From the Stelvio Pass to the Tail of the Dragon, parts of our planet still abound with curvy pavement for driving enthusiasts. However, it turns out that the French Mediterranean territory of Corsica simply out-twists them all; narrow roads wind across the island’s mountains like so much curly pasta. Why would Jaguar show off a family 4×4 here, of all places? Even in midwinter this is sports-car, not sport-ute, country. But it turns out Jaguar’s newborn thinks it’s a sports car.
Meet E, the newest member of the Pace clan. Like its sibling, the Jaguar F-Pace, the E-Pace is an all-wheel-drive crossover SUV, almost equally polished but in a compact size. Why “Pace”? William Lyons, who established the marque in 1935, decreed that all Jaguar cars would embody “grace, space, and pace.” In this case, two-and-a-half out of three ain’t bad.
The E’s ample pace — about six seconds from 0 to 60 miles per hour and a top speed around 150 while squeezing near 30 highway miles out of a gallon of gas — comes from a choice of two 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engines, one turbocharged to 246 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, the other to 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet. These rev-happy motors are connected to nine-speed automatic transmissions with finger paddles behind the steering wheel. Manual shifts are a bit slow, but the autobox programming is spot-on. With throttle pressure and occasionally flicking the pistolgrip shift lever over to Sport, firing the E-Pace (in 296HP R-Dynamic trim) from apex to apex was easy. Whatever the grade, the engine never sounded or felt strained, and gear changes were smooth and timed right. Braking and steering were accurate and linear.
Negotiating hundreds of Corsican corners also showed off the E-Pace’s available Active Drive, which can send power almost completely to either the front or the rear wheels or any combination thereof. It can even disengage the rear axle entirely and let the front wheels do the work, to cut friction and fuel burn. Then, as needed, all-wheel drive re-engages in an eyeblink. In addition, torque vectoring boosts power to the outside rear wheel to help rotate the vehicle through corners. It’s all seamless; the driver feels only grip when and where it’s needed, and neutral cornering in tight bends.
The E-Pace can also let the driver toggle between Normal, Dynamic, Eco, Rain/Snow and Custom modes, which alter the response of the all-wheel drive and the transmission, brakes, steering, suspension and throttle, and even, in Eco mode, the climate control.
Body roll is minimal, for a tall vehicle with eight inches of ground clearance, and the suspension and stiff chassis absorb bumps comfortably while keeping the vehicle pointed the right way. Even purposely sawing at the steering wheel going into a corner caused no serious problems.
The E-Pace also offers a slew of safety aids such as front and side traffic monitoring, collision warning, emergency braking, parking assist, and a gentle tug on the wheel to keep us from changing lanes if someone’s in our blind spot.
All this virtuosity, then, constitutes the E-Pace’s “grace.” Only when it comes to space does the E suffer slightly. In size and comfort, from the B pillar forward, the E-Pace is almost identical to the luxurious F-Pace; overall, however, it’s 14 inches shorter than its sibling, and the reduction is in the rear seat and cargo area. There’s still room for two tall people plus a few bags back there — just not much of it.
The E-Pace is a small SUV; but if in its internal-combustion heart it truly believes it’s a sports car or an oversize, deluxe hot hatch with some offroad chops, let’s not tell it otherwise. Singlehandedly, the F-Pace doubled Jaguar’s sales in one year; the E-Pace may well do it again.
The US edition of the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace is available in six trim levels:
- E-Pace, E-Pace S, E-Pace SE (with the 264HP engine) starting at $38,600 to $44,300 + $995 delivery
- E-Pace R-Dynamic S, SE, HSE (with the 296HP engine) starting at $47,250 to $53,100 + $995 delivery