2018 Jaguar E-Pace first drive review

It's still only a cub, but Jaguar's new E-Pace is ready to lead the pack

Jaguar’s new entry-level SUV outclasses the competition in style – and more.
Jaguar’s new entry-level SUV outclasses the competition in style – and more.
Jaguar’s new entry-level SUV outclasses the competition in style – and more.

Highs

  • Handsome, purposeful exterior styling
  • Advanced 10.0-inch infotainment comes standard
  • Active driveline enables Land Rover-like off-road capability
  • Class-leading power in both base and R-Dynamic versions
  • Spacious, stimulating cabin design

Lows

  • Segment-high starting price
  • Lower than average mpg rating

Give Jaguar’s head of design, Ian Callum, any vehicle segment, and he’ll make it alluring. That seems to be the lesson of the last few years, as the U.K. automaker converts Tata Motors’ investment into automotive currency. But sedans and sports cars, with their low-slung physiques, are far more receptive to dynamic design than tall, wheel-gapped SUVs.

Molding Jaguar’s first crossover was a challenge only Callum was equipped to handle. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine the F-Pace looking any other way. Customers seem to agree – the F-Pace has quickly become the brand’s best-selling model. Even so, Jaguar production is merely a rounding error for rivals like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The company needs another volume play.

A premium compact SUV has the potential to cement Jaguar within the luxury car conversation, but look among the current players – BMW’s X1, Mercedes-Benz’s GLA, and Audi’s Q3 – and you’ll find little evidence of inspired design. This begs the question — is an attractive compact SUV, with its stubby proportions and restrictive price point, even possible?

Callum and his team answer with the E-Pace. Cute yet fierce (not unlike a Jaguar cub), the E-Pace borrows the right styling cues from its F-Pace and F-Type family members, while introducing its own flourishes. Priced from $38,600, Jaguar’s second SUV, and new entry-point, is breathes life into an accountant-ordained segment.

Interior and tech

The E-Pace’s cabin distinctly communicates the car’s departure from the norm. Certain elements, like the thick-rimmed steering wheel, passenger grab handle, and angled dashboard, are sourced directly from the F-Type sports car. Other signatures, including the center stack’s rotary climate control dials with digital inserts, are shared with the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque (upon which the E-Pace platform is loosely based). The combination of these sporty and sumptuous elements is cohesively upscale.

There’s a fair bit of intelligence beneath the E-Pace’s striking design. A standard 10.0-inch Touch Pro infotainment system fills the center stack with stimulating visuals. The system’s tile-based layout, snappy response, and sharp resolution are segment high-points. A 12.3-inch digital driver display, an innovation traditionally reserved for upmarket models, is available in range-topping HSE R-Dynamic trims. Jaguar’s all-new, full-color, heads-up display shows speed limit, navigation, media, and engine data in the driver’s forward view. Two USB ports are standard, and up to five USB connection points are available. A standard InControl app allows users to lock/unlock, set climate control, and check fuel levels via their smartphone. A Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices, 825-watt Meridian 15-speaker sound system, and activity key (a waterproof wristband to lock/unlock the car) are optional upgrades.

On the tech front, the E-Pace overwhelms the X1, GLA, and Q3 with sophistication and convenience.

The 2018 E-Pace tiers its driver assistance systems based on trim, starting with low-speed automatic emergency braking, a backup camera, front and rear parking sensors, and lane keeping assist as standard. S models add traffic sign recognition, an adaptive speed limiter (a setting that adjusts the vehicle’s speed based on posted limits), parking assistance, a 360-degree camera, and rear cross traffic alert. SE variants include blind spot monitoring and intervention, full-speed adaptive cruise control, and high-speed automatic emergency braking. This roster of driver aids includes several class-exclusive technologies.

Though its coupe-like silhouette suggests otherwise, the E-Pace is one of the tallest vehicles in its class. Height lends itself to generous headroom for up to five passengers and impressive cargo capacity. However, long-legged rear riders may run into some issues with knee room. With the rear seats in place, the E-Pace boasts 24.2 cubic feet of space – expanding to 52.7 cu. ft. with the seats folded. Only the longer BMW X1 offers more cargo capacity.

Driving experience

The E-Pace is no sports car, but it does a fine impression of one when faced with a twisty road. As Jaguar’s first front-drive derived model of its all-new lineup, the E-Pace must conquer the physics of understeer. To do that, the SUV uses an active driveline (standard on R-Dynamic models) to shuttle torque between axles and to each rear wheel. When prodded along Corsica’s narrow, serpentine roads, the brake-based torque vectoring system detects grip (not slip) to apply power effectively. When the road straightens and your pace slows, the E-Pace can power just the front wheels to maximize fuel efficiency.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace
Miles Branman/Digital Trends
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

In an entirely different application – off-road – the E-Pace’s sophisticated all-wheel drive system ensures traction over slippery rocks, loose dirt, or bogging mud. Choosing the Rain, Ice, and Snow drive mode (one of four available settings) permits the use of Jaguar’s All Surface Progress Control (ASPC) – a gift from Land Rover’s engineering team. This system operates like low-speed cruise control, allowing drivers to focus on steering input. Though the X1, GLA, and Q3 are each offered with all-wheel drive, none of them can match the E-Pace’s all-terrain tech.

Graceful and potent on any surface, the E-Pace balances supple ride quality with precise driving dynamics.

All North American E-Pace models are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and use a new ZF nine-speed automatic transmission. Standard E-Pace SUVs deliver 246 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. R-Dynamic models add 50 hp and 26 lb-ft of torque (the same tune as Jaguar’s F-Type sports car). Regardless of tune, the E-Pace is more powerful than its key rivals, the 228-hp X1 xDrive28i, 208-hp GLA250 4Matic, and 200-hp Q3 Quattro. Balancing the scales, however, is the E-Pace’s trailing mpg ratings. At 28 highway, 21 city, and 24 combined for P250 models (27/21/23 for P300 versions), the E-Pace is down 1 mpg to the X1 and 2 mpg to the GLA in combined ratings. Only the Q3 is less efficient.

Graceful and potent on any surface, the E-Pace balances supple ride quality with precise driving dynamics.

How DT would configure this car

Jaguar says the sweet spot for most E-Pace sales will fall into the $45-$50K range, which aligns with our preferred configuration. The R-Dynamic’s active driveline and potent engine tune is exciting, but permanent all-wheel drive, a robust 246hp, and one extra combined mpg are plenty appealing. For this reason, we’d choose the standard (P250) configuration at the SE trim level ($44,300).

Included in this spec is the full driver assistance suite, 380-Watt Meridian sound system, 19-inch wheels, grained leather seats, and Wi-Fi hotspot. On top of this, we’d add the black exterior package ($220), 19-inch dark gray diamond turned wheels ($610), panoramic sunroof ($1,225), keyless entry ($565), 12.3-inch digital driver monitor ($565), head-up display ($970), and surround view camera ($360). Wrap all this in the Borasco Gray paint with a red leather interior. Final total? $48,715 (plus $995 in destination and handling).

Conclusion

Jaguar anticipates the E-Pace will be among its most popular models, with 80-percent of buyers being new to the brand. Still, the company expects its F-Pace midsize SUV to top sales charts. We have a slightly different prophecy – the E-Pace will become the automaker’s best-selling model to date, trumping even the F-Pace. Jaguar’s “cub” has the right look, technology, and price point to become a smash hit.

The German luxury brands make cookie-cutter SUVs; Jaguar sets the mold.

Product Review

Grins come standard: Mazda's 2019 MX-5 Miata will plaster a smile on your face

We take Mazda’s updated 2019 MX-5 Miata on a road trip from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco to experience the updates. With a revised engine and more power, the already awesome Miata gets even better.
Cars

Diesel isn't evil! The best diesel cars on the market do it right

When done right, a diesel engine remains an excellent option for buyers who want to save gas. Modern diesel engines are smoother, peppier, and more efficient than ever before. Here are our current favorites.
Cars

Volvo leverages the power of software to build more dynamic cars

Volvo has asked sister company Polestar to make its cars more dynamic to drive through a software update. Offered at an extra cost, the AWD optimization upgrade sends more power to the rear wheels when the driver turns on dynamic mode.
Product Review

The 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback lets you have your 444-hp cake and eat it, too

Audi expanded the RS 5 family with a high-performance sedan named Sportback. It stands out from rivals like the BMW M3 with a shapely fastback-like silhouette, and it surfs the downsizing wave with a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 in lieu…
Cars

How to watch Formula 1 online

There are plenty of Formula 1 races every year, many of which take place in some of the most beautiful cities in the world. Check out our brief guide on how to watch Formula 1 online, if you're looking to keep up on the action.
Smart Home

Kroger supermarket chain tests driverless grocery deliveries in Arizona

Kroger and autonomous delivery innovator Nuro began a pilot program in Scottdale, Arizona, for grocery home deliveries with Prius cars to test the self-driving concept. The first tests do not use the purpose-built Nuro vehicle.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: inflatable backpacks and robotic submarines

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Whistleblower says a drug-peddling Mexican cartel thrives in Tesla’s Gigafactory

A former Tesla employee says the firm covered up links between some of its workers and a Mexican drug cartel, spied on its employees by wiretapping their phones, and failed to report a $37 million theft. Tesla denies the claims.
Cars

Redesigned 2019 Subaru Forester crossover starts at $25K, hits showrooms in fall

The 2019 Subaru Forester hits showrooms this fall with more tech than ever, including a system that uses facial recognition to detect driver fatigue. Pricing starts at $25,270, but goes up to $34,295 for the top Touring model.
Cars

Lack of domestic battery production could short German automakers’ EV plans

As automakers ramp up efforts to produce more electric and hybrid vehicles, this has increased the demand for battery production. However, analysts fear some companies could struggle with this demand, specifically German car companies.
Cars

Nvidia ‘more than happy to help’ if Tesla’s self-driving chip doesn’t pan out

After Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the intention to use an in-house Autopilot chip, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang responded to an analyst's question, saying that if the Tesla chip doesn't work out, he'd be more than happy to help.
Cars

A bit of patchwork can have you back on the road

Flat tires often come at the worst possible time. Whether you're fixing a flat tire or replacing it, our step-by-step how-to guide will help you get your car back on the road with time to spare.
Cars

Bugatti’s new Divo will be light, nimble, and sharp as a scalpel

Bugatti doesn't introduce a new model very often. When it does, the whole industry sits up and takes notice. Named Divo, the firm's next car will arrive in August as a light, nimble model inspired by race cars built in the 1920s.
News

Saudi Arabia could save billions by financing a would-be Tesla killer

Anonymous sources have revealed Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund could invest $1 billion into Lucid Motors, an 11-year-old company that aims to take down Tesla. Elon Musk hopes the same fund will help him privatize Tesla.