The compact SUV class is growing rapidly and manufacturers are rushing headlong into it so as not to be left out.
Following their venture into the SUV segment with the impressive F-Pace, iconic British brand Jaguar have introduced the smaller E-Pace. The fact that SUVs generally are evolving into more sporty, nimble vehicles suits Jaguar well as it is in keeping with their image and heritage.
Corsica was chosen as the international launch venue for the E-Pace presumably because it has some of the most challenging roads in the world.
The narrow mountain passes follow the contours tightly and, in its day the Tour de Corse was otherwise known as the “Ten Thousand Turns Rally”.
After two days we felt as if we had taken all of them.
The straights between corners are often short and there is no guarantee of a constant radius with bends usually blind and tightening up unexpectedly.
It is a great test of chassis, suspension and powertrain. The stiff E-Pace chassis uses an Integral Link rear suspension which seeks to separate lateral and longitudinal forces, providing the optimum combination of responsive steering and handling with longitudinal impact absorption and refinement.
A new front suspension design further enhances the driver’s connection to the road.
The front knuckle is a lightweight hollow-cast aluminium component designed to provide additional camber for improved turn-in and minimise understeer. A specially-tuned front subframe was developed to generate a stiffer structure including solid rear mounts to contribute to the vehicle’s connected steering feel.
Jaguar certainly appear to have got this combination right as the E-Pace handled the twisty roads extremely well and seemed unfazed by steering, braking, and throttle inputs, changing as the erratic nature of many of the corners revealed themselves.
The E-Pace is powered by a 2.0-litre Ingenium engine in either petrol or diesel.
There are three diesel outputs, a D150 producing 110kW and 380Nm, a D180 producing 132kW and 430Nm and the D240 which produces 177kW and 500Nm.
The two petrol options are the P250 and P300, which produce 183kW and 365Nm and 221kW and 400Nm respectively. These feed all the wheels via a nine-speed auto gearbox.
While this combination was generally fine, the E-Pace lacked some of the punch you might expect when exiting the corner.
Not because it lacked outright power in either petrol or diesel, but because it reacted a bit slower than expected. This could be anticipated and one could simply accelerate earlier, but it was a bit disconcerting.
The E-Pace’s Active Driveline all-wheel drive system aims to combine all-wheel traction with Jaguar’s traditional rear wheel drive character. The Active Driveline AWD system can transfer almost all the engine torque to the rear axle in extreme conditions.
At the rear axle, two independent electronically-controlled wetplate clutches distribute torque between the rear wheels, with the capability to direct 100% of that torque to either rear wheel in 100 milliseconds. Data from the E-pace’s vehicle sensors enables the software to analyse the driving conditions and calculate the optimum torque distribution, updating every 10 milliseconds.
The Active Driveline can then distribute torque to the rear wheel with the most available traction in an instant, enabling the vehicle to respond intelligently to different driving situations. On a safe piece of dirt we were able to get the car into a significant oversteer by just hitting the throttle and turning in.
During steady state cruising, Active Driveline disengages the AWD system, sending power only to the front axle, increasing fuel efficiency due to reduced parasitic losses. The system can re-engage AWD seamlessly within just 300 milliseconds when a change in driving conditions is detected.
The E-Pace also offers a brakebased torque vectoring option that works with the car’s AWD system to support the driver in fast on-road cornering and enhanced traction in off-road conditions.
Digital connectivity can be found throughout the cabin, ready for every need of the modern family. There are up to four 12-volt charging points and five USB connections as well as a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices.
There is an optional 12.3-inch full colour digital TFT instrument panel and choice of two premium audio systems.
Also available is a next-generation Thin-Film Transistor (TFT) Head-Up Display technology.
Every E-Pace features, as standard, the Touch Pro infotainment system, LED headlights and a rear view camera system as well as advanced driver assistance systems including Cruise Control and Speed Limiter, Front and Rear Parking Aid and Emergency Braking. On the inside the E-Pace is everything one would expect of a premium brand.
Trimmed door casings with cool touch complemented by satin chrome door handles and crafted leather-clad fascia and seat upholstery with twin-needle stitching enhance the sense of luxury. Premium leathers are used on key touch-points such as the steering wheel, centre-console grab handle and gear shifter.
The E-Pace also offers an innovative Activity Key.
The advanced wearable technology is designed for customers to use when enjoying leisure and sports activities where carrying a conventional key is not practical.
The waterproof and shockproof wristband provides secure access to the vehicle using a sensor above the rear number plate.
The Activity Key comprises an RFID transponder that sits in a robust composite moulding embedded within a rubber strap. It has no moving parts and requires no batteries.
To lock or unlock the E-Pace, customers simply perform a “digital handshake” with the vehicle, holding the wristband up to the upper lip of the numberplate surround on the tailgate.
When the Activity Key is in use, the main vehicle key fobs are disabled, rendering them useless and the vehicle immobile in the event of a break-in.
The Activity Key has been tested to withstand extreme sport conditions, such as scuba diving to a depth of 18m, and in temperatures ranging from -50o C to +85o C.
Connect Pro gives the E-Pace its own 4G Wi-Fi hotspot and allows the InControl apps installed on the user’s smartphone to be used directly through the infotainment system’s central touchscreen.
The E-Pace provides all five occupants with their own USB charging point.
Customers will have the convenience of power points across both rows of seats and the luggage compartment.
As a standard, customers receive four 12-volt charging points – located in the front console, inside the centre cubby box, rear of the centre console for second-row passengers and in the luggage space – and two USB charging points, both found within the centre cubby. If customers specify additional power sockets, the 12-volt point at the rear of the centre console is replaced with three USB charging points.
The USB points in the cubby box allow both data transfer (streaming music or video) as well as charging of devices.
Jaguar have been at a price disadvantage in South Africa due to a poor exchange rate and the fact that they are unable to earn export credits as they have no local manufacturing facility.
However the E-Pace appears to have broken that mould, and not due only to the strengthened rand.
The base level D150 will retail for R598 500, which in the premium compact SUV class is pretty competitive. The premium (HSE) spec R-Dynamic P300 will sell for R892 400 and there is just about everything in between.