Car News: 4-Paw Flair
Despite an odd mix of elements, the new Jaguar E-PACE compact SUV is an out-and-out success.
The excitement was palpable among the throngs of stylishly attired Jaguar staffers at the new E-PACE SUV’s global launch on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Love was in the air as the newest Jaguar’s designers gushed over its sinuous lines and the chassis engineers raved about its cat-like responses (cringe), all while pound signs flashed in the eyes of the marketers. Any experienced motoring editor will tell you this happens on every launch; it is important to sift through the waffle to unearth the true narrative, ugly as it sometimes is.
In the case of the E-PACE, that complicated plot includes contemporary bodywork stretched over a rugged, heavy chassis; class-competitive 2.0-litre turbocharged engines that have a lot of weight to shift; and generous specs but at bullish pricing.
Up-close, however, the E-PACE is more than the sum of its discordant parts. Borrowing styling cues from Jaguar’s gung-ho F-TYPE sports car, specifically the design of those swept-back headlamps and wide, shallow tail lights, the E-PACE looks unlike anything else in its market segment (which includes the equally striking BMW X2, and Land Rover’s own Range Rover Evoque)… and that’s a very good thing.
Jump inside and the athletic inspirations continue. Here is a sturdy grab handle for the front passenger to steady himself during passionate piloting; there you’ll find a pistol-grip gear lever straight out of a Hollywood fighter jet.
Thankfully, the cockpit not only looks great but works a treat too. The touchscreen entertainment system is a complete doddle to master, seating comfort is tops (although the pews feel unyielding at first), and interior space is generous considering the modest exterior proportions.
Jaguar SA offers the E-PACE locally with a choice of five engines, various trim grades and a single nine-speed automatic ’box. Prices range from R600 000 to R900 000, although the sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle with the D240 in second-tier S grade, which has all the toys you could want. It’s the model I drove most in Corsica and liked best. It rode beautifully, steered fluently, was quiet at speed and frugal in-between stops at the diesel pumps.
Those Jaguar staffers predicted the E-PACE would become the brand’s biggest global seller before year-end. Based on this first impression of the SUV, and despite its curious mix of parts-bin elements, this proud British brand has every right to be confident. jaguar.co.za
TEXT Terence Steenkamp PHOTOGRAPH Supplied