2018 Jaguar E-Pace First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Jaguar E-Pace First Drive

Jag's Smallest SUV Offers Luxury and Performance ... for a Price

When Jaguar introduced its F-Pace for the 2017 model year, the sporty SUV quickly became the company's best-selling vehicle. Now Jaguar is hoping to follow up on this success with the smaller E-Pace, a compact sport-utility designed to compete with the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA, not to mention the E-Pace's corporate cousin, the Range Rover Evoque.

We recently had a chance to drive the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace, and we came away impressed. The all-new E-Pace offers the stylish modern interior, extensive list of technology features, and sporty driving dynamics that you expect from a Jaguar, as well as an impressive dimension of day-to-day practicality. The Jaguar E-Pace is proof that you can pack a lot of car into a compact SUV.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

The Little Big Cat
Jaguar wanted to imbue its small SUV with a sense of fun and sportiness, so it has borrowed some styling cues from the F-Type sports car. Outside the vehicle, this comes across in the headlights and taillights that have now become standard styling language for new Jaguars, while the interior expresses this spirit in the conventional shift lever on the center console (replacing the dial-type control found in the F-Pace) as well as in the installation of a passenger-side grab handle.

Once you take a seat, the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace feels like a car, not an SUV. The sheet metal's beltline is relatively high, so you feel as though you're sitting low in the vehicle, and the steering wheel and instrument cluster are closer to your line of sight, as they would be in a sports car. And yet while the styling suggests small and sporty, as compact SUVs go, the E-Pace is roomy on the inside. In particular, the back seat provides enough legroom for adults, though headroom will be tight for taller passengers. Overall, this family-friendly rear-seat packaging is a big improvement over something like the Mercedes-Benz GLA.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

A lot of thought has been put into the overall utility of the E-Pace's interior as well. Jaguar has managed to squeeze in quite a bit of small-item storage inside the cabin, with generous door pockets and cubbies for the front seat. Thanks to smart packaging, there's also a good amount of usable cargo space. The E-Pace boasts 52.7 cubic feet of cargo volume with the second-row seat folded flat and 24.2 cubic feet with it in place, capacity that bests most rivals, although the BMW X1 offers a bit more thanks to its boxier shape.

Of course, not all the E-Pace's big numbers are wins. The slick design belies this Jaguar's curb weight, which comes in hundreds of pounds more than its class rivals at over 4,000 pounds.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

Power and Performance
While several powertrain options will be available for overseas versions of the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace, the U.S. edition of this sporty SUV features only two engine alternatives. Both powertrain configurations feature a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a nine-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. The base engine for the standard E-Pace produces 246 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, while the more powerful alternative in the E-Pace R-Dynamic makes 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft.

Jaguar claims a 0-60 time of 6.6 seconds for the standard E-Pace with the base engine; the R-Design with the optional engine reaches that mark in 5.9 seconds. These are respectable numbers in this class of prestige-oriented compact SUVs, although the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA45 remains the quickest with a 4.3-second sprint.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

The 2018 Jaguar E-Pace also features all-wheel drive as standard equipment. This all-wheel-drive setup can redistribute power front and rear according to driving conditions. Meanwhile, the R-Dynamic's Active Driveline system also features multiple clutch packs to deliver more active control of the rear wheels. In this configuration the system can change the power split between both rear wheels for sportier handling or lock the rear wheels together for better traction.

All trim levels of the E-Pace come with All Surface Progress Control, which combines the all-wheel-drive and cruise control systems into an effective, low-speed off-road assistant. Just set the speed you want and the E-Pace will crawl up and down slippery slopes, leaving the driver to focus on steering a safe path. You can thank Jaguar's relationship to Land Rover for this little piece of traction-control trickery.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

In our brief time with a 2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic, we were especially impressed with its speedy performance. The turbocharged 296-hp engine proved eager, the quick-shifting nine-speed transmission was responsive, and the electric power-assisted steering felt natural and accurate. Overall, the R-Dynamic delivered on its promise of a sporty and rewarding driving experience. We also had a chance to try out the All Surface Progress Control system, which inspired confident driving by powering us across slick, muddy hills without slipping, although there were occasional lengthy pauses while the electronics calibrated the traction control for changes in the surface. Still, if we were given the choice between waiting for the computerized brain to sort itself out and being stuck in the mud, we'll take the wait.

Unfortunately, we didn't have the time or conditions to properly put the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic through a comprehensive driving test, so our final verdict will have to wait. But we came away favorably impressed, and we're thinking that the R-Dynamic will prove an inviting offering for compact SUV buyers looking for a sporty alternative. At the same time, the use of 20-inch tires by the R-Dynamic in HSE trim delivers crisp steering and upgraded cornering dynamics, but the price is a harsh ride even at city speeds. Those who prefer a comfort-oriented experience should keep this in mind and choose one of the other wheel-and-tire combinations.

Luxury and Technology
The interior of the top-tier E-Pace R-Dynamic HSE that we drove also proved upscale and appealing thanks to attractive design, quality materials and well-integrated technology. To begin with, our tester came equipped with 18-way power-adjustable leather seats that are both heated and ventilated. In place of a traditional gauge cluster, you'll find a 12.3-inch display screen, plus a color head-up display. And there is a complete suite of driver aids and active safety features. Meanwhile, the infotainment system features a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone connectivity, app integration and Wi-Fi.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

Jaguar's Touch Pro infotainment system can be a bit of mixed bag, but this might be its best iteration yet. Some basic functions are accessible via physical buttons and the rest are relatively easy to find via the streamlined touchscreen interface, so we didn't find the system overly distracting to use. We're also happy to see Android Auto and Apple CarPlay finally make an appearance in a Jaguar. Overall, the E-Pace's interior design and technology feel very modern, and it's approaching the standard set by Audi's Virtual Cockpit (available on the 2018 Audi Q3 starting in 2018).

We'll be interested to get our hands on lower trim versions of the Jaguar E-Pace with cloth and grained leather upholstery, but we can report that the Windsor leather upholstery proves pleasantly soft. We also prefer the ergonomics of the E-Pace interior to those of the F-Pace since the smaller E-Pace strikes a more natural balance between comfortable carlike familiarity and SUV-style utility. For example, we appreciate the more usable armrests and found the steering wheel to be better positioned in front of the driver.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

On the whole, the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace unquestionably offers a luxury experience. And it delivers a satisfying performance-oriented experience in its R-Dynamic configuration. As ever, though, it's important to choose the right kind of wheel-and-tire combination for the sort of driving you prefer.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

Pricing and Fuel Economy
The base 2018 Jaguar E-Pace starts at $39,595. For this price you're getting the 246-horsepower engine, cloth upholstery, manual front seats and 17-inch wheels. You still get active safety features, All Surface Progress Control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, automatic headlights, and the infotainment system with its 10-inch touchscreen system (though without smartphone connectivity). The 296-horsepower R-Dynamic line starts at $47,250 with the R-Dynamic S, which upgrades to leather upholstery, power seats and 18-inch wheels. The range-topping HSE we drove came in at $54,095.

At launch, a special First Edition trim will be available for the E-Pace. This comes with the 246-horsepower engine, 21-inch wheels, unique paint options and interior trim, and all of the upgraded equipment otherwise found in the HSE. The E-Pace First Edition will cost $54,545. These prices make the E-Pace one of the most expensive vehicles in the segment, with the highest cost of entry and a top trim that's more expensive than most anything but a loaded Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA45. While we suspect the demand exists for high-end compact SUVs, we'll have to wait and see to find out if this pricing scale works out for Jaguar.

The E-Pace returns an EPA-estimated 21 mpg combined with both engines; you get 24 city/28 highway with the base engine and 23 city/27 highway with the R-Dynamic powerplant. These numbers fall a bit short of class leaders' figures but are still competitive.

Stay tuned to Edmunds for our rating and review of the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace, just as soon as we can get one into our office for a full test.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

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