Test Drive: 2018 Jaguar E-Pace

The crossover market is bursting with options large and small, and every month it seems another brand is adding a new one. Although Jaguar joined the crossover race just recently, they are eager to add more models after seeing the success of the midsize F-Pace. An all-electric I-Pace is coming soon, but the next big hit for Jaguar has already arrived, the smaller E-Pace that introduces Jag crossovers to a slightly more affordable price point and more compact dimensions for those who put a premium on space.

It looks the part, and it drives the part, too.

The midsize F-Pace starts at over $50,000 and quickly climbs into the sixties with typical options, but the compact E-Pace starts at $44,300 ($42,700 with a $1,600 destination charge). A well-equipped E-Pace can nonetheless easily creep up on that $60K mark and blow right by it when opting for the big engine.

In base trim the E-Pace has some nice features, starting with a 247 hp 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder (P250), all-wheel drive, LED headlights, 17-inch alloys, 10-inch touchscreen infotainment controls, back-up camera with parking sensors, lane-keep assist, and automatic emergency braking. However, the seats in that E(cono)-Pace are fabric-covered, manually adjustable, and not even heated, the stereo is just 125W with 6 speakers, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility are not even standard.

Although the $60,600 First Edition model sounds like it might be something extravagant, it’s actually an interesting value with a lot of visual and equipment upgrades for less than they would cost if you added them to a typical P250 à la carte.

R-Dynamic Hits the Spot

But the E-Pace that many will find hard to resist is the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic model with its P300 powertrain, the same Ingenium 2.0L turbo-four, but with a bigger turbocharger for 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, and when combined with meaty 20-inch tires and the optional adaptive dynamics, unlocks the E-Pace’s full potential as a fun, dynamic little runabout.

Although many will be content with the features and amenities and the basic powertrain, as a crossover from a sporting car brand, the R-Dynamic seems to embody the character and spirit of the Jaguar brand, and well-equipped as our tester was, it looked and felt the part too.

The Firenze red paint, black grille and accents, red brake calipers, panoramic roof, and big, black wheels added over $5,000 to the price, but I, for one, think it comes together as a hot little sport wagon (more so than hulking SUV), and there is no denying that it caught the eye of many admirers in my town.

It looks the part, and it drives the part, too, taking a step or two closer to the sporty end of the spectrum, but still comfortable enough for day-to-day errands most of the time. Because the suspension is tuned for more sportiness, the E-Pace R-Dynamic has great composure in corners and curves, and quickly subdues mildly rough pavement, but larger impacts can rattle that cabin, and the suspension protests with a clank.

Tipping the scales at 1,894 kg, it’s quite a bit of mass, but the P300 shoots to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds. It’s not all go and no slow, however, with the brakes biting nicely and the car staying composed when diving into turns with enthusiasm. That being said: it’s no F-Type, and still a small family vehicle, so don’t think it’s going to carve up a track or autocross course.

The Everyday Drive

Those that prefer comfort and compliance should opt for a smaller tire package that will help to cushion and absorb those rough impacts. For even greater performance, Jaguar offers adaptive dampers and active torque vectoring. Our test car was not so equipped, but did feature drive modes that put the engine, transmission and steering into more sporty settings in Dynamic Mode, or more relaxed in Eco Mode.

In more mundane driving, the E-Pace is a piece of cake, with a conventional shifter and smooth steering, although the turning circle is a bit wide and the visibility poor, so the parking cameras and 360-degree sensors come in handy.

On the highway it feels like a bigger car, supremely solid and stable, and while lane-keep assist helps keeps the car from straying from its lane in ideal conditions (won’t be much help in our winters), the adaptive cruise was a bit abrupt and did not inspire confidence in situations where another car suddenly cuts in front of you.

Another area that could use improvement is the transmission, which is a nine-speed automatic, but was often slow to swap gears, and far too delayed when looking for quick downshifts for highway passing. Because it can be so slow to respond to throttle for gear changes, I tried using the paddle shifters, but it turns out you have to have the transmission nudged over into Sport mode for the paddle shifters to work. It also seemed downright confused on occasion when driven aggressively, so this was a rare case where I was often happy to put the car in Dynamic mode and transmission in Sport for it to keep up with my spirited driving.

You may be thinking that the transmission was favouring fuel economy, but this was the beefier engine, and even though I spent the majority of time in Normal or Eco driving modes, I still came out of the week showing 12.7 L/100 km. Natural Resources Canada suggests you should get 10.1 L/100 km overall from the P300 powertrain, with 11.2 in the city and 8.6 achievable in highway cruising. If you are looking to save at the pumps, one of the P250 trims might be a better fit, as it is rated at 10.4 in the city, 7.3 highway and 9.0 L/100 km combined, and it’s only a half second slower to 100 km/h, so it’s no slouch.

Finishing Touches

Aside from sharp handling for a small crossover, the other highlight of this vehicle was the interior and a few details that really charmed me and the family. Jaguar has learned a thing or two from Jeep with its clever Easter eggs, and the E-Pace has a little silhouette of a mama jaguar and jaguar cub on the black surround of the windshield in the bottom driver’s side corner, and the same silhouette is displayed by the puddle lamps in cars so equipped. The other clever touch I “spotted” was that the rubber liners in the tray ahead of the shifter and under the armrest were embossed with the pattern of jaguar fur.

While cute flourishes are nice and all, the rest of the interior wowed me with its vibrant red leather seats and trim, and the leather itself was excellent to the touch, something BMW and Mercedes could learn from in their entry-level vehicles, though this was the almost $2,000 Windsor leather treatment. The colour might be a bit much for some, Jaguar does offer cream or black treatments, but I thought the red flavoured something as common as a small SUV with an exotic feel to go along with its straightforward, intuitive touchscreen system and auto climate controls. However, it’s not perfect, and there are places where some of the plastics get a bit rough in places your hands often stray.

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The seats were also comfortable and just supportive enough to maintain that sporty feel, with plenty of storage at hand and 685 litres of cargo space in the trunk. While the trunk space is impressive for such a small vehicle, it comes at the expense of rear-seat legroom, which is fairly tight, although headroom is actually quite good. The rear seats also split 60/40 and fold down to offer up to a maximum of 1,493 L of hauling space. A shame that the spoiler rattles like it’s going to fall off every time you slam the tailgate closed, which was not powered, so that too was disappointing for a small crossover optioned up to the tune of $64,110.

Jaguar has delivered a small crossover well worth your consideration, capturing the brand’s essence of a fun, playful vehicle with modern style. It’s up to the customer to decide if it’s worth it to unlock all the feature content and interior quality at the prices Jaguar charges. That fact is no less true of its rivals, but the E-Pace lacks the polish and refinement in the driving experience that Audi and BMW have mastered.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic S P300 AWD
Engine Displacement: 2.0L
Engine Cylinders: I4
Peak Horsepower: 296 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Peak Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1,500–4,500 rpm
Fuel Economy: 11.2/8.6/10.1 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 685 / 1,493 L seats down
2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic S P300 AWD
Base Price $51,000
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,600
Price as Tested $64,210
Optional Equipment $11,510 – Firenze Red Paint $670; Red Brake Calipers $410; 20-inch Gloss Black 5 split-spoke wheels $2,650; Black Pack $260; Ebony/Mars Red Interior $1,980; Cold Climate Pack $670; Drive Pack $970; 18-way Seats + Heated Front & Rear $1,020; TFT Virtual Instrument Cluster $570; Black Contrast Roof $510; Fixed Panoramic Roof $1,180; Passive Keyless Entry $620
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.3
7 Styling
7 Powertrain
8 Quality
7 Comfort
7 Practicality
9 Drivability
7 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
8 Features
7 Value