/h average speed in urban traffic.
On faster drives on the expressway (or motorway, if you like British English), what you'll notice is that the E-Pace cruises with ease and silence on tarmac. The Eagle F1 tires are surprisingly good in terms of noise, and the tuning of the body and sound insulation are likewise good. The diesel too is quiet even at low revs, and easily achieves fuel economy at 15.8 km/l at an average speed of about 90 km/h.
At full throttle, the E-Pace isn't as quick as I would have liked: it takes about 10 seconds, more or less, to get from a standstill to 100 km/h. It's not bad, but could be better. But don't be concerned about overtaking at speed; when you prod the throttle to get past a slower vehicle, the gearbox will quickly kick down a gear or two to get you going.
The E-Pace is enjoyable to drive on a mountain road; the diesel is great for the uphill, and the steering is nice and precise. The all-wheel drive system does allow you to apply a bit more power to get out of the corners quicker. But what we found to be odd with the E-Pace was its manners at speed and around tighter bends: you feel the weight.
It's a small crossover, but there is this unusual sensation of heft when braking and cornering, especially if you've driven similarly-sized premium crossovers. The specs tell the story: this E Pace D150 R-Dynamic S AWD (quite a long name, isn't it?) tips the scales at over nearly 1850 kilos. That's close to 200 kilos heavier than a similarly specced BMW X1. The suspension and the brakes manage the weight, but gravity will still be the enemy. Maybe the extra badging for the name added that much more to the curb weight.
We've had to wait a while for Jaguar to come up with something like the E-Pace, but it think it could have been more. Over my time with the E-Pace, there was one thing that I struggled to find: the unique selling proposition or a feature, quality, or aspect that would allow the E-Pace to stand out amongst its competitors.
The drive is good but not exemplary given the weight. The features are good, but the lack of certain features like screen mirroring is unusual. The design is nice, but the (almost) all-black interior isn't exceptional. Interior space is good, but some competitors are better. The British heritage of the (Indian-owned) Jaguar brand is great, but the E-Pace isn't technically British either: it's Germanic, as the E-Pace rolls out of the Magna Steyr factory in Austria.
The E-Pace is a good sophomore effort for Jaguar, but it's going to take some time for the British to break into a land where the Germans have a commanding presence. Sound familiar?