The E-Pace conducts itself in a capable, inoffensive and broadly class-competitive way. But if you’re going to come away from a drive in one – certainly in an example from the more humble end of the line-up, as represented here – without at least a bit of disappointment, some management of your expectations of ‘Jaguarness’ is in order.
Jaguar says its new entry-level model has the rear-driven character of more expensive range-mates, not least the F-Pace, but the supporting evidence for that is largely nonexistent.
Running on winter tyres, our test E-Pace’s on-limit cornering poise was inevitably compromised. We can believe that on regular rubber the car would have handled Millbrook’s Hill Route with greater dynamic distinction.
Our D180 model was nevertheless keener to roll on the tortuous elevation changes than we would have liked, although that is perhaps something the optional sports suspension would help to remedy. It’s unlikely any specification changes would inject more adjustability in the chassis, however.
Unlike the larger F-Pace, the E-Pace can never shake the feeling that it is being pulled rather than pushed when it’s loaded during cornering – and you get the impression that there’s nothing you can do to mitigate that. Particularly tiresome also was that the car’s powertrain isn’t given to revving as smoothly or as keenly as other four-pot diesels, and its automatic gearbox feels slow-witted at times.
Even if you’ve mustered enough commitment to enlist the rear driveshafts of the Haldex four-wheel-drive system, the sensation given when handling bends is perpetually one of being pulled rather than pushed. Handling adjustability and liveliness, as well as driver engagement, are all fairly average for a compact SUV, which is also to report, of course, that they’re in relatively short supply for a Jaguar.
That’s unlikely to induce too much angst among the customer base, because the E-Pace does just enough elsewhere to convince that it’s worth the premium billing.
The high-speed ride is particularly well conceived. It settles nicely on motorways, and as long as you don’t ask an unreasonable amount from the chassis, body movements are not only respectably slight but also effectively cushioned. It means the E-Pace, despite being on the portly side, is tenacious enough to tolerate being hustled if the need arises.