2018 Jaguar E-Pace Review and First Drive

Pacing Corsica in Jaguar’s Latest Crossover

Long-needled pines tower above us, flanking the road on both sides. Straight as laser beams, these coniferous giants stab at the heavens, though an ominous January fog seems to parry their skyward thrusts. Our Borasco Grey Jaguar E-Pace could have completely disappeared in this misty veil, its ashen paint a perfect match for the airborne precipitation.

Fortunately, at ground level this vapor was intermittent, never gaining adequate strength to seriously hamper visibility, a blessing given the thoroughfare my drive partner and I were navigating.

The roads around and through Parc Naturel Régional De Corse, a sprawling nature park on Corsica, are improbably twisty, constructed to trace this French Mediterranean island’s craggy topography. Achingly beautiful, it was by no means the only strip of breathtaking asphalt we sampled; the entire drive was a constant left-right battle; evidently, the inhabitants have no concept of what a straight line is and that’s just fine with me.

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Keeping Pace

Clearly, Jaguar’s leadership has absolute faith in their latest effort, a compact luxury crossover, otherwise, they wouldn’t have selected such an exotic drive location, one that’s arguably better suited to an F-Type sports car than some high-riding five-seater.

The brand’s second utility model, E-Pace is offered to North American drivers in two basic flavors: a standard version for normal folks and an uplevel performance-oriented R-Dynamic variant for driving enthusiasts.

Outside, it fits perfectly in the company’s lineup. With elegantly simple styling, E-Pace is probably the most tastefully designed model in its crowded segment.

Underneath that sleek body, this Jaguar shares the same basic underpinnings with the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport, though all its key dimensions are different from those blood relatives. Saving weight, its hood, front fenders, roof, and tailgate are all made of aluminum. There’s also a magnesium cross-car beam.

Still, a few bits of lightweight metal isn’t enough to make a significant difference at weigh-in time. The R-Dynamic model clocks in at nearly 4,200 pounds (1,832 kg), par for the crossover course these days.

ALSO SEE: Where Is Jaguar Made?

You feel much of that mass while hustling the E-Pace, though it’s not quite as bulky as you might think given the two-plus-ton curb weight. Body control is exemplary, with minimal roll, even if you happen to overcook a corner or two. Continuously variable dampers are on the options list; they can respond to changing road conditions in as little as 10 milliseconds. Ride quality with the standard suspension arrangement seems to strike an ideal balance; it’s firm enough to feel taut and playful without punishing occupants at every surface irregularity.

While Corsica’s roads are largely in very good repair, we did encounter a handful of gnarly sections that pounded the E-Pace’s suspension. Sudden, forceful inputs result in a terrific kaboom, but the structure never wavers, feeling absolutely rigid, free of any reverberations.

Ingenium Engines

In North America, just one powertrain is offered in this new Jaguar crossover, though it is available in two potencies. The E-Pace is hauled around by a brand-new Jaguar Land Rover-designed Ingenium 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Loaded with technology like a multi-geometry turbo and variable valve lift, it’s plenty competitive with what’s found under the hoods of rival models, like the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and Audi Q3.

Standard models are graced with 246 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, but R-Dynamic models are pumped up considerably. In these versions, horsepower swells to 296 while torque is rated at 295 lb-ft.

These figures result in some impressive acceleration scores, on paper at least. According to Jaguar, the lesser engine can get an E-Pace to 60 miles an hour in 6.6 seconds (0-100 km/h in 7 seconds), the greater one can do the deed in just 5.9.

Despite having nearly 300 horses on tap, the R-Dynamic model doesn’t feel that fast, especially while climbing narrow, mountain roads. Pin the accelerator and that boosted-four is a bit pokey in the lower-rev range, hanging briefly around 3,000 rpm while working its way to redline. Another downside is the fuel-saving stop-start system, which isn’t terribly refined because the powertrain shudders slightly every time combustion resumes.

Making the most of available torque is a standard ZF nine-speed automatic gearbox. This is the same transmission that’s earned a reputation for less-than-stellar shift quality in other automotive applications, and here it could also use a bit more tuning work. It mostly behaves itself, though a handful of clunky gear changes were evident while traversing the Corsican countryside.

Standard All-Wheel Drive

Ensuring drivers are never wanting for traction, whether on road or off, all-wheel drive is standard in the E-Pace. As with engine output, two different flavors are offered.

Regular models feature permanent all-wheel drive, but R-Dynamic versions have what Jaguar calls Active Driveline that can electronically disconnect the rear axle for greater efficiency when extra traction isn’t needed. As conditions dictate, this system is also able to send up to 100 percent of available torque to either rear wheel thanks to a pair of electronically controlled wet-plate clutches in the rear end. This can allow for a bit of oversteer in slippery conditions. On-road, the E-Pace will benignly understeer, even if you goose the accelerator while cornering. Better safe than sideways, I suppose.

SEE ALSO: Jaguar F-Pace S Review

Even with all-wheel drive, this vehicle is reasonably economical. R-Dynamic models should return 21 miles per gallon in urban driving (11 L/100 km) and 27 (8.4 L/100 km) on the highway. Mix it up, and Uncle Sam says you should average 23 mpg (9.8 L/1oo km). Standard E-Paces are slightly more efficient, besting their more powerful siblings by one mile per gallon on in highway and combined categories.

Soft Furnishings

Turning our attention inward, the E-Pace’s cabin is clean and elegant, with simple shapes and straightforward controls a couple of its hallmark elements. There’s even an F-Type-inspired grab-handle on the center console. The quality of materials and switchgear is good and the front seats comfortable enough for all-day drives.

The aft bench could be a bit more spacious, but really, it’s not that confining. As for luggage capacity, the E-Pace offers more than 24 cubic feet (577 L) with the rear seatbacks up; fold them down and it more than doubles, eclipsing 52 cubes (1,472 L).

Coddled by the supportive driver’s seat, Jag’s latest crossover is easy to navigate, though on narrow European roads it feels about as wide as a tractor-trailer. I was constantly checking the passenger-side mirror to make sure I didn’t hit any curbs, or worse, mountainsides.

The E-Pace’s steering has some nice heft to it and an ideal ratio, neither too quick nor too dull, it’s just a shame there’s zero feedback from the front tires. The touchy brake pedal also takes a bit of getting used to.

Keeping today’s tech-obsessed motorists electronically sated is plenty of circuitry. There’s a vivid 10-inch display on the dashboard, home to Jaguar’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment system. With snappy performance, easily decipherable menus and support for all your favorite smartphone gestures like pinch-to-zoom, it’s rightfully the interior’s centerpiece.

Optional is a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot that can support up to eight devices so there’s no excuse for not responding to the boss’ latest e-mails. Also, for extra cash, you can get a 12.3-inch full-color digital instrument cluster and crystal-clear head-up display.

The Verdict: 2018 Jaguar E-Pace Review

The 2018 Jaguar E-Pace is a more-than-worthy addition to the Jaguar family, one that will undoubtedly help grow the brand’s sales by appealing to a whole new group of customers.

Handsome, comfortable, mostly refined, and brandishing plenty of useful technology, this compact luxury crossover is extremely likable, even if some aspects of its driving dynamics could use a little work.

Base price for the E-Pace is $39,595 including $995 in delivery charges in the U.S. ($44,795 in Canada), though The R-Dynamic model starts at $48,245 ($53,095 in Canada) but the one evaluated here cost around $60,000 having been optioned up with a multitude of highly desirable options, like the Interactive Driver Display, Matrix LED headlamps, a head-up display and 20-inch wheels. If you’ve got at least 40-grand burning a hole in your pocket, examples should be available at dealerships in the U.S. right now.

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