Car Review: Jaguar’s E-PACE crossover looks to make waves in smaller utility market

WASHINGTON — Luxury cars have been the bread and butter for Jaguar for decades, but lately the market has shifted to SUV and crossovers. Jaguar hopped on the crossover bandwagon a few years ago with F-PACE, a quick hit for the company.

Now for their second model, Jaguar looks to make a smaller crossover its next hit.

The new Jaguar E-PACE is an interesting model. It’s not as small as a subcompact, but not as large as the X3 we just looked at. Still, its smaller size doesn’t mean there isn’t space. This little crossover has good room inside.

If you spend some of your hard-earned money — $53,000, or more like $62,000 for my loaded tester — choose the E-PACE R-Dynamic HSE model. You will be welcomed by luxurious surroundings. It starts off with rich-looking perforated leather on the seats; the front is dressed in a nice set of sport seats. Spend about $1,300 for heated and cooled front and heated rear seats. Back seat passengers are treated well with adequate space for this size crossover, but headroom may be lacking for taller riders.

For its smaller size, the cargo space is very usable. Fold the rear seats and you have 52 cubic feet, or 24 cubic feet with seats up. This tester had a large panoramic roof, but– disappointingly– it’s fixed and doesn’t open. The large 10-inch touch-screen with NAV works well and is a welcome change from the previous Jaguar models of just a few years ago. The optional 825-watt sound system is well worth the $510 extra it costs; it has good clarity at all sound levels.

I drove the E-PACE R-Dynamic which is the hot version of the little crossover. With 296 horsepower from a turbo four-cylinder engine, the Jaguar is a quick ride. The other versions of the E-PACE have just under 250 horsepower and will satisfy most people at a lower price of under $40,000. But if power and improved handling is important to you, the R-Dynamic is the best choice. That nearly 300 horsepower is good, but the handling prowess is a pleasant surprise.

The little Jaguar loves the turns! I was surprised how much fun it is on back roads. The E-PACE feels a bit heavier and out of sorts when you really push it. The weight of the E-PACE is pretty high for the class.

The normal commute is its forte, adding a bit of sport without any harshness. The configurable dynamics control allows you select the type of ride, from sporty to more comfortable, with a few turns of a knob. Rear vision isn’t the best; the rear window isn’t very large. With standard AWD and that extra power, fuel economy isn’t spectacular either. I managed 24.1 mpg, 1 mpg better than the sticker.

The new E-PACE looks like a shrunken Jaguar F-PACE crossover, a great concept given the F-PACE’s popularity. The look is pure modern Jaguar with a prominent yet tasteful front grill. With the R-Dynamic version the grill is blacked out, which plays nicely with Boracso Grey paint. You also get a special R-Dynamics body kit that adds a sport-like flair like lower body moldings and some blacked out grills under the LED headlights.

The small size is very evident when you look at the side view of the E-PACE. The optional 20-inch wheels that seem to stretch to the edges of the little Jaguar crossover top off the look. The sporty theme even carries over to the back with a rear spoiler and that body kit adds with dual exhaust pipes set in a blacked-out lower valance.

The second crossover from Jaguar seems to be another winner. When you choose the E-PACE R-Dynamic, it mixes luxury and sport very nicely with plenty of power and a high-quality interior in a smaller package.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by DriveShop, FMI or Motus One for the purpose of this review.

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