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.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Jaguar is caught between a rock and a hard place: if the E-Pace didn’t ride well we’d hammer them for it, but we also expect the brand’s famous handling. Still, Jaguar has missed the mark here.

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.

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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.

The steering is unusually crisp off-centre, too, and weights up with a progression that is probably the most pleasurable element of the entire driving experience. However, the ride is doubtless necessarily a touch firmer than Jaguar would have liked.

The E-Pace has a low-speed ride capable of unearthing hidden road imperfections in a manner that can be downright sleuthy. It’s no deal-breaker, but there’s a hint of brittleness at odds with the luxury brief. It at once betrays a platform less cultured than Jaguar’s more aluminium-rich offerings while also coming without the tautness of body control, and surfeit of grip, you’d want in a keen driver’s default pick.

And that’s the nub of it. Given the hardware on offer, the chassis engineers responsible have probably done as a good a job as could reasonably be expected in balancing athleticism with comfort. The results are acceptable for the segment but unremarkable by the standards of Jaguar itself, and must rank as an opportunity missed.

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