The exponential growth of the SUV market means that every manufacturer has to be there, not least Jaguar. We like its F-Pace large SUV, which was extremely well received, so it has ramped up the hype another notch for the reveal of its smaller E-Pace. If the positive reception online is anything to go by, Jaguar will have another success on its hands.
The E-Pace is a mid-sized premium SUV and goes on sale early next year priced from about £28,500.
Never mind Coventry Cat, perhaps the E-Pace should be called Graz Grimalkin, since it's the first Jaguar to be built outside the UK, by Magna Steyr in Graz. The Austrian company will also build next year's new battery-electric I-Pace, which has been designed alongside the E-Pace, the car that Jaguar hopes will dispel its “old-man’s-car” image forever.
“We needed it to appeal to people for whom this is their first Jaguar,” says Ian Callum, Jaguar’s director of design. “The SUV was born out of practicality and we accept that it [the larger F-Pace] has taken a bit of a culture change for us, but we wanted to do another one.” He doesn't discount the idea of an even smaller Jaguar SUV in future.
Under the skin
Work on the E-Pace started three years ago with a foam model, which got the thumbs up from Ralf Speth, JLR's chief executive, as well as Ratan Tata of JLR's Indian owner, the Tata Group.
Codenamed X540, the E-Pace is a mid-sized premium SUV based on the Ford EUCD transverse engine platform, which also underpinned the previous generation Freelander as well as the current Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport.
To keep weight down, the bonnet and bumpers are made of aluminium.
"We've also use a great deal of high-strength steel in the sills and heel boards [the panel running across the central width of the car just in front of the rear seats]," says Graham Wilkins, E-Pace chief engineer. He explains that the demands of precise handling meant the MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension required camber changes, uprated subframe mountings and its own special settings for the electronic steering system.
Engines and performance
Under the bonnet will be Jaguar's Wolverhampton-built, four-cylinder, 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and diesel units, while the transmission will be ZF's nine-speed automatic.
The top model will have a 296bhp (300PS) version of the Ingenium petrol turbo engine. It can accelerate from 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds before reaching an electronically-limited top speed of 151mph.
The front-wheel-drive, 148bhp (150PS) Ingenium diesel delivers CO2 emissions of 124g/km.
There will be a front-wheel-drive version, but most sales will be of the 4x4 model, which features a multiplate clutch that transfers drive to the rear wheels when required.
The E-Pace’s Active Driveline all-wheel-drive system is a technological first for Jaguar. The intelligent set-up is claimed to combine phenomenal traction with Jaguar’s traditional rear-wheel-drive character. Its torque-biasing capability is said to deliver optimal stability, dynamics and fuel efficiency in all conditions.
Alan Volkaerts, the E-Pace vehicle line director, said: “The E-Pace provides the best of both worlds: Jaguar sports car dynamics with compact SUV practicality. It provides comfort, interior space and leading stowage solutions allied to engaging handling and Jaguar Land Rover’s latest Ingenium petrol and diesel engines.”
Looks are crucial in this massively crowded family SUV market, which is dominated by German models such as Audi's Q3, BMW's X1 and Mercedes-Benz's GLA.
Callum says: "We wanted to exaggerate the sense of sportiness, and give it a cheeky sense of attitude. It's a demanding project, a car of this size and shape."
The top models will run on 22-inch wheels, but wheels between 17 and 21 inches in diameter will also be available.
The interior echoes the exterior's simple sporting emphasis, but it's practical as well.
"We worked hard to accommodate the 95th percentile adult in the cabin," says Wilkins. The boot is 482 litres and there's an eight-litre storage bin in the centre console.
Block colours and sharp, precise lines mark out the interior, with a driver-focussed, cockpit-style design resembling that of the F-Type sports car, with a passenger grab handle built into the central console as well as a conventional lever for the nine-speed automatic transmission in place of the capstan dial used on other Jaguars.
Since the battery-electric I-Pace will carry the burden of introducing new screen-based Internet Protocol (IP) technologies, the E-Pace has a conventional analogue instrument pack. The top models will get Jaguar's InControl touch-and-pinch screen technology, there are five USB slots and the capability of streaming up to five devices, but there's no Apple CarPlay option and the instrument binnacle contains twin conventional dials for speed and revs.
"The I-Pace has to set the tone for future Jaguars," says Alister Whelan, Jaguar’s creative director for interior design. “On the E-Pace we didn't have the budget to introduce such new [digital] tech. We deliberately stuck with two big instruments using circles that are as big as possible."
Old-fashioned attention to detail saves the day here, with immaculate surface finishes, including the metal plate around the gear lever and the classy crosshatched detail on the instrument cards.
There's also a return to the witty details of which Callum is so fond. At this part of the market the budgets don't run to the XF’s delightful vents that rotate as you enter the car, but within the screen printing at the edge of the windscreen is the image of a jaguar and her cub (the design department called the E-Pace “The Cub”).
That image is repeated in the downlighting in the cubby hole where the centre console meets the bottom of the dash (Jaguar's designers call this “The Fireplace”).
There are also embroidered seat tags like expensive luggage and carefully moulded bases to the cup holders, which are designed to allow virtually every mobile phone on sale to be propped up safely.
"There is absolutely nothing in that interior where I've been left thinking, 'I ought to have fought a bit harder there'," says Whelan. "And that's something you'll see in future in Jaguars."
Technology and safety
Driver assistance technologies include a stereo camera to enable Autonomous Emergency Braking, pedestrian detection and Lane Keep Assist and Traffic Sign Recognition. Intelligent Speed Limiter and Driver Condition Monitor systems are also offered, while front and rear parking aids are standard.
The camera also combines with the electric power-assisted steering and rear radars to deliver a Blind Spot Assist function, while a new Forward Traffic Detection system warns of approaching vehicles at junctions where visibility is restricted.
There is also a pedestrian airbag, which deploys from beneath the trailing edge of the bonnet in the event of a collision.
The E-Pace is the first Jaguar to feature the company’s next-generation Head-Up Display (HUD) technology. It can project up to 66 per cent more information on to the windscreen using large, full-colour graphics with enhanced clarity. Essential information, including vehicle speed and navigation directions, are in full view at all times, with alerts and updates for the infotainment, safety and convenience features all projected directly into the driver's line of sight, reducing the need to look away from the road.
It is also available with Jaguar’s wearable Activity Key. The waterproof and shockproof wristband has an integrated transponder, allowing the driver to lock the main key inside the vehicle when enjoying outdoor pursuits.
The E-Pace is Jaguar's second foray into the SUV market. As part of a global sales offensive, the F-Pace fuelled a whopping 83 per cent increase in the amount of cars the brand shifted in 2016/2017. The smaller, cheaper E-Pace should increase this figure further by chipping away at the market dominance of Audi, BMW and certain non-premium brands.
The I-Pace concept will arrive in production form at some point next year. We like the F-Pace (click here for our full review) so we're excited about driving both the E-Pace and the I-Pace when they arrive in the next year or so.
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