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2018 Jaguar E-Pace Review By Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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Preview by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

We heard Ferrari is planning to add an SUV to its lineup. Can you believe that? And, Alfa Romeo has a new one too.

Why are the sport and luxury automakers banking so much on SUVs and CUVs?. Well, to quote Clyde Barrow (who was talking about something entirely different, by the way), “because that’s where the money is.”

First hints of that market segment’s strength came when upstart (at the time) luxury car company, Lexus, brought out the first RX300 “crossover,” an SUV on a car platform, one of the first of that configuration. Within just a couple years it was the brand’s best seller. We’ve seen the same at other Asian luxury brands and, of course, the conservative Germans followed as well.

One of the newest in the luxury compact crossover class caught our attention recently – the Jaguar E-Pace.

We found this automotive treat at a nearby convention center in suburban Detroit where Jaguar had taken over 10s of thousands of square-feet to introduce – with necessary flash, pizzazz and glitter – their second CUV, a compact called E-Pace, with every bit the ambiance of slightly bigger F-Pace sibling, introduced just a few years ago. Both are underpinned with a rear-wheel drive chassis and come exclusively with all-wheel drive.

Jaguar also used the reveal event to remind us of all the other great stuff they make – pure sports cars, race cars, luxury sedans, sport sedans . . . you name it.

By the way, even though attendees at this event were national and regional automotive journalists this is essentially the same program they offer customers and potential buyers. Connect with your Jag dealer or the brand’s Website to research that.

After a lovely lunch and the official product briefing the Jaguar folks revealed a few other activities they had planned for us like a chance to have ourselves inserted into an action-packed, stunt-driving video, then a “smart autocross,” a traditional autocross and opportunities to drive all the other Jag products around a short suburban route. More on that later.

Exterior styling on the new little E-Pace, due at dealers early next year, breaks little new ground but it doesn’t need to, at least from my purely subjective view. Like F-Pace it resembles comparable Porsche and Audi products with stylish and elegant front fascia, deep, black cheek vents matching the gaping, vertical grille. Squinty headlights wrap around a smooth fender drawing our eye down the modestly sculpted and rounded flank. Look closely and you’ll see a variety of design details hinting at a chicane on a race course. Narrow, horizontal LED taillights buck design conventions a bit and create a look of extra width at the tail. Jaguar engineers and designers worked some magic with wheels, wheel arch shapes, suspension design and other elements to get a graceful, muscular profile and stance.

The elegant (I know, I just used that word, but I couldn’t help myself) interior offers an uncluttered, comfortable and simple space. Soft, flowing lines extend horizontally and vertically. Embedded within the spaces defined by these lines exist round instrument pods beneath an arched brow, rectangular vents, a broad infotainment screen and three HVA dials. We see no signs of unnecessary complexity or excess. Materials, fit and finish were excellent, even in these preproduction models.

When you think of the size of the new E-Pace, think of the new Lexus NX – small, but judicious in its use of limited space. It still has enough room for five adults and a reasonable amount of cargo, or two adults and lots of cargo. Rear seatbacks fold fairly easily, though the release mechanism still needs a little refinement. With seatbacks in place we have 24.2 cubic-feet of cargo space and with seatbacks folded we get 61.7 cubic-feet. Those numbers compare well with the competition. A hands-free rear lift-gate is optional.

E-Pace comes in a variety of trim levels from basic, to all luxxed-up, to sporty. Jag offers two engines, both 2.0-liter, direct injected, 4-cylinder turbos, one making 246 horsepower and 296 pound-feet of torque, the other makes 269 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Both get the same AWD system and 9-speed automatic transmission. These “Ingenium” engines are designed in-house by Jag/Land Rover engineers.

You’ll find all the driver assistance and safety technologies you can imagine in the E-Pace. The provision of features like lane departure control, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and a plethora of others have ceased to be a differentiator between brands as it is offered standard on so many brands.

While I had a short drive of familiarization in the E-Pace it was not enough for a decent evaluation and sense of its overall dynamics, so I’ll leave that until I’ve had some serious time and miles with it. I will reveal, though, it made a solid first impression.

Now, back to the smart autocross. It’s like a traditional autocross, that is, a short racecourse in a parking lot defined by a series of cones. In this case the cones are tall and equipped with lights on top defining gates you must drive though. The challenge is that the lights on the gate you are to go through next don’t go on until you’re nearly through the gate you’re in. What a hoot. This humble journalist placed fourth in that intense competition.

The other inspired promotional feature of the day was the opportunity for each of us to have ourselves inserted into a stunt driving video to impress our friends and family. I’ll bet that ended up on everyone’s social media pages.

So, watch for the new E-Pace early next year, and put it on your list if you’re in the market for a small luxury/sport crossover.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved