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2018 Jaguar E-PACE P250 AWD R-Dynamic S – New Car Review – Jaguar’s kitten SUV

2018 Jaguar E-PACE P250 AWD R-Dynamic S – New Car Review – Jaguar’s kitten SUV

With small SUVs making huge waves in the market, Jaguar had a problem; they didn’t have one.

Then out came the E-PACE to fill the void. A few months back, we went along to the launch of the Jaguar E-PACE, and came away with mixed feelings. Only a week-long test was going to bring in a final verdict on Jaguar’s smallest SUV, and second cheapest vehicle in the Jaguar range.

This week we’ve been in the E-PACE. Is it an alternative to the Audi Q3 (which we have yet to review), the Mercedes-Benz GLA250 or the  Volvo XC40?

Time to find out, as Jaguar sent us a petrol-turbo version of the R-Dynamic S.

The Range

There’s something for everyone in the E-PACE range, with three models and each model having a petrol or diesel option (except the top-spec model).

All E-PACEs are all-wheel drive (AWD), which is a great standard safety feature. All feature the same 9-speed automatic gearbox.

Entry to the range is with the E-PACE S, with either a D150 diesel-turbo engine, or the P250 turbo-petrol motor. The D150 engine outputs 110kW of power and a good 380Nm of torque gets to 100km/h in 10.5 seconds, and costs $69,900. The P250 makes 184kW of power and 365Nm of torque and reaches 100km/h in a good 7.0 seconds. That model is priced at $74,900.

Next model in the range is the E-PACE R-Dynamic S (tested). This has a D180 diesel engine or the same P250 petrol motor. The diesel outputs 132kW and a massive 430Nm, getting it to 100km/h in 9.3 seconds. This is priced at $79,900 and so is the petrol version.

Top of the tree is the E-PACE R-Dynamic SE, with either the P250 or P300 petrol motor. The P300 makes 221kW of power and 400Nm of torque. The P300 will get you to 100km/h in just 6.4 seconds. The P250 version of this model retails at $84,900 while the P300 is $89,900.

The features in the base model include heated washer jets and windscreen, LED rear lights, rear fog lights, heated and power folding door mirrors with approach lights and auto dimming, two zone AC, a leather steering wheel, All Surface Progress Control (ASPC), 10-way electric heated front seats, hill start assist, LED headlights, auto dimming rearview mirror, Park Pack (which includes a 360 degree camera, rear traffic monitor and park assist), SatNav, Wi-Fi hotspot capability, keyless start, a 10” touchscreen, a 125-watt sound system, 18” alloys, cruise control with speed limiter, driver condition monitor, lane keep assist, and a rear view camera.

To this list, the R-Dynamics adds in satin chrome side vents, body coloured door claddings, an R-Dynamic body kit, gloss black grille with satin chrome surround, 19” alloys, twin tailpipes, front fog lights, ebony grained leather sports seats with contrasting stitching, R-Dynamics soft grain steering wheel and satin black gearshift paddles, ebony Morzine headlining, metal tread plates with R-Dynamics script and bright metal pedals.

The SE model ups the ante with auto high beams, an electric tailgate, keyless entry, 14-way heated electric front seats, a 380-watt Meridian sound system, and the Drive Pack (which includes adaptive cruise control with Queue Assist, high speed emergency braking and blind spot detection).

As seems to be the norm with any European, there’s a huge amount of optional packs and items you can buy for your E-PACE. This includes 9 different wheel options, 18-way electric seats with heating and cooling, digital TV, and all sorts of exterior trim options. One of the brochures for the E-PACE runs to 80 pages.

First Impressions

The advertising tagline for the new E-PACE is, “Drive like everyone’s watching”. Does it pull it off? Finished in Caesium Blue, our E-PACE looked good, if not bordering on stunning, and I got lots of comments during the week on the design. Most people loved the back of the car, which looks like a small F-PACE, and most liked the front design too. I’m not sold on the front personally, there’s just too much black plastic honeycomb for my liking.

Still, it is fresh and different overall, and that’s a good thing.

There’s also some quirky little design touches here and there, all reflecting Jaguar, including the mother and cub Jaguar on the front windscreen.

There’s some unfashionably high-profile tyres on those 19” rims, but they still suit the overall look. One thing that kept coming back to me was the height of the car – it may be a small SUV, but it sits right up there with medium SUVs in traffic.

The  twin exhaust tips sticking out of the rear valance is a nice touch too – the back of the E-PACE is definitely its best view.

The Inside

You’d think the inside of any Jaguar would be pretty special, and on first look the E-PACE does catch your eye. The contrasting blue stitching on the console, doors, dash and seats of our test car looked great, and the quality of that stitching and the whole interior is top class.

The rest of the interior is totally black – seats, carpets, headlining, door panels. I think I’d be opting for the panoramic sunroof, as it does lighten the interior hugely (some cars on the launch had this).

The steering wheel is another eye-catcher – small, leather, sporty and with lots of buttons. It felt great to the touch, and is one of the best steering wheels I’ve used for a while, for general feel and comfort.

And then you look around the steering wheel to the instrument binnacle. This is where the E-PACE is really let down, and I mentioned this during the launch too. It’s all hard, black plastic, and looks and feels far too cheap to be in a Jaguar.

The other plastics used in the cabin are first class, and look great – but this bit behind the steering wheel is surprisingly out of place.

The gear shifter is rather tasty – sleek and classy, and totally in character with a Jaguar. The aluminium plate around the base of the shifter is just silver plastic, which is a real shame – real aluminium here would have been much better, since it’s one of those surfaces that your hand falls to.

I’ve missed one important point – getting in the car. Two things here; one is that at night, there’s a laser-projected image on the ground coming from the outside mirror. Others do this too, and project a logo on the ground. The E-PACE goes further, and better. On the ground at night you’ll see the Jaguar name, and below that a mother jaguar and her cub, walking on a log. Too far? Nah, it looks fantastic and is a cool party trick.

The second thing is that of course, to unlock the doors to see the image, you’ll need to use the key fob, since the E-PACE doesn’t have keyless entry. I couldn’t believe it either. If you want keyless entry, you’ll need to go to the $85K SE model. It was a real pain, having to always get the key fob out of your pocket to unlock the doors. Yes, First World Problems, but there’s cars that cost $50,000 less that have keyless entry. Come on Jaguar, you can do better than this.

Back in the driver’s seat, there’s a mighty cool looking grab handle for the passenger on the left side of the console, and it’s sort of usable too. One handy feature is the cellphone holder between the cup holders in front of the centre cubby. It’s the perfect size to slip your cellphone into. It’s just a simple slot for your phone, but is very handy to use.

This is a small SUV, and it feels pretty cosy inside, especially with the all-black thing going on the inside. John from DriveLife who is 6’7” tall, felt pretty cramped up when he had the car, with his knee hitting the panel under the steering wheel at times. This isn’t a car for tall people.

The centre of the front contains the 10” touchscreen display, and it’s crystal clear and simple to use – this is another highlight of the car. The reversing cam too is excellent – brilliant clarity.

It’s all very clean up the front and centre – there’s just the volume/power knob for audio, and then everything else is by buttons or the touchscreen (except for the AC).

Being the R-Dynamic S model, you get heated seats in the front. I really liked that you can use either a knob to turn them on or off (three heat settings) or hit the ‘seat’ button on the console, and then do this via the touchscreen. Even better was that to control the heated seats, you use the same dial as you’d use to adjust the AC heat. A simple push of the AC heat adjust dial brings up an icon of a seat, with blue on the left (for cooling) and red on the right for heat adjustment.

Such a simple way of reducing the number of knobs and dials. But…there’s blue on the left to turn on the seat cooling, but being the R-Dynamic S model you don’t get ventilated seats. You get the tempting blue, but it doesn’t do anything. A sort of bait and switch.

Still up front, there’s a 12V socket right under the front and centre of the car, as well as another one in the centre cubby along with 2 USB ports.

The rear passengers are a little short of space, with legroom on the acceptable but could-be-better side of things. The seats themselves are very comfortable, even with no lumbar adjustment for the front seats. I could see myself driving a long distance without comfort being a problem.

Another small but nice touch was the reading lamps in the front – no old-school push-in buttons here, the lamps work on touch. A quick touch of the reading lamp lens turns it on and off. Nice.

My wife found something else missing when she went to get into the E-PACE – no grab handles anywhere on the roof, front or back. Not sure why this is, but I guess there must be a reason.

There’s the low-down handle on the console for the front passenger though.

There’s also no electric tailgate on this model, you need to move up to the SE to get that feature. A great and simple feature that I wish that more manufacturers would have, is a grab handle/slot on both sides of the tailgate. The E-PACE does this, and it’s one of those things that’s small but means a lot (to me).

The Drive

Jumping in the driver’s seat, it took me 30 seconds to connect my phone via Bluetooth. This is always a good start to a car review.

The E-PACE feels big when you are sitting in that driver’s seat, sort of large looking out the front of the car, but much smaller looking back.

I mentioned the feel of the steering wheel, perfect for me. Another piece of great engineering are the steering wheel controls. On the left are the usual volume up/down and track/station forward/back buttons, with an ‘OK’ button in the middle. However, the OK button doubles as the one to switch those other four buttons to controlling the driver’s information display (DID). This cuts down on buttons and complexity hugely, and is a great example of a manufacturer actually thinking about how it works rather than just going with the status quo.

On the right side of the steering wheel are the speed limiter/cruise control buttons. Time for another revelation; at $80,000 the E-PACE R-Dynamic S doesn’t have adaptive cruise control.  You need to pay $85,000 for the SE model to get adaptive cruise control.

On the plus side of the cruise control situation, it’s one touch to put cruise control on. Just tap the set/+ button and it’s on. Simple and effective. The E-PACE also gets bonus points for showing the speed you’ve set the cruise control at in the DID, which doesn’t always happen with other cars. But no adaptive cruise is a strange omission at this price point.

Speaking of the driver’s information display, there is a digital speedo, but it’s bordering on tiny. Underneath it is the programmable display so you can switch between SatNav directions, trip info and other settings. But this all takes up room, and squeezes the digital speedo down too far.

You can turn the DID off, but the digital speedo doesn’t get any bigger.

Enough of the sitting, what does it drive like, with a 185kW, 365Nm turbo-petrol motor? To quote my speaks-very-little son, ‘good’. The E-PACE with the P250 motor gets to 100km/h in 7.0 seconds, which is not too shabby at all. Sitting so high up, it doesn’t feel that fast, especially off the mark when it’s loaded up with three or four people.

However, on the motorway, the midrange acceleration is where the E-PACE shines. Not only that, but wind it out above 4,000rpm – especially in Dynamic Mode – and the engine sings a sweet sound, sometimes sounding like a tuned V6, and at other times throbbing (almost) like a Subaru turbo boxer motor – before they sanitised it.

Even up around the 5,500rpm red line it still sounds mighty fine, but this doesn’t help your fuel consumption at all. Over 300km, I only managed 10L/100km, which is a little off the 7.7L/100km stated for combined consumption, but this was on a 70/30 mix of city/motorway (or open road).

There’s three drive modes to pick from for the day-to-day; Eco, Comfort, Dynamic. Each has a noticeable difference – performance and handling both change with each mode. One thing that does get better when driving in Eco mode are the gear changes in the 9-speed auto ‘box. If you are in Comfort or Dynamic mode, the changes can be a little jerky, and sometimes it feels like the transmission is hunting for the right gear, say when accelerating out of a corner. The jerkiness feels extremely out of place in a Jaguar. Sometimes too there’s almost a surging feeling.

There’s actually a fourth drive mode, but it’s not for the day-to-day. If you select rain/ice/snow mode, the engine and transmission change to suit those conditions. You can also select the ASPC button, which works like hill descent control, Jaguar-style.

Talking about the day-to-day drive in the E-PACE, it’s surprising it doesn’t have Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) since those C pillars – while looking very sexy from the outside – do cut into your three-quarter visibility quite a bit. The A pillars too are big and chunky, and I found myself having to look around them at roundabouts and intersections. The SE model does have BSM. I can see a pattern forming here…

Still on the day-to-day, there’s some A pillar wind noise right at the top of the door, but on the whole most noise is really well suppressed, including tyre and road noise.

There’s paddles for changing gear too of course, and you can alter these in the settings menu so they work all the time, or only when in Dynamic mode.

The ride is generally good for a small SUV; it can be a bit jittery over small bumps, but mostly it rides well. This might be down to the 235/55/19 Goodyear Eagle tyres helping things along in the ride department. Lots of sporty small SUVs are coming out with far lower profile tyres than these.

Another change you can make in the settings menu is the Lane Keep Assist options. You can have this so it either vibrates or actively pushes you back in the lane – your choice. It was nice to be able to alter this, as normally a car does one thing only – vibrate or assist, not both.

The E-PACE has SatNav built in, and this worked flawlessly, and was very simple to use. Having the turn-by-turn instructions in the DID was great too, it’s weird that some manufacturers still don’t do this.

Audio quality was great, with good separation, bass and especially high frequencies. Not only great quality, but when you get back in the E-PACE, the audio system reverts to Bluetooth for you. Again, far too many cars don’t do this and it can be quite frustrating.

My usual complaint about engine auto-stop prevails on the E-PACE. Engine stops at the lights, you put the park brake on, engine starts. At least in this Jaguar, if you move the transmission to Neutral first, you can put the park brake on without the engine starting, so that’s something.

One last omission from the E-PACE; you get an electric park brake, but no auto-hold feature.

Hopefully this will come on a later update.  I don’t want to go on about what it hasn’t got, but there’s no heads-up display (HUD) either. I love a HUD, a great safety feature and I really thought the E-PACE would have one at this level.

I’m going to be honest here and say after 4 days with the E-PACE, I didn’t really gel with it. It was nice, even with things that were missing that I expected it would have. But I wasn’t won over. At that point, I decided to take the E-PACE to my Favourite Handling Road. This was on a Monday, and I didn’t see another car at all for my drive, so could give the E-PACE its head and see how it went on a road with tight turns – some down to 20km/h.

Finally, it clicked. The motor loved to be held in the gears out to the red line, or change early and use the excellent torque to pull you out of the tight bends. Gear changes could have been faster, even though I was using the paddles.

With the AWD and in Dynamic mode, it did very well. Sure, there was some body roll – it had to be, with the height of the E-PACE, but it stuck and gripped, and was almost a fun drive. After about 10 km, I felt more confident in the car, and its handling/braking/performance.

Did it win me over? Not quite, but it felt more at home on that twisty road than it did around town, which surprised me. In Dynamics mode though it can feel like it’s surging, like a fuel blockage in an old car. It’s can be hard to drive it smoothly without using all your concentration.

The brakes on that road were fantastic – actually, they are excellent all the time. They can feel quite soft at the pedal, but there’s great feel from the brake pedal and you can modulate them perfectly.

Steering, not so much. At times on that road I didn’t really know what the front wheels were doing. More feedback from the steering would have been welcome.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorqueFuel, L/100kmSeatsTow rating, unbraked,

Kg

Boot space, litres (3rd row down where fitted)Price – High to Low
Lexus NX300 Sports AWD2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol175kW/350Nm7.95750n/a$85,400
BMW X1 xDrive25i AWD2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol170kW/350Nm6.65750505$83,050
Mercedes-Benz GLA250 AWD2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol155kW/350Nm7.05715421$80,600
Jaguar E-PACE R-Dynamics S P250 AWD2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol184kW/365Nm7.75750577$79,900
Audi Q3 TFSI Sport Wagon S-Line AWD2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol132kW/320Nm6.75750460$73,900
Volvo XC40 Inscription AWD2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol140kW/300Nm65 n/a460$67,900

The Pros and Cons

ProsCons
  • The badge – people love a Jaguar
  • Engine noise over 4,000rpm
  • Performance overall
  • Brakes
  • Steering wheel feel
  • Ergonomics
  • Ride/handling compromise
  • No adaptive cruise control
  • No keyless entry
  • No blind spot monitoring
  • No electric tailgate
  • Value for money
  • Gear changes can be jerky

What do we think of it?

I’m really torn here. The E-PACE is not the best value for money. Would people who would likely buy one, care? I don’t think they would at all.

One thing that really stood out to me: forget the R Dynamic S model, and pay the extra cash and get the R Dynamics SE; still not value for money for a small SUV, but at least you get the equipment that you should be getting in the first place.

The E-PACE is a good start for Jaguar’s first small SUV, but as too many teachers say: could do better. I hope the next update of the car gets it sorted.

The potential is there.

 

 

 

2018 Jaguar E-PACE P250 AWD R-Dynamic S

Chevrons 3.5

Vehicle Type5-door small SUV
Starting Price$69,900
Price as Tested$79,990
Engine2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol turbo
Power, Torque185kW/365Nm
Transmission9-speed automatic
0-100km/h, seconds6.6
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,832
Length x Width x Height, mm4395x1984x1649
Cargo Capacity, litres577/1234
Fuel capacity, litres68.5
Fuel EfficiencyAdvertised Spec – combined – 7.7L/100km

Real World Test – combined – 10.0 L/100km

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

750/1800
Turning circle, metres11.4

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty3 Years, 100,000km

3 Years Roadside Assistance

ANCAP Safety RatingsNot rated

 

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