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First road test 2018 Jaguar E-PACE

The desire for self-expression is strong in this second decade of the 21st century. One of the most obvious ways to express oneself is through fashion. Projecting the desired image can also be done with accessories and this is essentially what cars like the new Jaguar E-PACE have become.

2018 Jaguar E-PACE

I am certainly not undermining the worth of the vehicle. In fact, in its segment, it has become one of my personal favorites for reasons of both capability and styling. Engineers and designers must meet in the middle when creating a new product and in companies such as JLR and Volvo, where development teams are small, creating such well-rounded and all-encompassing vehicles is by all accounts a reality.

Jaguar learned a great deal about their potential through their immense success with the F-PACE. In no time, or uncertain terms, it has become the brand’s sales leader and to a certain extent, flagship model. The E-PACE will launch on the F-PACE’s coattails but will create its own waves in little time.

Appeal, and desirability

The E-PACE is its own vehicle. Jaguar designers had considered building a scaled-down F-PACE but that would have hurt the compact CUV’s chance at standing on its own two paws. The fact that the E-PACE is unique yet instantly recognizable as a Jaguar is key.

The overall influence for the 2018 E-PACE was sourced from the F-Type. The chamfered front fascia with J-Blade front headlights looks far too playful in my opinion but this was the idea. In Adam Hatton’s, Creative Director Exterior Design, own words, the E-Pace is the Jag cub. Think big paws and a smaller body. It’s cheeky, and playful. This is in stark contrast with the rear end which is taut, far less “cute” and thus very Jaguar.

Available wheel sizes will range up to 21” and when mixed with the absence of body overhangs, the position of said wheels to all four corners is accentuated. The final result is immeasurably handsome, enough to sway buyers over from the BMW X2, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40 and others.

Well-tailored

Climbing aboard the E-PACE is akin to dropping into the F-Type. There is no sense that this is an affordable $42,700 compared to a $58,900 XF. The attention to details, fit, finish and materials are ideal. Depending on trims and options, the E-PACE can include:

InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with large user-friendly 10” touchscreen, optional 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, and available 12.3” TFT driver display and Head-Up Display are available.

Space upfront is generous whereas the rear bench, although it can take two adults, will probably serve as an extra storage spot to compliment the large front compartments and door pockets. The trunk is better than decent at 577 litres.

The destination

The combination of the E-PACE’s dynamic and sporty exterior with its premium luxurious cabin is complimented by a powertrain that meets and surpasses expectations.

Canada settles for two petrol versions of the Ingenium family of turbocharged 4-cylinder 2,0-litre engines. Outputs vary between a 246-horsepower and a 296-horsepower version. Both are mated to a respective AWD system and to a 9-speed ZF automatic transmission.

While the 246-hp iteration rides on a simple permanent AWD system, the tested 296-hp R-Dynamic relies on Jag’ Active Driveline AWD setup. This system has torque-biasing capability that can shift practically all the torque front or rear. Its clever functionality allows it to run solely as a FWD but then re-engage AWD. In day-to-driving, the system sorts itself out, assuring its most effective mode is doing its thing. Spirited driving connects all four wheels for guaranteed grip and performance.

The R-Dynamic is unexpectedly swift. The 9-speed auto is quick on the ball while the 2.0-litre produces all its torque at very low engine speeds. You might catch yourself cruising at speeds far greater than the posted limit if you’re not careful.

Even though the E-PACE is small, it rides with dignity and comfort. The JaguarDrive Control modes (ECO, Normal, Dynamic) tailor the driving experience but for maximum enjoyment, moving the transmission over to Sport, and leaving the drive mode in Normal, is best suited for spirited driving on less than perfect roads. The adjustable dampers could firm up a little too much for your liking.

On top of this, the wee E-PACE will never back down from an off-roading adventure. Despite the road-biased Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires, the Jag can make its way up and over wet rocks, and slippery mud. It’ll even cross a shallow river should flash-flooding be a thing in your area.

An E-PACE in your parking spot

The E-PACE will capture the attention of new and undecided buyers. Its appeal and the brand’s current image are draws that are difficult to overlook and overcome. Jaguar expects that 80% of E-PACE buyers will be new to the brand and I think it’ll work. The competition is this segment is fierce but the Jag’s hip, yet old school, aura is as contemporary as reclaimed barn-wood panels.

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