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Larry Printz: Meet Jaguar's future bestseller: the 2018 E-Pace

Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons famously insisted that his products possess grace, pace and space, qualities that have long defined the brand, including its midsize luxury crossover, the F-Pace, which debuted in 2016. Since then it's become the brand's bestseller with sales up 89 percent in 2017. Now comes the F-Pace's compact companion, the E-Pace, which should meet with equal or greater success, no doubt due to its sporty styling and $38,600 starting price.

And while you might think that the E-Pace is the brand's new electric crossover, guess again; it's a gas-gulping compact, like the Jaguar XE sedan. (The forthcoming I-Pace will be electric powered.)

The E-Pace competes with other entry-level luxury compact crossovers, an increasingly large field of small vehicles that include the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and X2, Infiniti QX30, Lexus NX, Lincoln MKC, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and the Volvo XC40.

Certainly the E-Pace manages to look like a junior Jaguar without resembling a pigmy. Its sinuous beltline and sleek greenhouse offset a thick lower section and upright front end. A sculpted hood accents the front grille and then sweeps back to the greenhouse, which rests atop this vehicle's muscular haunches. It lends this little niblet a sportier feel than its larger stablemate.

But unlike the F-Pace, which shares its platform with the XF and XE sedans, the E-Pace borrows its underpinnings from the Range Rover Evoque, including the Evoque's front-biased all-wheel drive, not the F-Pace's rear-biased all-wheel drive. Also, the platform uses more steel than aluminum, although the suspension does make extensive use of it. Nevertheless, the E-Pace remains heavier than its sibling although it's nearly as fast, with a 5.9-second 0-60 mph time.

Credit the Jaguar-developed Ingenium turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which is offered in two states of tune with 296 horsepower on R-Dynamic S, SE and HSE models, and 246 horsepower on base, S and SE models. Both mate to a nine-speed automatic transmission. As mentioned, all E-Paces have all-wheel drive, and the system can send nearly all power to the front or rear axles. But R-Dynamic models get an added feature that attempts to lend a rear-drive feel by reducing understeer and inducing oversteer by sending torque to either the left or right rear wheels. This helps turn the car through corners more effectively.

Testing an S R-Dynamic model revealed that there's more than enough power to test your ability at maintaining legal speed limits, especially when you're having so much fun. Steering is quick. Toss this kitty into a corner and you'll find that it remains composed and comfortable, although you will notice body lean. Push too aggressively, and there's a very convenient grab handle for the front seat passenger integrated between the instrument panel and center console.

The firm suspension telegraphs the E-Pace's sporty intent, although longtime Jaguar aficionados will miss the compliance common to older models. While this allows the E-Pace to handle like the sports cars with which it allegedly shares DNA, it transforms off-road activities into a vertebrae-shattering experience. Even adjusting the drive mode to comfort seems to keep much of the E-Pace's sporting handling intact.

Thankfully, the interior is blessedly quiet.

Seats are firm, comfortable and endowed with good side bolstering to keep you in place during aggressive maneuvers – and there will be aggressive maneuvers. The front seats prove roomy, but the rear seats are noticeably lacking in legroom – typical of this class. It seems the extra space went to the cargo hold and its impressive 24.2 cubic feet of space.


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