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2018 Jaguar E-Pace

Jaguar launched a brand-new compact performance crossover model for the 2018 model year, joining the larger F-Pace. Simply gorgeous in design, the new Jaguar E-Pace hits the jackpot in technology, offering true torque vectoring to strengthen its handling potential.

Beneath its bonnet, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine comes in a choice of two tuning levels: The base version produces 246 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, with 296 hp and 295 pound-feet for the optional variant. Both team with a 9-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive.

For the first time, a Jaguar engine is mounted transversely, rather than longitudinally.

Standard-engine models come in base, S, and SE trim levels. R-Dynamic versions, offered in S, SE, and HSE trim, get the upgraded 296-horsepower engine. For the 2018 season, Jaguar also offers a First Edition model, based upon the R-Dynamic SE.

R-Dynamic models feature a unique front bumper, deeper air intakes, foglamps, stainless steel pedals, and body-color sills. An R-Dynamic option for S and SE trim adds the more potent powertrain, sporty exterior touches, and shift paddles.

Two distinct all-wheel-drive systems are available. For the higher-powered engine, an Active Driveline system, borrowed from the Range Rover Evoque, transfers power both front-to-back and side-to-side. The result is power-based torque vectoring, in contrast to brake-based system from other automakers. In addition to tightening control in corners, the system can lock the rear wheels, yielding road behavior that seems impossible for a crossover that’s front-wheel biased.

Though dimensions are similar to a BMW X1 or Mercedes-Benz GLA, the E-Pace is about three inches wider, and that’s noticeable to the driver. In terms of driving characteristics, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio might be considered a competitor.

Jaguar aims to defy the expectation that compact crossovers are on the dull side, promising a vehicle that can be fun to drive as well as attractive. Starting below $40,000, the E-Pace includes a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen, though Apple CarPlay is unavailable.

A rearview camera is standard. Advanced safety systems include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and driver-condition monitoring. Jaguar also offers a surround-view camera system. A forward-mounted camera can help see around obstructions at intersections.

Model Lineup

The Jaguar E-Pace ($38,600) comes standard with the 246-horsepower engine, all-wheel drive, 17-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, pushbutton start, a rearview camera, LED headlights, heated mirrors, dual-zone climate control, front/rear parking assist, and a 10-inch touchscreen. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $995 destination charge.)

E-Pace S ($41,500) includes power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, power-folding mirrors, 18-inch wheels, navigation, blind-spot assist, and parking information. E-Pace SE ($44,300) comes with 19-inch wheels, a power tailgate, Meridian audio, and mirror memory. First Edition ($53,550) gets the 246-hp engine, 20-inch diamond-turned split-spoke wheels, soft-grain ebony Windsor leather with contrast stitching, head-up display, and gesture-activated tailgate.

E-Pace R-Dynamic S ($47,250) upgrades to the 296-horsepower engine, equipped similar to regular S trim but with upgraded all-wheel-drive system. Sport seats have larger bolsters. It’s also available in R-Dynamic SE ($50,050) and R-Dynamic HSE ($53,100), the latter with 20-inch wheels, perforated leather, Meridian audio, and a gesture-activated tailgate.

Exterior

Penned by youthful Jaguar designers, the sultry, sharply sculpted E-Pace aims at a comparable audience.

Comparatively tall for the compact class, the E-Pace looks lower than its measurements suggest, courtesy of sculpted lower-bodyside lines. The hood seems longer, too. Flared arches top each wheel. Slinky headlights seem out of place, but stylists have skillfully adapted the familiar Jaguar nose.

Long overhangs are softened by such details as simulated ducts and carefully considered bends. Because the roofline doesn’t drop dramatically, interior space isn’t compromised.

Interior

Inspiration for the efficiently laid-out cabin hails from Jaguar’s F-Type sports car as well as the larger F-Pace crossover. Quality of materials, however, falls short of Jaguar’s usual level.

Climate controls operate quietly and confidently, but hard-grained plastic doesn’t match the E-Pace’s price. R-Dynamic models get a stitched dashboard that looks good, but doesn’t feel sufficiently supple. Some combinations of leather upholstery are excessively dramatic.

Passengers can expect surprising spaciousness, promising comfort on long treks. Because front-seat occupants are closer than usual to the front wheels, their arches protrude into footwells. A high seating position provides good visibility over the deceptively short hood.

Rear-seat riders get more than 35 inches of legroom, which feels even longer. A wide back seat accommodates three, at least for shorter trips.

Cargo space is sizable. With rear seatbacks up, volume totals 24.2 cubic feet. Folding the seats expands space beyond 52 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

Planting itself solidly on the pavement, the E-Pace feels confident, without requiring much correction. In Normal drive mode, the electric power steering is light, yielding a sense of disconnection from the front wheels. Dynamic mode adds weight to the steering wheel, without increasing road feel.

With 20-inch wheels, the ride is quiet and comparatively calm. Variable dampers on upper trim levels can firm up suspension in Dynamic mode, but it’s far from stiff.

Although E-Pace engines function well, some low-speed hesitation in the 296-horsepower version is likely caused by an indecisive 9-speed transmission. Overly eager to upshift, especially in Normal mode, the transmission is prone to lagging and hesitation. Acceleration is acceptably brisk, though not quite swift, even with the R-Dynamic engine. Still, acceleration to 60 mph with the upgraded engine is achieved in less than six seconds. Dynamic mode moderates some of the transmission’s indecision.

Engines sound gruff and unrefined, almost to an obnoxious level. Fortunately, little of that sound makes it into the cabin.

Jaguar’s all-wheel-drive systems, derived from Range Rover/Land Rover, rank with the best from luxury automakers. The base system normally operates at a 50/50-split, front-to-rear, but can transfer nearly total power to either end to maintain traction. The Active Driveline configuration in R-Dynamic models features torque vectoring that adds power to outside wheels, boosting cornering capability.

Fuel economy is on par with competitors. The base powertrain is EPA-rated at 21/28 mpg City/Highway, or 24 mpg Combined, while the higher-powered turbo reduces Highway and Combined figures by one mile per gallon each.

Final Word

The new Jaguar E-Pace offers gorgeous looks and abundant features. Relatively affordable in base or S form, the E-Pace approaches its bigger F-Pace cousin in price when moving up the trim-level scale.

Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.