Jaguar E-Pace P300: Driven

No, your eyes do not deceive you: it's a compact SUV. Worse still, it's a compact SUV with a transverse four-cylinder engine that spends a good deal of time being front-wheel drive. It's also based on a steel platform that can trace its heritage back at least a decade. Oh and it has a Jaguar badge. Insult, injury etc etc.

But hang on; stow the pitchforks and down the torches for a moment. Let's shuffle back and see it from Gaydon's point of view. The E-Pace - the smaller, cheaper follow-up to the F-Pace - is wholly necessary. In case you hadn't noticed, the buying public rather likes small SUVs, and it likes the idea of them being upmarket, too. The F-Pace is the most successful Jaguar at launch ever: the firm expects its sequel to follow suit.

Also - and Jaguar is most insistent on this point - it has been done properly. According to Gaydon, this is the sports car of the class; a performance SUV built on the firm's trademark principles. To that end, atop the stock choice of Ingenium oil burners, it has made the 300hp 2.0-litre petrol unit available in this, the P300 - and mated it to the same GKN all-wheel drive system that Ford deployed to great effect in the Focus RS.

Then there's the styling, which works hard to incorporate as many F-Type design cues as possible. It looks good, too; even robbed of the normal Jaguar proportions, Ian Callum's idea of a compact SUV is far more visually appealing than, say, an Audi Q3 - and it's a similar story inside, where the F-Type's 'bayonet' gear lever migrates into a cabin that is slightly heavy on the matt plastic finish, but steadfastly handsome with it.

For a fair proportion of its intended customers, that will probably be sufficient to convince them that all is well with the E-Pace - and, driven without much intent, the car's concessionary chassis balance is unlikely to unsettle the notion. No prizes for guessing that there's a Range Rover Evoque under the Jaguar costume (and, consequently - more distantly - a Freelander too) but the new model's hardware is not unaltered.

Pursuing gains in steering precision, Gaydon has altered the front subframe mountings, making them rigid in places, and installed the same integral-link rear suspension that features on Jaguar's saloon cars: the idea being that the model be made to feel more like an XE, and less manifestly like a Land Rover product.

To a degree, the ruse comes off. With the electric-powered steering at 2.5 turns lock-to-lock and Pirelli P-Zeros replacing the Evoque's all-terrain tyres on 20-inch wheels, the E-Pace is plainly a more agile and dynamically composed prospect than its sibling. Sharper would be the umbrella term - and thanks to the petrol engine, nippier too.

As a small, seemly, spry SUV it therefore works. What it does not do, sadly, is elevate the performance benchmark for such a car in a way that might be reasonably expected of a highfalutin £50k, 300hp option - or, more importantly, embed itself in your conscientiousness as an honest to goodness Jaguar. That it doesn't is partly a legacy issue with the platform, and partly a foreseeable foible of the breed - which both amount to about the same thing.

Certainly two things are readily apparent: the E-Pace is too heavy, and - on the passive suspension that will be standard until adaptive dampers arrive next year - it does not ride well enough. By 'well enough' I mean with the consistent poise and long-striding comfort that is synonymous with the brand. Its compliance is fragile and too easily unsettled; a symptom of the stiffening that has necessarily occurred in the chassis to remedy the effects of a raised roll centre on the handling.

While this is clearly a case of quid pro quo, the E-Pace's 1,894kg of kerbweight is less forgivable. Nudging well beyond two tonnes with a single passenger aboard is troubling for any small SUV - and downright distressing for one harbouring performance aspirations. For point of reference, the outgoing Audi RS Q3 - with a larger five-cylinder engine and its own version of a bygone platform - is over 160kg lighter than the Jaguar.

For all Gaydon's undoubted talent in juggling mass (and there is arguably no-one better) the task here is plainly onerous. The E-Pace has been gifted the heightened responses that make it seem more incisive up to a point, but it's never more than two corners away from feeling laboured in that hard-on-the-brakes way that tends to suck the enjoyment from driving it enthusiastically.

And while there's a tenacity in the active driveline, and a palpable sensation of the torque being shuffled around by the clutch packs at the back, the Ingenium motor is not in the business of flinging you up the road like the Q3's five-pot would. Meaning that the driver of a £50k, 300hp E-Pace would not even see the direction in which a £47k, 381hp GLA45 AMG went.

That's a shame of course, because with the spotlight shone objectively elsewhere, the Jaguar is a far more likeable car than the Mercedes. And though there maybe a little too much lardy Evoque left in the blood stream, its Land Rover sibling is the prime example of a small SUV selling on conceptual appeal above all else. The E-Pace has a similar sort of desirability on tap. But sporting talent? Not so much.


Engine: 1,998cc, 4-cyl
Transmission: 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 300@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@1,500-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 6.4sec
Top speed: 151mph
Weight: 1,894kg (EU)
MPG: 35.3 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 181g/km
Price: £50,710











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Comments (105) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Bright Halo 19 Nov 2017

    Looks good but £50K!

  • Nutty9000 19 Nov 2017

    How is it 30 kg heavier than an F-Pace 3.0d? Is it made of ununseptium?

  • Hang On 19 Nov 2017

    How completely stupid to ship a school-run SUV on Summer only tyres.

  • Burwood 19 Nov 2017

    Finally, car reviewers are telling the truth about jag/Land Rover. This is another example of a premium price for a not so premium car.

  • had ham 19 Nov 2017

    'Then there's the styling'

    What styling? It's as utterly forgetful and anodyne as every other Jag, inside and out.

    It's a shame, as I really want to like Jag, but they keep churning out such blandness like this.

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