The Jaguar E-Pace compact SUV is the next step in the car maker's SUV sales assault and is due to be revealed in early summer.
With the mid-sized F-Pace SUV making up more than half of the brand’s overall sales since it was launched last year and buyers preferring highriding vehicles to traditional saloons such as the XE and XF, Jaguar’s growing range of SUVs will be key to the brand’s future success.
As well as the E-Pace, F-Pace and I-Pace, a large SUV called the J-Pace will go on sale by 2019. The compact E-Pace, which is set to be a bigger seller than the larger F-Pace, is fundamental to those plans.
While the F-Pace has had a major effect on Jaguar sales, the E-Pace promises to catapult the premium brand forward in the same way that the Range Rover Evoque has done for Land Rover.
The five-seat E-Pace, which will rival the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, is a similar size to the Evoque and will be smaller than both the F-Pace and the electric I-Pace. It will be built on the same LR-MS steel platform as the Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport and produced alongside those models at JLR’s Halewood plant.
Front-wheel-drive versions will be most popular, but all-wheel-drive will be an option. Both six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions will be offered. With the Evoque and Discovery Sport being Jaguar Land Rover’s two bestselling models, the Halewood factory is already at its full capacity of 200,000 cars annually.
As a result, JLR is currently assessing how to accommodate production of a new model. JLR also builds the Evoque and Discovery Sport in in Brazil, India and China, but it is unlikely that Jaguar would choose to produce the E-Pace abroad without any manufacturing capacity for the car in the UK.
Styling for the E-Pace, as spotted in recent images of the car testing near JLR’s Gaydon HQ and inside the Arctic Circle, closely resembles that of the F-Pace, with both the grille and roofline reminiscent of those of its larger sibling.
The E-Pace will also feature the latest development of Jaguar’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment system, recently updated in the F-Pace, and showcase improvements in interior quality. InControl Touch Pro now offers so-called ‘DualView’ technology, which was first introduced on the Range Rover and allows the driver and front passenger to view different display functions on the same 10in screen.
The E-Pace will use 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel Ingenium engines, which are produced at JLR’s engine manufacturing facility in Wolverhampton. Echoing the engine line-up in the recently updated F-Pace, the units will include an entry-level 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which targets company car drivers with its good CO2 emissions and fuel economy, as well as a 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel.
The compact SUV will also use the same 2.0-litre engine in twin-turbocharged form to create a new high-performance diesel model with 237bhp and “more performance at high engine speeds without compromising responses at low revs”, according to Jaguar.
The E-Pace would also be an ideal car for Jaguar to launch its expected hybrid powertrain, the introduction of which would help Jaguar bring down its fleet-average CO2 output in order to achieve stricter emissions targets. The most likely option is a mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) powertrain, a version of which is also expected on the Evoque and Discovery Sport.
It will use an electric drive motor and a three-cylinder 1.5-litre Ingenium diesel engine equipped with an electrically powered turbocharger. The MHEV project, which was first shown at an engineering presentation in 2015, uses a 48V electrical system to power the turbo, water pump and aircon.
While the electric motor is relatively modest, with an output of just 20bhp, its role is to fill gaps in the torque curve and help boost acceleration. The MHEV will also be able to shut down its engine and coast in order to preserve fuel.
Technology on the E-Pace will include the ability to pay for fuel at Shell service stations with a new in-car cashless payment system operated via InControl Touch Pro. Owners who install the Shell App can drive up to any Shell pump in the UK, and later globally, and use the vehicle’s touchscreen to select how much fuel they want and then pay using Paypal or Apple Pay.
An electronic receipt, which will be displayed once the driver has filled up, will be emailed to the driver.
The new Jaguar is set to be unveiled in May, away from the motor show circuit, and will appear after the BMW X6 and Porsche Macan-rivaling Range Rover Velar.
The coupé-styled SUV, which will be revealed this week and will play a key role in Land Rover’s fortunes, will sit between the Evoque and Range Rover Sport.
The E-Pace’s price is expected to undercut that of the Evoque, which starts at £30,600, and be significantly less than that of the F-Pace, which is priced from £34,730. The BMW X1 starts from £27,850 and the Audi Q3 costs from £27,200.
While Jaguar remains tight-lipped on the E-Pace, the model is due to go on sale later this year.
How global SUV sales have grown
Sales in the premium compact SUV class, in which the E-Pace falls, grew by a quarter globally in 2016 year on year, making it the fastest growing-segment alongside the mainstream B-SUV sector, which includes models such as the Nissan Juke and Vauxhall Mokka.
Global sales volume of premium compact SUVs was 828,000 units, with the Audi Q3 leading the way (227,310 units), followed by the BMW X1 (206,392 units) and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class (192,496), according to data from JATO Dynamics.
In Europe, SUVs accounted for 29% of all premium sales and sold more than one million units for the first time, at 1.04m. In the USA, SUVs made up a huge 53.7% of overall premium car sales, at 1.15m.
Among the premium SUVs, compact models counted for only 22.7% of last year’s total global sales. “Until now, the market for premium SUVs has been dominated by mid-size and large SUVs,” said JATO’s Felipe Munoz.
“However, during the past eight years the three German premium brands have started to enlarge their presence in lower segments.”
Other top-selling models include the Range Rover Evoque and, in the US, the Acura RDX and Lincoln MKC. “There has been a sharp growth of premium C-SUV sales during the last eight years,” added Munoz.
“Consumers around the world aspire to drive a premium car. This factor, along with the fact that SUVs have become more popular, encouraged premium brands to develop smaller, cheaper SUVs alongside the traditional big ones.”