Jaguar E-Pace

Chubby but likeable SUV delivers a range and options overload

TAKE a deep breath, bec ecause the next few e t e next fe FIRST paragraphs are going to AUSSIE DRIVE be dense. The E-Pace has arrived in Oz with a model range so broad Jag says its one compact SUV will compete with the BMW X1, X2, X3 and X4, and the small to midsize SUVs from Audi and Mercedes to boot.

Pricing starts at $47,750 and spans an almighty spectrum of 38 variants to top out at $84,370 Ė before options. At launch the breakdown includes five engines (three diesels, two petrols) and five trim grades (E-Pace, S, SE, HSE and First Edition), and nearly any combination is possible. An R-Dynamic interior and exterior styling package available on most permutations adds yet more depth to the line-up.

All engines are 2.0-litre fourcylinder Ingenium units linked to a nine-speed auto and AWD. The walk-up of outputs (and cost) starts with the oil-burners, from the 110kW/380Nm D150 to the 132kW/430Nm D180 to the twinturbo 177kW/500Nm D240. Going petrol nets 183kW/365Nm from the P250 or 221kW/400Nm from the P300 range-topper.

Sprightly dynamics; generous cargo space; enormous model choice Bloated kerb weight; patchy standard spec; dizzying options list

On sale Now Picking a sweet spot isnít easy, but Jaguar predicts the D180 SE ($62,430) will be its volume seller.

Diesel certainly makes sense from a day-to-day driveability perspective. The D180 and D240 offer strong, economical low-end torque that more easily shifts the E-Paceís heft, and thatís good, because dense is a suitable descriptor for the E-Pace itself.

Riding on a revised version of JLRís ageing D8 platform adapted from Land Roverís smaller offerings including Evoque and Discovery Sport, E-Pace is heavier than its scaled-up bigger brother, the F-Pace, which sits on the aluminium-intensive iQ platform.

In its lightest Australiandelivered form, the E-Pace weighs 1832kg and swells to 1926kg in basic trim. So it should handle like it just crawled from a vat of double cream at Wimbledon, but somehow doesnít. Initially the E-Paceís steering is disconcertingly sharp in urban environs. Take a moment to recalibrate your inputs and the front endís responsiveness starts to gel, particularly when the road opens. The E-Pace responds enthusiastically to speed. It takes careful management of its weight transfer to extract the sweetness of its dynamics, but factored in thereís tasty mid-corner poise and traction for drivers to relish in.

Models without the R-Dynamic pack have no paddle shifters for managing the autoís eco-minded tune that favours low-rpm upshifts. Combating that means reaching for the trigger lever on the console that takes the place of Jagís rotary dial. Sport mode holds gears for longer, but is occasionally slow to kick down.

A lack of adaptive damping at launch means making do with a firm yet springy passive suspension tune that becomes more compliant at higher speeds and is agreeable enough for long distance cruising.

The E-Paceís striking looks and stumpy proportions precisely ape the trendsetting F-Pace in smaller scale, and hide a generous rear seat with broad shoulder room and a sizeable cargo area.

Its clever, F-Type-inspired cabin layout and handy storage have family-car cred.

While bang for buck isnít an E-Pace strength, it is a uniquely compelling alternative to premium offerings from Germany when prudently specified, particularly for those with a penchant for backroad tomfoolery. There are rivals with more performance for the price, but the E-Paceís highstreet flair and customisation should find favour in a market that demands the personal touch.

RYAN LEWIS

PLUS & MINUS

F-Type-inspired interior can be had in a huge variety of finishes including six different seat fabrics and 15 different colour combinations.

HUE GRANT 01

Coupe-inspired roofline compromises the hatch opening to a small extent, but doesnít impinge on rear occupant head room and comfort.

REAR ADMIRABLE 02

More than 10 wheel designs range from 17- to 20-inches. Thereís comfort in smaller rims and chubby tyres, but few are likely to be specced this way.

FEED THE WHEEL 03

Options? Thatís standard Standard equipment is where the value equation gets shaky. All variants get active safety assists including AEB, automatic LED headlights, a reversing camera and Jaguarís widescreen TouchPro infotainment system. But it costs more than it should to get things like Apple CarPlay and keyless entry, the latter of which is still a $950 option on the D240 that costs almost $70K.

Jaguar says F-Pace buyers spend between 15 and 20 percent of a carís purchase price on options, and E-Pace buyers should be budgeting to do the same to get the full experience.

OR TRY THESE...

BMW X2 sDrive 20i

$55,900

From 38 variants to the X2, which is currently available in a single spec only. Similarly style-conscious and genuinely good fun to steer. Makes the most of 141kW/280Nm by being much lighter than E-Pace.

Mercedes-AMG GLA45

$89,211

Holds the compact-SUV performance mantle with frenetic acceleration and whopper outputs of 280kW/475Nm. All for a relatively small premium over the range-topping E-Pace P300.