Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
All of the engines are 2.0-litres in size; you just have to decide how much power you want and whether you'd prefer to fill-up with petrol or diesel.
If you aren't too fussed about performance, the entry-level 148bhp D150 diesel is worth a look; it has enough oomph for nipping around town and the odd motorway stint. Our favourite engine is the 178bhp D180, though. It might not be quite as quick as a Volvo XC40 D4, but it has enough poke for reasonably swift overtakes and pulls strongly – even when the car is fully loaded with people and bags. It makes the range-topping 237bhp D240 diesel seem pointless.
As for the petrol engines, the 197bhp P200 is quicker than any of the diesels bar the D240. However, it needs revving hard to extract that performance, and doing this becomes tiresome when you aren't in the mood. The P250 and P300 deliver even faster acceleration – the latter can do 0-60mph in just 6.1sec. However, neither engine sounds particularly tuneful and poor fuel economy makes them expensive to run, as we'll explain later.
Suspension and ride comfort
Although you can have relatively small 17in or 18in wheels, we've only tried the E-Pace on 19in and enormous 21in rims. Even with 19s, you notice your head tossing from side to side more vigorously than in a Range Rover Evoque or Volvo XC40 equipped with the same size wheels.
The ride doesn’t settle down on the open road, either; things are far less settled than in an Evoque or XC40 on the motorway. This can get annoying after a while, so it’s worth taking a lengthy test drive before buying. Meanwhile, 21in wheels should most definitely be avoided – these make the E-Pace thump over potholes and jostle you over surface imperfections.
Adaptive dampers are available (we have yet to try them) and we suspect they might improve matters. Likewise, sticking with smaller wheels will probably give a smoother ride. The trouble is, you might think the E-Pace looks a bit dumpy without its wheel arches properly filled.
If there's one area that Jaguar can always be relied on to deliver then it's handling – and the E-Pace does just that. To a point, at least. It’s taller and heavier than rivals such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, so it isn’t quite as eager to turn in to bends as those cars. Nevertheless, it stays pretty upright through tight twists, grips well and stays neatly balanced.
Around town, the steering can feel quite heavy, making the E-Pace harder work to manoeuvre than some rivals, including the XC40. However, along faster, winding roads, that heft actually gives you confidence.
Most versions come with four-wheel-drive, which predictably offers plenty of traction, although you can opt for the entry-level D150 engine with front-wheel-drive. There isn't a huge amount of difference in normal conditions, but when the road is slippery or you need to venture onto a muddy field, you'll definitely appreciate four-wheel drive.
Noise and vibration
Of the diesels, the entry-level D150 is the quietest, although it’s disappointing that you feel quite a lot of engine vibration through the pedals and steering wheel. Unsurprisingly, the petrol engines are smoother and quieter than all of the diesels, although they can still get a bit raucous when you work them harder.
The E-Pace also generates quite a bit more wind noise than the XC40 and Evoque at motorway speeds, although there's less tyre roar than in the BMW X1 and X2.
The nine-speed automatic gearbox is a weak point. Theoretically, having all those cogs should mean the engine is always spinning at the ideal speed, but the ‘box is very dim-witted when you need to pull away in a hurry. Press the accelerator pedal and there's a noticeable delay before the gearbox drops into drive with an annoying jolt.
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