It’s the news that will probably have traditional Jaguar enthusiasts biting through their pipe stems. As if the F-Pace wasn’t enough, the arrival of this smaller E-Pace underlines how much Jaguar, and the habits of car-buyers worldwide, has changed.
Then again, with Jaguar’s global sales up 27 per cent this year thanks in large part to the larger F-Pace, it’s an area of the market that’s simply impossible to ignore. The simple fact is that it won’t be long before this E-Pace is Jaguar’s best-selling model. In terms of retail sales, the F-Pace alone currently sells almost as many as all of Jaguar’s other models combined. The automotive world has moved on from traditional saloon sales.
And Jaguar has moved on with it. Listen to Jaguar design chief Ian Callum talk about the E-Pace and that shift is obvious. This car will bring new and younger buyers into the Jaguar showroom and Callum talks about going “against the grain” and that nobody thought that it would ever build this type of car.
It’s much more than just an F-Pace that’s been on a hot wash though. There are obvious Jaguar cues everywhere with the recognisable grille, F-Type inspired headlights and new ‘chicane’ style rear LED lights that will also be seen on the new I-Pace. There are muscular rear haunches (reminiscent of those on Bentley’s Continental GT when viewed in the door mirror) and a honed, sporty back end. It looks even better in the metal.
That’s not all that’s borrowed from the F-Type either. The flagship E-Pace gets the same 300hp 2.0-litre twin-turbo petrol engine capable of the 0 to 60mph sprint in 5.9 seconds and with a 151mph top speed. With power being fed through all four wheels, that’s combined with Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics enabling the driver to switch the suspension between Normal, Dynamic, Eco, and a low grip mode depending on the conditions.
Keen drivers will probably be more focussed on the E-Pace’s Active Driveline system though which can distribute torque from the front to rear wheels and also between the back wheels. Tuned to give a more rear-wheel drive feel to the car on the road, it effectively provides a Torque Vectoring type system to give the E-Pace improved drive into and through corners and better traction out of them.
While these systems aren’t anything new when it comes to hot hatches, they’re hardly common in this class, but it certainly proves its worth here. In fact, the E-Pace’s intentions are immediately obvious from the moment you set off on a journey. There’s a weighty, solid feel to the steering and the car feels firm and tight over rougher roads. There’s minimal body roll even in comfort mode and the ride quality even on those cars wearing 20-inch wheels is reasonable enough, though we’d be wary about ticking the box for the larger 21s.
What stands out most about the E-Pace’s on-road feel though is its sense of being involved at almost every level. Jaguar’s engineering team led by Mike Cross are well known among enthusiasts for their chassis tuning abilities and there’s no question about the quality of the job they have done here.
Everything from the way the car turns in to the first part of a bend to the overall feel from the seat and the steering wheel about what it’s doing beneath you, the driver feels a part of the process throughout, boosting your confidence to push it harder as a result. Shut your eyes and there’s no way you would mistake this for an Audi or a BMW.
Inside, those F-Type cues from the exterior continue, with a grab handle on the transmission tunnel for the front passenger and Jaguar’s usual simple controls. Callum was insistent that he didn’t want the E-Pace’s dash to be dominated by touch-screens that required you to take your eyes off the road to use on the move. It’s packaged well too, with plenty of storage space and surprisingly good head and legroom for adults in the back seats. A neat detail is the silhouette of a Jaguar and its baby cub hidden in the base of the windscreen surround and also in the puddle lights at night.
As we said earlier, that the E-Pace will be a huge sales success and end up being Jaguar’s biggest seller was never going to be in doubt. The good news though is that this new E-Pace is good enough to deserve that top slot. That fact alone should please Jaguar fans, both new and old.