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2018 Jaguar E-Pace Review

2018 Jaguar E-Pace Review
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Coming soon to a Pepperdine parking lot near you: the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace.

Compact crossovers are blase. They’re marginally practical and rarely fun to drive. For most, owning one is more about “show,” and less about “go.”  

Good news: The 2018 Jaguar E-Pace has an attractive shape and a luxury badge to show. Better news: It’s even fun in some configurations.  

We give the new crossover SUV a 6.8 on our overall scale. Its looks and features help lift a lagging drivetrain that’s begging for more power.

The E-Pace borrows heavily from the Jaguar cupboard. Its exterior shapes are clearly related to the larger F-Pace—perhaps with a little inspiration from other automakers too. Its rounded sheet metal expressively (and needlessly) wraps around the front and rear wheels in a way that belies the E-Pace’s front-drive bias. The visual weight is directed lower in the body panels by playing tricks on sunlight in ways that we don’t mind.

The hood looks longer than it is, and the beautiful Jaguar pucker has been translated perfectly onto the E-Pace’s nose.

Inside, the E-Pace draws inspiration from the F-Type sports car, but the crossover’s materials ultimately stop short of delivering a perfect interpretation.

Under the hood a 2.0-liter turbo-4 is offered in two tunes: a 246-horsepower standard version, or a 296-hp optional version. From the outside, the engine sounds like it runs on highway-grade agate. (Most of those sounds don’t make it inside, thankfully.)

Power shuffles through a hesitant 9-speed automatic and routes through standard all-wheel drive. Two all-wheel-drive systems are available, and one is excellent.

Opt for the higher-power turbo-4 and Jaguar delivers a Active Driveline all-wheel-drive system taken from the Range Rover Evoque that shuttles power front-to-back, and side-to-side. The result is power-based torque vectoring in a way that other automakers lie about with brake-based systems. In addition to carving tighter corners, the system can lock together rear wheels for back-end rotation that shouldn’t be possible in a front-drive-biased, compact crossover.

Four adults won’t have any issues fitting into the confines of the E-Pace, which is spacious. Although it’s compact, and sized like a Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and BMW X1, the Jag is roughly three inches wider and it feels it. We see a more natural competitor in the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, not only in the way that the two crossovers drive, but also in the type of buyer drawn to a pretty face—reputations be damned.

Jaguar offers the E-Pace starting at less than $40,000, and in top trims it struggles to run away from those budget versions. A 10-inch touchscreen for infotainment is standard, but Apple CarPlay isn’t yet available.

Top trims tread perilously close to the F-Pace in price, which puts the smaller E-Pace in a precarious position when it shows up in February.

Sculpted and sharp, the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace looks at home in the storied automaker’s stable.

A successful adaptation of Jaguar’s shape into another crossover is never a bad thing.

The E-Pace may have hints of other automakers in its overall shape, but its body screams that it’s still a Jag.

Starting from an average score of 5, the E-Pace gets two points for exceptional bodywork and that’s it. The interior narrowly misses out on another point because, while its layout is interesting, its materials are not. We give it a 7. 

Talk to the Jaguar designers and they’ll tell you that the E-Pace was drawn collectively by the youngest team Jag could find. It shows.

Although the E-Pace is relatively tall compared to its class—even the rest of the Jaguar lineup—the crossover’s visual weight is much lower thanks to sculpted lines toward the bottom of the body and flared wheel arches slinked over the wheels. The nose of the E-Pace successfully translates Jaguar’s maw onto a compact crossover, but by our eyes the slivered headlights seem out of place atop the lower fascia.

The E-Pace has longer overhangs beyond the wheels than the F-Pace, cleverly hidden by the youthful design team. The longer overhangs are muted with additional bodywork, like faux ducts and smart bends, others are left to their own devices.

In profile, the E-Pace’s window lines are deceptive—its roofline doesn’t drop nearly as dramatically as the rear windows would indicate. Whether that’s borrowed from Mazda or Porsche, we’ll never know. For Jaguar, it’s a good look that doesn’t compromise interior space.

Inside, the E-Pace borrows liberally from the F-Pace and F-Type, but doesn’t offer the same materials as either. Some of the leather shades are too dramatic—red and white—while others like the walnut brown would be better picks, and perhaps age better too.

Power isn’t the Jaguar E-Pace’s best trick, but its two exceptional all-wheel-drive systems are.

Is “driver’s crossover” an oxymoron? We’re not so sure.

If it’s not, it’d probably look something like the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace.

Despite its front-wheel-drive bias, the E-Pace offers an impressive facsimile of a fun-to-drive sedan. It uses hardware borrowed from the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport, which are built on a similar platform to the E-Pace, but shifts power to the rear in a surprising way.

That’s thanks to an optional rear end that offers torque vectoring in ways that other automakers haven’t delivered. Down the driveline is the E-Pace’s best look. Toward the top end, where the engine and transmission live, the news isn’t as good.

Starting from an average score, we knock the E-Pace one point for its 9-speed that needs more help. The turbo-4 isn’t bad, but we’ve only driven it in top spec so far. We add two for remarkable all-wheel-drive systems (thanks Range Rover Evoque) and a competent ride. It earns a 6 for performance.

The E-Pace is a first for Jaguar in more ways than one. Its turbo-4 is planted transversely in the nose, rather than longitudinally, which speaks to the E-Pace’s front-wheel-drive bias. A front-wheel-drive E-Pace is offered abroad, but not in the States. At least, not now.

That engine is a corporate turbo-4 that’s loud and unrefined from the outside. It rumbles and clatters into life in a way that’s obnoxious like sneakers and a tuxedo. Luckily, the clattering is filtered out of the cabin and kept outside for the rest of the world to endure. The 2.0-liter turbo-4 returns 246 or 296 horsepower, depending on configuration. Our testers were the latter, and despite some low-end hesitation that could be attributed to an indecisive 9-speed, the turbo-4 worked well. Jaguar estimates that the E-Pace will shuttle up to 60 mph in less than six seconds in top spec, and our real-world experience confirms that feeling. It’s brisk but not entirely quick, and more importantly, perfectly acceptable for its class.
The 9-speed still leaves something to be desired. It’s easily caught flat-footed, and eager to upshift from takeoff in normal mode. Tip the drive selector into Dynamic and some of that bad behavior is tempered, or use the paddle shifters to call your own plays—just don’t ask for gears too quickly.

The news is better with Jaguar’s all-wheel-drive system, which is standard on all E-Pace models this year. The base setup should be familiar to buyers by now; Jaguar has tuned its all-wheel-drive setups to be among the best for luxury automakers since bringing it back a few ago.

The base system ideally operates at a 50/50-split, front-to-rear, but can shuttle nearly all of its power to the front or the back in slippery conditions.

Opt for the more powerful turbo-4 and the all-wheel-drive system gets a bump to the Active Driveline configuration that can shuttle power front-to-back, and side-to-side. The key difference between the two all-wheel-drive systems is the latter detail. It adds more power to outside wheels helps carve a tighter line around corners and finds grip where it might be hiding. The Active Driveline can also lock power to the rear wheels in concert, simulating a rear-drive bias that doesn’t exist in the E-Pace and making it the least-likely drift car on the roads today.

The E-Pace manages to take the hardware from the Evoque and Discovery Sport and make it drivable, and consequently, livable. The ride is quiet and relatively calm, even on 20-inch wheels, without much crashing or correction. Variable dampers on top trim levels can dial in a firmer suspension in Dynamic mode, but the E-Pace is hardly stiff.

The electric power steering is light and disconnected from the front wheels in normal mode, which shouldn’t bother too many drivers. Tipping into Dynamic mode adds more weight to the tiller, but no more road feel.

Comfort & Quality
Surprisingly spacious, the 2018 E-Pace is a roomy crossover that we wouldn’t mind taking on long hauls.

Looks don’t tell the whole story of the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace.

Although it’s related to the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque, the E-Pace has its own dimensions—maybe even its own niche.

We give the E-Pace points above average for its front seats and cargo storage and land at a 7 out of 10.

On paper, the E-Pace nominally competes against the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, Audi Q3, and BMW X1, but in reality, it’s bigger than those. The E-Pace is at least three inches wider than those luxury competitors and its interior space is better utilized. It’s a half-step bigger than all three—that’s not a bad thing.

The E-Pace takes the familiar dimensions and feel of the Evoque and Discovery Sport and wraps it in a sultry shape. Although the interior of the E-Pace follows closely the larger F-Pace crossover, the smaller Jag skips the ergonomic curiosities like window switches perched high on the door sills or flat open space near the gear selector with elements borrowed from the F-Type, including a pistol-grip shift.

The E-Pace’s cabin pushes the driver and passenger closer to the front wheels, so much so that the wheel arches intrude into the footwells. It’s hardly noticeable, except to lanky 6-foot-3 editors. Like the F-Pace, the E-Pace has a high seating position that offers a good view of the road that’s helped by a deceptively short hood.

Rear-seat riders get more than 35 inches of leg room that feels larger than the measuring tape. The extra width will help three abreast in the back, but we wouldn’t advise long hauls with a full tribe.

The cargo area is the largest beneficiary of the stretched dimensions. With the rear seats up, the E-Pace offers 24.2 cubic feet of cargo room, with the seats folded that grows to more than 52 cubes. By comparison, the GLA class offers 17 cubic feet with the seats up or 43 cubes with the seats down.

But the GLA is longer, nose to toes, and has more room between the wheels than the E-Pace. So what gives? The E-Pace is nearly five inches taller and nearly four inches wider than the GLA with better interior packaging and a brighter interior.

Yeah, it makes that big of a difference.

Otherwise, the E-Pace falls temptingly short of the other Jaguars in the stable—for now.

The testers we drove were loaded to the lug nuts with every conceivable option, but still lacked the polish of other Jaguars. The climate control dials clicked through temperature settings and fan speeds with quiet confidence, but the plastic had a hard grain that didn’t match the price tag. The stitched dash with contrasting colors (unique to R-Dynamic trim levels) looked like the real McCoy, but lacked the supple feeling from other Jags we’ve driven recently.

The short of the long? Don’t focus too much on the details.

The 2018 Jaguar E-Pace lacks comprehensive crash data from federal and independent testers.

The Jaguar E-Pace is too new to sacrifice one to a wall. We’ll update this space once official crash data is made available, but we’re not holding our breath—no current Jaguar model has been comprehensively crash-tested.

The E-Pace is equipped with six airbags, including driver and passenger, thorax, and side curtain airbags.

Advanced safety systems include standard forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors that are standard on most trims.

Jaguar offers a surround-view camera system, parking sensors, and a forward-mounted camera to help see around obstructed intersections.

Good features and a better warranty put the features in the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace in our good graces.

Come for the looks, stay for the looks.

The 2018 Jaguar E-Pace temptingly wraps beautiful skin around a familiar shape and lets the interior sort out the details. It’s caught in two worlds: the tempting sub-$40,000 starting price says “affordable,” the top trims yearn for high-buck materials from other Jaguar products to say “luxury.”

Base E-Pace crossovers get 17-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, keyless ignition, a rearview camera, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, a 10-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

That’s good equipment among all crossovers, but perhaps it’s cutting it close for luxury crossovers.

We still give it a point above average for its standard features, and another point for that touchscreen. Its 5-year/60,000-mile warranty is still impressive, and the E-Pace lands at an 8 out of 10 for features.

The standard E-Pace won’t be a common sight, we suspect. Most buyers will find S, SE, HSE trimmed crossovers with Jaguar’s R-Dynamic sporty trim package scattered among them.

The S trim level includes power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, navigation, and parking sensors.

SE versions get 19-inch wheels, a power tailgate, premium audio, and more advanced safety features.

The HSE R-Dynamic throws everything at the E-Pace and includes 20-inch wheels, softer leather hides, a motion-activated tailgate, head-up display, and adjustable bolsters and thigh support.

An R-Dynamic add-on for S and SE trims adds an uprated engine and powertrain, sporty exterior touches and fog lights, sport seats, contrast stitching, and shift paddles.

Fuel Economy
At 24 mpg combined, the Jaguar E-Pace keeps pace with the rest of the field in fuel-efficiency.

The familiar turbo-4 and 9-speed automatic combination in the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace helps it stay competitive with other small luxury ‘utes. All E-Pace models will be equipped with all-wheel drive.

The EPA rates both versions of the E-Pace nearly identically, at 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined. That’s good enough for a 6 out of 10 on our fuel-economy scale.

Opting for the higher output turbo-4 only shaves 1 mpg from the highway and combined scores.

Most compact crossovers net nearly the same mileage as the E-Pace. The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is rated at 26 mpg combined when equipped with all-wheel drive, and the BMW X1 with all-wheel drive nets 25 mpg combined on the EPA test.

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