The term game changer is easily thrown around these days, and in the context of Jaguar, it has been used to describe the F-Pace, the brand’s first foray into the crucial SUV market and its fastest-selling model yet.
But this, the E-Pace, revealed at a rather elaborate event this evening, feels like it’s the sort of good-looking volume seller to work miracles. I’d take bets that F-Pace's fastest-selling title won't last long with the E-Pace around.
It’s not a surprise that this is set to do well – after all, the compact SUV sector is where almost every mainstream car maker is laying its money, premium or otherwise.
But this E-Pace has a lot on its side – it’s genuinely original and good-looking in design. We all feared it would look just like a baby F-Pace (the Audi effect, I call it) but it doesn’t. It actually has a lot more in common with the F-Type; and the coupe roofline and pretty spoiler almost instantly dates the F-Pace.
The interior is neat and technologically advanced – perhaps even to the extent that Jaguar has caught up with its German rivals. I still hear anecdotes of Jaguar quality not being up there with the ‘big three’. Maybe, but based on the E-Pace models I’ve seen, it’s a step-up from ageing Jags and a fair contender.
And there's the price. Admittedly, it could get pretty pricey - it wouldn't be impossible to hit £50,000 with a top-spec petrol plus options - but the starting point is a very commendable £28,500, which is almost exactly on a par with the BMW X1. That sort of relative affordability can draw new, younger people in - the demographic almost every car maker is aiming for.
Of course, versus its rivals, the numbers are small. Jaguar sold 148,730 cars in 2016, BMW sold 2.4m. But, when you consider that a third of all Jag sales were the F-Pace (45,973 units), then you start to have some idea how crucial the E-Pace will be to Jaguar’s future success. Chances are, in its first full year of sales, it will catapult the brand well beyond 200,000 sales per year mark. And if you factor in predictions of the global compact SUV market growing by a quarter between now and 2020, Jag (and most other brands) is on to a surefire winner.
As Jaguar UK boss Jeremy Hicks puts it: “This is the car right from the outset – if any car is going to be significantly game-changing for us, it’s this. It’s going into the heart of the market. It’s our best opportunity to broaden appeal, attract a younger and more gender-neutral audience.”
Now, we just hope it drives as well as Jag tells us it does…