Meeting the Jaguar E-Pace prototype
Our prototype E-Pace, Cross cheerfully admits, is a bit of a mongrel. There’s a 296bhp Ingenium turbo 2.0-litre petrol engine – the most powerful available – under the bonnet, and we’re running on meaty 245/45 R20 tyres (you can get 21s, if you insist), so its sporting intent is clear. But our suspension lacks the adaptive damping buyers can choose as an option and it is also missing the gearshift paddles that are part of the sportiest R-Dynamic pack.
When I step into the cabin, two things stand out: simplicity of design and quality of manufacture, both pretty impressive for a prototype.
Practically everything from the F-Pace’s impressive equipment inventory (electronics, 12.3in central screen, Wi-Fi hotspot, unique-to-JLR array of InControl apps) is available in this new, smaller SUV whose prices start at £28,500. Not that many buyers will choose the low-powered, 2WD, manual gearbox model this money gets. JLR bean-counters will be hoping most deals will be done closer to £45,000.
Unleashing the E-Pace on the Welsh roads
Enough with the brochure-talk. We’re two-up heading for Bala, gliding smoothly up Welshpool’s picturesque high street, heading for open roads.
There are plenty of things you can assess from the security of a passenger’s seat. The first, as I said, is agility. This car is shorter and narrower, and slips through the town throng with an ease not possible in a model 20cm wider, which is what the class above adds to width.
Next, you notice low-speed refinement. For me, the higher-speed capabilities of vehicles like this have to be built on a solid bedrock of suburban ability, and the E-Pace has it.
Our (non-adaptive) suspension and our 20in wheels definitely ‘feel’ drain-hole covers and suburban ruts, but the car stays flat, poised and well-damped. So far, so good.
However, as Jaguar’s own breathless blurb makes clear, this highest-power version of the car can lay down a 0-60mph acceleration time of just 5.9sec, which puts it very close to the top of its class.
Small wonder master designer Ian Callum describes this as “a Jaguar sports car designed for daily lives”. The matter is further proved as we get going in earnest. Clearly revealed as a partner for the E-Pace’s low-speed poke is an impressive helping of traction.
Under us is the racier of two 4x4 systems on offer, labelled Active Driveline. Whereas the standard system does its best to behave like a transverse front-drive system until severely provoked by slipping front wheels, the Active system directs torque much more readily to the rear wheels and uses clutches either side of the rear diff to allow torque-vectoring from the rear wheels.