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Jaguar E-Pace review: Claws and effect
JAGUAR knows how to do sports cars, and Land Rover knows its off-roaders. Lock the two in a nice room with some candles and saxophone music, wait for the inevitable fusion of their DNA, and the E-Pace is the eventual result.
The new baby has the basic bone structure of a Range Rover Evoque, upon which you'll find the graceful looks of a modern day Jaguar.
As for its name, the "E" might suggest that it runs on some sort of battery power, but it's there because "E" comes before "F", which tells you that the E-Pace is a smaller car than Jaguar's other Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), the F-Pace.
Jaguar rather affectionately calls the E-Pace its "cub", which is either the reason for or the result of a number of whimsical details around the car, all designed to make you go "Awww!" For example, there's a little graphic on the windscreen that shows the silhouette of a mother Jaguar with an adorably big-eared baby in tow. The same graphic makes an appearance at night, when it's beamed onto the road by some lamps in the wing mirrors.
Inside, some storage bins are lined with rubber mats that have a Jaguar's spots on them, and even the airbag tags have a pattern like the big cat's coat.
As if to reinforce the idea, the E-Pace even looks a bit cub-like. Unlike the slender items on the F-Pace, this car has large, pulled-back headlamps that almost resemble large, juvenile eyes. And for a small car, its wheels are enormous, sort of like the oversized paws you'll find on a cub.
You won't find the massive 20-inch wheels seen here on every E-Pace, mind you. They're part of a "First Edition" pack, a S$32,000 bundle of options only available for the first year of the E-Pace's production.
The big wheels are nice enough, but early birds are rewarded in other ways; the First Edition variant comes with such goodies as a panoramic glass roof, configurable cabin lights and a head-up display system. Its cabin headlining is trimmed in a suede-like material, and the leather seats have racy red stitching.
While it all looks nice and sporty, what counts is that the E-Pace has the hot blood to live up to its hot looks. The First Edition model has a 2.0-litre turbo engine with a not-inconsiderable 249 horsepower to call upon, and even though the baby Jag weighs a hefty 1.8 tonnes, it bounds along with an endearing exuberance. The engine unleashes its stuff in a sort of flood, so much so that the Jaguar feels like it has a cat-like way of coiling up for a moment before pouncing at the horizon.
At high revs, the engine does run short of puff, but there's a 300 horsepower model to consider if you're that much of a speed junkie.
Modern turbo four-cylinder engines all tend to sound the same, but the Jaguar's new "Ingenium" engine has a fairly distinctive soundtrack, and it emits enough of a growl that you're unlikely to ever feel as if the E-Pace is the sort of car that prefers being curled up for a nap to being regularly prodded in the hindquarters.
To go with the high-spirited acceleration, the Jaguar has an admirable willingness to tackle a few bends. It's a tall and heavy car, but it seems to have forgotten the fact, gamely zipping through corners with enough playfulness to make you smile. The E-Pace doesn't muster huge amounts of grip from the tyres, but there's something endearing about a car that's willing to give it everything it's got when you want to drive fast.
That aspect of its personality is definitely from the Jaguar side of the family. The controls and displays are all focused around the driver, and the cabin looks vaguely related to that of Jaguar's F-Type sports car.
That's not to say that it's cramped inside, for it isn't. There's a surprising amount of headroom for rear passengers, and the interior is well-appointed for family use. At the back there are no fewer than three USB charging ports (which is a very Land Rover thing to do), and stowage bins are both large and numerous around the cabin.
The boot doesn't look big, but it somehow manages to accept 484 litres of stuff. The E-Pace may not be a large car, but it's a practical one.
Like any car, of course, it does have its irritations. In some conditions, the shiny plastic around the gear lever bounces a huge amount of sunlight directly into your face. And some of the cabin plastics don't feel very premium (try fondling the gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel when you're in the showroom, for instance).
Yet, this is a car that you'll buy more for its personality than how posh it feels inside. Jaguar seems to have lavished genuine effort and affection on the E-Pace, and the result is a car that's both playful and practical. Compact SUVs from premium brands are all over the place now, but that's exactly why the E-Pace is here - to tempt buyers who might not have considered a Jaguar until now.
It has the cute looks and sparkling personality to do it, but the fact that it fills a gap in the more affordable end of the Jaguar range must help, too. Nothing brings excitement to a family like a new baby, after all.
Jaguar E-Pace 2.0 First Edition
Engine 1,997cc, 16V, turbo in-line four
Power 249hp at 5,500rpm
Torque 365Nm at 1,200 to 4,500rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 230km/h
0-100km/h 7.0 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.7L/100km
Price S$225,999 including Certificate Of Entitlement
Agent Wearnes Automotive