At first glance, the E-Pace is an undeniably handsome beast with a distinctive mesh grille, muscular build, short overhangs and powerful haunches, all of which give it a bold, edgy road stance.
Once seated, the E-Pace doesn’t disappoint. Push the start button and the panoramic sunroof shade slides back, flooding the cabin with natural light on an early December day. The wraparound cockpit with passenger grab handle forms the boundary of the driver console. Its geometry gives a visual connection with the doors while the 14-way powered, heated, memory driver’s throne-like seating position provides a commanding view of the road ahead.
Despite the sunroof, head room for both front and rear seat passengers is pretty good, which is quite rare to find in this small SUV segment.
The chrome finish on gearshift surround, instrument panel, side vents and door pulls all add to the classy look. There are also plenty of interior colour schemes to choose from. Operating the HVAC system – via two large posh chrome dials with illuminated centre displays showing the cabin temperature – is simplicity itself.
The cockpit is swathed in soft-touch materials, giving a real sense of luxury. Sure, there are some parts of the interior lower down that feel a little scratchy but the areas that you are most likely to come into contact with feel lush. These include soft trimmed door casings, satin chrome door handles, leather-clad facia and seat upholstery with twin-needle stitching. Fine grain leather is also used on other touchy-feely parts that matter most, including steering wheel, centre-console grab handle and gear shifter.
The centre console features a new drive selector (set lower and wider in the 2021 face-lifted model and finished with ‘cricket ball’ stitching) with space for a wireless smartphone charger. The steering wheel, influenced by the design in the I-Pace, features hidden-until-lit switches and metal gearshift paddles.
Further attention to detail is provided by an embossed Jaguar Leaper on the headrests while ‘Est.1935 Jaguar Coventry’ upholstery tags reference the heritage of the brand. Other crafted details include Jaguar animal print pattern in the central cubby area and in front of the drive selector.
Another smart design element is evident in the design of the interior lighting, illuminating essential features such as handles and stowage areas, while task lighting enables the driver to configure colour settings to their personal preference. The ‘Jaguar Cub’ graphic projected by the puddle lamp seen at night raised a few smiles, too.
The automaker points out that its vehicles are designed to help combat feelings of nausea. The E-Pace is a case in point. It has 26 different seat configurations for passengers to find a position that raises the infotainment screen relative to eye level as well as turning on the cooling seat function. Both factors have been proven to significantly reduce the likelihood of motion sickness. The E-Pace’s adaptive dynamics also remove low-frequency motion from the road, which can lead to nausea, by altering the ride settings every 10-milliseconds to ensure passengers always experience high levels of comfort.
Infotainment and connectivity
Taking centre stage is an 11.4-inch curved-glass HD touchscreen, which controls the Pivi Pro infotainment system, a much improved set-up from the previous Touch Pro. Chemically strengthened, the glass screen features two coatings; one which is anti-glare and a second which resists fingerprints. It’s also quite responsive while prodding and swiping.
Pivi Pro is fitted as standard across the E-Pace range in the UK, and it also supports navigation functionality via the driver’s smartphone using Apple Carplay or Android Auto as standard.
The instrument cluster comprises a 12.3-inch HD reconfigurable display which can show full-screen navigation mapping with turn-by-turn instructions, digital dials, media, contact list or infotainment details. It works alongside the head-up-display (HUD), itself with a larger information area and enhanced resolution.
A Meridian audio system – including a surround sound system with 15 speakers – adds to the pleasure of driving the E-Pace.
Another interesting feature is Jaguar’s ClearSight Interior Rear View Mirror technology. Using a wide-angle rear-facing camera, the system feeds images to a high-definition screen within the frameless rearview mirror; unhindered by tall rear passengers, poor light or rain on the rear screen.
The spec list goes on and on. Also worthy of note is that the E-Pace is the only vehicle in its segment available with a wearable Activity Key. This wristband has an integrated RFID transponder, allowing the driver to lock the main key inside the vehicle while going off for a run, cycle or even swim. Whenever the Activity Key is activated, by holding the wristband up to the upper edge of the number plate surround on the tailgate, any conventional key fobs left inside the vehicle are disabled.
The E-Pace is the first Jaguar to feature the company’s next-generation Thin-Film Transistor (TFT) head-up display technology. The display can project up to 66 per cent more information onto the windscreen using some quite sharp colour graphics. Beside essentials such as speed and navigation directions, the new system can also display engine speed data, details of the chosen entertainment media and the adaptive cruise control settings, as well as lane departure and blind-spot warnings.
The E-Pace is also quite spacious for a compact SUV. Data-wise, it measures 4,395mm long with short front and rear overhangs of 882mm and 832mm, respectively. Its luggage capacity of 494 litres is made possible by the vehicle’s Integral Link rear suspension architecture.
The E-Pace has 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats as standard. Folding them creates 1,170 litres of square-shape space; with one side folded down customers can carry items up to 1,568mm long and still accommodate a couple of tall passengers, even three small ones in relative comfort. While the rear seats can fold forward, they cannot do clever tricks like recline or slide. That said, there is no shortage of storage solutions. The centre console compartment can store four large water bottles. In addition, there is a generously sized glovebox and the front and rear door bins offer loads of space to stash stuff.
Advanced driver assistance systems
As we would expect, the E-Pace bristles with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). A stereo camera underpins the emergency braking system, which also provides pedestrian detection, and supports lane keep assist and traffic sign recognition, as well as the adaptive speed limiter and driver condition monitor features. The latter detects if you’re starting to feel drowsy and gives you an early warning when you need to take a coffee break.
Rear visibility is a little restricted although the rear parking sensors and camera view counter-balance this. The camera also combines with the electric power-assisted steering system to deliver a blind spot assist function to help reduce the risk of sideswipe collisions on multi-lane roads. Another smart feature is a forward traffic detection system that warns drivers of approaching vehicles at junctions where visibility is restricted.
Material-wise, the automaker has optimised body structure to protect occupants using a strong and stable safety cell, complemented by a set of airbags and restraints. Ultra-high-strength steels, including hot-formed Boron, are used to reinforce the A- and B-pillars to mitigate the effects of side impacts.
Out and about
Despite the name, E-Pace does not mean electric. It is offered with a range of petrol and diesel engines. Ours was powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, paired with mild hybrid electric vehicle technology, AWD and a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The SUV’s fuel economy lived up to expectations, too. Fully loaded up with passengers and clutter, the diesel engine delivered more than enough oomph when needed. While the headlined combined fuel economy is 43.9 mpg, our spin covering motorways, country roads and early Christmas shopping town traffic came pretty close to that average.
Positioned in a competitive segment where style and technology are major selling factors, the E-Pace ticks a lot of boxes on anyone’s Christmas present list. Rival classy models include the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40.