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Jaguar. The name that conjures up so much performance DNA.
It was a big deal for me as a kid to ride in my Uncle Bill’s MK ll 3.8 Jag. It was his pride and joy.
I loved that leaping jaguar on the bonnet. But under current health and safety rules that mascot is seen to be positioned exactly at kidney height, so, in the name of pedestrian safety, has been replaced with a flat badge. Those Jaguars were among the first ordinary cars that would easily do 100mph (160kmh) – pretty fast in the 1960s – and many saw success on the saloon car racing circuits.
Cleverly, and without betraying its sports car heritage, Jaguar has transferred its DNA seamlessly into its first sporty SUV, the F-Pace. That model is now selling better than the rest of the range combined. Well, what do you know, Jaguar’s F-Pace now has a baby brother, the E-Pace. And in Europe there’s already the I-Pace, an electric version.
I’m reviewing the E-Pace, which shares its underpinnings with Landrover’s Discovery Sport and Evoque, but has adapted front and rear suspensions to suit Jaguar’s needs. The base price of the petrol vehicle here is $69,990 ($30K below that of the F-Pace).
All its internal combustion models employ Jaguar’s “Ingenium” twin-scroll turbo, 2.0-litre four-cylinder, all-aluminium diesel or petrol engines, sitting transversely. They have stiff cylinder blocks and twin balancer shafts, teamed with ZF 9-speed multi-mode auto. All have on-demand four-wheel drive.
There are essentially three models: the entry level S, the R-Dynamic S, and the R-Dynamic SE. The R-Dynamic versions add styling elements to the exterior and interior of the entry-level car; and there are myriad options, including 12 different wheel designs, available for each model, so your choice can suit your personality.
I was interested to drive this Jaguar First Edition R-Dynamic SE version; it was kitted out with all the works, and I wondered if it would impress me as much as Uncle Bill’s did all those years ago. This model is in limited supply and costs $99,900. It sports black exterior detailing, fixed panoramic roof, superb 20-inch wheels, powered tailgate, smart key, and adaptive cruise control.
There’s also fancy adjustable inside lighting, and roof rails.
Only two body colours are available for the R-Dynamic SE: red for those who want to be noticed, or for the shy, white. The interior is finished in ebony leather, with suede headlining. It’s comfortable, alluring and rather beautifully stitched.
The controls are intuitive and the “Touch Pro” infotainment system, with its 10-inch tablet-style touchscreen, is easy to navigate. The clear head-up display, auto wipers and lights, combined with wide-angle rear-view camera and 360-degree parking sensors, made it easy to concentrate on the actual driving experience.
I dialled up my perfect seating configuration (which, by the way, it remembers!), pushed the inviting “start” button and took off. Squeezing through narrow city streets, tootling through the ‘burbs, whizzing over the hills, and devouring motorways, it was a pleasure.
It just felt right. I liked the way it responded to my every input without hiccup, jerkiness, protest, or turbo lag. The steering is great. In “comfort” mode the car feels limo like, but push the sport function and you recognise its DNA immediately as it becomes a sports car with room in the back. But Jaguar is about much more than brilliant engineering, technology and performance. The brand has always embraced the subjective pursuit of visual beauty.
Ian Callum, Jaguar’s lead designer, is to me the Leonardo da Vinci of car design. He calls the E-Pace the “cub” of the Jaguar family, hence a picture on the windscreen of the tiny shadow of a cub following its fierce parent. To my semi-trained eye (I have previously confessed to being a frustrated car designer), its chunky front end, with its nicely proportioned LED headlights and openings, its sculpted flanks, tapered windows, and its F-type-influenced rear end, are gorgeous. And, I have to say, much more beautiful to me than Maserati or Lamborghini’s stratospherically priced rocketship SUVs.
The E-Pace is one of the most complete vehicles I have ever experienced.