The luxury subcompact SUV segment is among the fastest growing for new cars. Every year, more and more examples of the Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class dart American roads.
The 2018 Jaguar E-Pace seeks to add a bit more flare and excitement into this segment, backed up by brisk performance and the legit multi-surface all-wheel-drive tech that some of these rivals lack.
Though positioned as the smaller sibling to the F-Pace, it is actually inspired by the F-Type sports car. You can see it in the bulging hood, sleek headlights, and fender lines that run through the haunches to the rear. Perhaps the hardest F-Type-inspired element to pull off is that rear end. It has a sloping rear window that finishes with a wedge-like rear deck. Factor in the rear wheels pushed far to the corners, and it is visually stunning.
The color of our test model was Caesium Blue, and the digital images do not do this color justice. It “pops” in any light, and is complemented by silver wheels and red brake calipers.
The cabin of the E-Pace is also inspired by the F-Type, including the “gun-handle”-style shifter and the cowl-like, driver-focused cockpit layout. A character line divides the right side of the center console from the front passenger side of the dash. It also provides a grip handle.
Trims for the E-Pace are S, SE, and HSE. Our S test model was fitted with well-bolstered leather seats, five USB ports, and a pocket perfectly sized for a tablet device. There was also a cubby in the center stack for a cell phone, and in-door storage bins that were huge for a car of this size.
Our test model also featured options such as heated and cooled seats, a large fixed panoramic moonroof, heads-up display, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices, and a hands-free power tailgate.
Another notable option was the 12.3-inch touchscreen. It is easy to use, has large icons and fonts, and has the added bonus of a warm, vibrant color scheme. Just as crucially, the stereo features an actual volume knob.
The E-Pace is powered by a 2-liter turbocharged engine, and it’s available in two variants, each with different output. The PS250 model puts out 246 horsepower, while the PS300 generates 296 horsepower, an impressive amount of motivation for the humble four-cylinder engine.
Power is sent through a capable nine-speed automatic to all-wheel drive. This all-wheel-drive system can be upgraded with an active driveline system, which features torque vectoring. While some crossovers rely on the anti-lock braking system for traction, the active driveline can put full power to any of the four wheels individually.
To the left of the shifter is the drive-mode selector. Normal is the default, but it also includes Dynamic, ECO, and Rain/Ice/Snow. The E-Pace is already quite lively in Comfort, but Dynamic sharpens its claws just a bit more.
Steering was exceptionally well weighted and even provides feedback. Turn-in is quick, and the turning radius is very tight — a necessity for city driving. The E-Pace provides a lovely combination of absorbing bumps in the road, yet it maintains minimal body roll in corners. This is most certainly a “drivers’ crossover.”
Base MSRP for the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace is $38,600, which is competitive. Our test model clocked in at around $57,000 and featured high-tech safety features such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and intelligent emergency braking. Most models will likely cost around $45,000 to $50,000.
Jaguar hopes to attract many new buyers to the brand, either from rivals or as first-time luxury SUV buyers. The well-equipped base model should help to accomplish this by rewarding drivers with a truly engaging experience and a visual presence that stands out in this highly competitive segment.