Thursday 25 April 2019

Three magic words ... and how badge and price can make Jaguar's compact SUV a proper player

First drive in Brighton: JAGUAR E-PACE

Posh-meets-mainstream: Jaguar E-Pace
Posh-meets-mainstream: Jaguar E-Pace
Jaguar E-Pace
Jaguar E-Pace
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

The fact of the matter is, after you dispense with all the hype and discussion, it all comes down to three magic words: compact Jaguar SUV. In today's market, if that phrase doesn't sell cars, nothing much will.

Especially as it is a compact Jaguar SUV priced (initially anyway) in the mid €30,000s. Yes, that's about the same price as a well-specced Volkswagen Tiguan. We don't often get that sort of posh-meets-mainstream on price.

So I might as well be blunt: people will buy it because it is a Jaguar no matter what the likes of this reviewer says.

Encouraging them to do so are some good things about it. And there some things I'd find fault with too.

Jaguar E-Pace
Jaguar E-Pace

The E-PACE makes its Irish debut early next month. It's the new baby of the brand. They call it their "cub" and have a little emblem to that effect in the lower left hand corner of the windscreen. It's the smallest and least expensive vehicle they have made.

The entry-level €36,000 is an introductory launch price for the 2.0D i4 150PS manual model (124g/km, €270 road tax).

There are two other diesels: 180PS and 240PS. And two petrols: 249PS or 300PS. And all-wheel drive. And a 9spd auto box. And lots of spec levels and options.

First Edition models are based on the R-Dynamic SE spec pack and include sports seats.

I drove the "cub" in southern England last week, but to say it was a real examination of its claimed vim and vigour would be an overstatement. A longer test awaits.

I can say the following with certainty. Despite my few reservations, it is clearly and cleverly targeted at mainstream buyers of those higher specced compact crossovers I mentioned.

Jaguar E-Pace
Jaguar E-Pace

Jaguar expect 80pc of those who buy to have never had a Jag before. That's a lot of people leaving other brands.

I think those interested will like the front a lot. I did. And the side profile.

But I don't think the rear is Jaguar enough now I've seen it in daylight and from the perspective of driving behind one on the road. Sure they spoke about the "stepped" design of the lower regions, but take that out of your line of vision and are you a million miles from your ubiquitous mainstream formula? I don't think so.

A colleague made a good point too: they need wider tyres for the more muscular look they seek because this is aimed at attracting more men - a sort of antidote to the female success of the Range Rover Evoque (from the Jaguar/Land Rover stable of course).

For all that, I prefer it to the larger F-PACE SUV look (I am in my usual minority on that).

This chunky, funky five-seater may be the F-PACE's little brother but it draws heavily on the sportiness of the wonderfully agile F-TYPE sports car, manifestations of which adorn cabin, design and chassis (the large grab handle being one, while I like the inclusion of a gear-shift instead of rotary control).

Sitting low in the cabin is meant to be more engaging, but the driver's position is not quite as dominant as, say, the Audi Q3 (or Q2) or the underrated BMW X1. But I think it's a lot more stylish than either and has a better vantage point than the Mercedes GLA. There was good room all round and decent rear space in the cabin. Headroom behind would only be an issue for those taller than 6ft 2ins. And there's a fine boot (577 litres). However, it is a car that looks bigger than it is (4,395mm long; 2,681mm wheelbase) and I felt it particularly colour sensitive. I liked it most in red (always do).

We drove the 300PS 2-litre petrol first - irrelevant here and a bit disappointing. I was far better disposed towards the 2-litre diesel which they've quietened a good deal up the revs.

On the few occasions we got to drive, it was as you'd expect from a Jaguar with notions of generating mild hothatchery.

There is a nice tendency towards understeer on corners as well as technology to boost grip and traction. But the ride at low speed could be a little harsh.

With several driving modes - we used Comfort and Dynamic mostly - you get the response and handling to suit your preferences.

The multi-link rear suspension comes via the F-PACE. Not so sure it's a great idea to have its lower regions showing out back. I think it's a bit of a put-off and part of the reason I'm not a fan of the rear.

The large touchscreen infotainment system Touch Pro connects you to all sorts, but Apple Car Play remains an omission.

Families (they expect young people/couples to buy in big numbers) will like the idea of up to four 12-volt charging points and five USB connections - as well as a 4G wifi hotspot for as many as eight devices.

And if you have a trailer, there is an 1,800kg (braked) towing capacity.

We also tried out the off-road cruise control technology. This is a system that 'thinks' for itself on inclines and where there is treacherous underfoot conditions (ice, snow and mud). So technically you should be able to get around safely should we get a big freeze (remember the chaos last time?). The only stipulation is you don't touch the pedals. Just steer.

Similar to what salespeople will do with potential customers - just steer them towards the car with three magic words: compact Jaguar SUV.

Indo Motoring

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