Jaguar E-Pace estate performance
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how the car drives, we need to address the elephant in the room: its weight. You see, despite looking a bit like an F-Type, underneath its designer suit the E-Pace has far more in common with Land Rover’s Discovery Sport.
True, the engineers have shaved off a few pounds by making the tailgate, bonnet, roof and front wings out of aluminium, but the E-Pace still tips the scales at a hefty 1.8 tonnes – around 85kg more than the larger F-Pace. Unsurprisingly, then, the 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel model isn’t exactly rapid.
Floor the accelerator and, even once the slow-witted nine-speed automatic gearbox has decided on a ratio, you accelerate with all the urgency of an asthmatic runner. Things improve once you've built up a few revs but, even so, the E-Pace never feels a match for equivalent versions of the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40.
There is an even less powerful diesel, the 148bhp 2.0-litre unit, which is available in front-wheel drive and can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox. Obviously, it’s slower than the 178bhp version, but presumably those looking at this type of engine aren’t too interested in breathtaking acceleration. Around town, the pace is perfectly adequate, and given some encouragement it doesn’t prove frustratingly slow at motorway speeds. Things are helped by the decent manual gearbox, too, because the automatic is so sluggish. Ultimately, though, the 178bhp unit is the pick of the range because of the added flexibility in performance. If you want diesel and pace is your primary concern, there’s a 237bhp option, but predictably it’s expensive and not as economical as the others.
The range-topping 298bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine goes some way to injecting some serious pace into the line-up. It’s lighter and revvier than the diesels and imbues the E-Pace with the performance you'd expect from a sporty SUV. But should you plan on regularly exercising your right foot, be aware that this is a 35.3mpg car in official tests. In the real world, you’ll struggle to achieve more than 25mpg. The 247bhp petrol version, meanwhile, is also very punchy and feels a lot sharper and smoother than the diesel variants, but it’s pricey.
Jaguar E-Pace estate ride
Although you can get the E-Pace on 17in and 18in wheels in the lower trim levels, we’ve so far only tried versions on 19in and whopping 20in wheels that are standard on SE and HSE respectively.
Even with these big wheels, the E-Pace isn’t horrendously firm and only crashes over the worst potholes. However, you are jostled around quite a bit along pockmarked and beaten-up urban roads. The ride doesn’t settle out on the open road, either; even on the motorway, things are far less settled than in an XC40 on the same 20in wheels. This can get tiresome after a while – something to consider if you’re only planning a brief test drive.
Adaptive dampers are available (we have yet to try them) and that might improve things. Smaller wheels are likely to do so, too. The trouble is, you might think the E-Pace looks a bit dumpy without its wheel arches properly filled.
Jaguar E-Pace estate handling
If there's one area Jaguar can always be relied on to deliver, it's handling. And the E-Pace lives up to that reputation – to a point, at least. It’s taller and heavier than rivals such as the X1 and Audi Q3, so isn’t quite as eager to turn in to bends as those cars. Nevertheless, it still stays pretty upright through tight twists, grips well and stays neatly balanced.
Around town, that steering can feel quite heavy, making the E-Pace harder work to manoeuvre than some rivals, including the XC40. However, along faster, twisting roads, that heft actually gives you confidence.
Most versions come with all-wheel drive that predictably offers plenty of grip, although you can opt for the entry-level diesel engine with front-wheel drive. In that guise, the E-Pace’s handling isn’t quite so assured; the steering wheel squirms under your hands if you accelerate eagerly through corners – something that you don’t find in the four-wheel-drive versions. That said, it is only in quick corners, or in bad weather, that you really feel the benefit of the four-wheel drive system.
Jaguar E-Pace estate refinement
You feel a surprising amount of vibration through the diesel E-Pace's pedals and steering wheel. You could argue that this is just about acceptable in the Discovery Sport – a car built on utilitarian principles – but, in a Jaguar, you expect a little more polish.
The gruff engine note is still audible at a steady 70mph cruise and there’s some wind noise around the mirrors and windscreen. Still, there isn’t much road noise, so the E-Pace is, overall, a quieter cruising companion than the Q3 or X1.
Of the diesels, the entry-level 148bhp 2.0-litre engine is the quietest, but the petrols are unsurprisingly smoother and quieter than all the diesels. It’s just a shame that they don’t sound a bit sweeter when you rev them out.