A rainy night out in the centre of Birmingham isn’t exactly what most people would call a great night out. When you’re armed with Jaguar’s new compact performance SUV – E-Pace – however, it becomes a very different kind of evening.
At first, the thought of a small Jaguar SUV that is designed to be more fun than sensible and grown-up seems almost juxtapose to what you’d expect from a Jaguar – in fact, being shown the small Jaguar and cub emblem on the windscreen can be slightly surprising. Compared to any other Jaguar that we can think of, the E-Pace is by far the most playful.
It all makes sense once you start driving however; whilst it may be more playful than and slightly different to the ‘Jaguar norm’, E-Pace is far from having lost that little something that makes Jaguars so special. It still gives you that same great feeling when you drive it - thanks to both the overall quality of the car and great handling.
That’s where we reach our first actual focus in this article – handling. Heading into and around Birmingham city centre at rush hour, the E-Pace was entirely in its element. Smaller than its big brother F-Pace and – in our case - powered by the turbocharged Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel engine, this compact SUV effortlessly weaved through back streets and traffic filled main roads, taking advantage of the torque on offer on every occasion (and allowing an urban mpg of around 47.1).
Once out of the city later that night however, our all-wheel drive E-Pace was just as fun when tackling the increased twists and turns of country roads. Now, this is a compact SUV, so it isn’t fair to expect it to handle like and F-Type or even an XE; that said, thanks to a great chassis, optional sports suspension and an all-wheel drive system that can send half of the engine’s power to the rear wheels, there’s a lot of fun to be had when driving E-Pace.
Driving E-Pace for many hours around Birmingham’s city centre, you can really tell that it is very at home in an urban environment; something that its compact size lends itself to nicely. Thanks to fantastic visibility, E-Pace never feels big (it may be compact but it’s still an SUV) even when navigating insatiably tight multi-storey car parks (owing to the fact that people insist on building things in the way of the perfect Birmingham skyline photo, our E-Pace has been up and down pretty much every car park in the city).
Talking of photos, let’s take a moment to examine the styling of Jaguar’s E-Pace. As mentioned earlier, the premise with E-Pace is more playful than usual but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t share the sharp Jaguar aesthetic that we’re used to.
Known to many as ‘the baby F-Pace’, it would have been easy for the Jaguar design team to simply scale down an F-Pace … they didn’t however, instead they gained their inspiration from the simply stunning Jaguar F-Type.
Thanks to that inspiration gained from F-Type, E-Pace has gained aggressive front intakes, more honeycomb filled vents than a beehive and the stunning new LED headlights that feature the signature ‘J’ blade.
Thanks to wide haunches, a low sweeping roofline and not too much ground clearance, E-Pace features a decidedly sporty silhouette that is somewhat refreshing when it comes to its competition within the world of compact SUVs. All-in-all, E-Pace is a good looking car that combines Jaguar styling with subtle hints of playfulness.
All of that leaves us with one final detail to approach – the interior; as you’d expect, it’s a very nice and surprisingly spacious place to be. Our particular E-Pace featured black leather electric-heated seats, standard dials (which can be changed to the optional interactive driver display – which is brilliant) and Jaguar’s Touch Pro infotainment system that uses a 10-inch touchscreen.
When stuck in rush hour traffic jams, all of these elements were fantastic and helped provide entertainment and comfort at all times. The boot was also a very generous size, easily swallowing multiple laptops, a gym bag and copious amounts of photography gear.
In summary, what Jaguar have done with E-Pace is genuinely very impressive. Where they could have easily just created a scaled down clone of F-Pace, they’ve created something new and playful; whilst doing that, however, they haven’t lost that spark that defines a Jaguar as a Jaguar. Having spent a full night in E-Pace, we highly recommend getting in touch with your nearest Jaguar dealership and giving one a go … we think you’d be pleasantly surprised.