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Preview by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

We heard this week Ferrari is planning an SUV. Can you believe that?

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 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 were there as well.

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

Other elements of the day included a chance for we often jaded journalists 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 course. I did well in the smart autocross – but, 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 looks much like the comparable Porsche products, that is, stylish and elegant front fascia with deep, black cheek vents matching the gaping, vertical grille, but it has a discernible Jaguar ambiance. Squinty headlight 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 together worked some magic with wheels, wheel arch shapes, suspension design and other elements to get a graceful, muscular profile and stance.

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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. Imbedded within the spaces defined by these lines are 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 we see here.

When you think of the size, 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 that mechanism still needs a little work. It’s certainly superior to the Jaguar Sport Wagon beside it on the stage. 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. Of course, you can get the hands-free power liftgate for a few extra pounds sterling.

E-Pace will come in a variety of trim levels from basic, to all luxxed-up, to sporty. Two engines are offered, 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 imaging in the E-Pace.

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’ll reveal, though, it made a solid first impression.

Watch The Auto Channel, your Jaguar dealer and the motoring press for more details and reviews as the E-Pace gets closer to launch in early 2018.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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