When we came to a sketchy looking patch of off road, we didn’t think twice about going through the narrow passage.
Even though there was a blue circular sign with a red X through it, the gate was up. Plus, the navigation had led us here, so Jaguar must have meant for us to take the 2018 E-Pace off the beaten path.
After having forded about a foot of water and some craggy dirt roads in the morning, we thought this was just another turn along the route.
It wasn’t until we came to the large rock and tree blocking our path that we realized we might have taken a wrong turn.
But the thing to note here: We didn’t think twice about tackling some mild off-roading in a compact luxury SUV. We knew it could handle that, and probably a bit more.
Something else to note: If you’re ever driving in France and see a blue circular road sign with red X, it literally means “No Stopping.”
The E-Pace is all-new for 2018 and slots below Jaguar’s F-Pace. It’s slightly smaller and costs about $3K less than its big brother, but it still manages to retain a sense of sport and panache, even at a lower price point.
During our 6-hour test, we were driving the up-level R-Dynamic models with the 2.0-liter engine that delivers 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
This engine is perfectly suited to fast acceleration and steep up-hill jaunts through the mountains. We did notice a small amount of lag under hard acceleration, but it wasn’t anything to cause disruption in aggressive driving.
If you aren’t familiar with Corsica, you should understand that the roads are very unforgiving. Rough-hewn pavement, zero-drop shoulders and plenty of blind curves dot this French island in the middle of the Mediterranean. And, while the speed limit in most places was 90 kilometers per hour or about 56 mph, we had a tough time topping 70 kph (43 mph) during most of the drive.
And though the E-Pace felt a bit heavy through the tight, winding roads, it managed to hold its own against not only the herds of cows grazing on the main thoroughfares but also the reckless natives who completely disregard the center line on blind corners. Brakes and steering work in concert to handle emergency maneuvers with aplomb.
The available adaptive dynamics system is also pretty amazing, as it made rough roads feel almost like smooth pavement.
The E-Pace is only available with all-wheel drive, which simplifies the trim lineup somewhat.
E-Pace has six trims and two engine options, with the 2.0-liter engine that delivers 246 horsepower rounding out the lower three trims.
Pricing is as follows:
* Base: $38,600
* S: $41,500
* SE: $44,300
* R-Dynamic S: $47,250
* R-Dynamic SE: $50,050
* R-Dynamic HSE: $53,100
As Jaguar is wont to do, they also have a First Edition model available only for 2018. It gets the base engine but most of the other up-level package options and is priced at $53,550.
The vehicles we were testing were R-Dynamic S models that included several available features, such as the 12.3-inch interactive driver display, red brake calipers, 4G WiFi Hotspot for up to 8 devices, Activity Key, power gesture tailgate, panoramic roof, head-up display, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring.
Jaguar didn’t give us the exact pricing of the models we were driving, but we estimate they were probably priced around $64K.
Though the E-Pace is very much of a utility vehicle, the design language takes several cues from the F-Type sports coupe – inside and out. You see it in everything from the headlights to the horizontal pencil line down the side of the vehicle.
Inside, the design remains sporty, and in fact, the E-Pace has the same steering wheel and gear shift as the F-Type.
The vehicle we drove came in Borasco Grey – a kind of a cement color that is amazing on the E-Pace. The interior was a flashy Mars Red Windsor that managed to look both rich and sporty at the same time.
The interior design is both intuitive and attractive, and all of the touch points are fairly solid. I like the looks and operations of the new Jaguar infotainment system – from the 4-color graphics to the easy-touch operation.
Another personal fave: The available 18-way power adjustable, heated-and-cooled front seats. From the lumbar support to the seat bottom length adjustor, it was really easy to fine-tune my driving or passenger position – and after 6 solid hours in the seats, I can safely say they were just as comfortable at the end as they were in the beginning.
The Bottom Line
The 2018 Jaguar E-Pace
is set to compete with the all-wheel drive versions of the BMW X1 ($35,900) and X2 ($38,400), Mercedes-Benz GLA ($35,400) and Audi Q3 ($35,000), and in terms of styling and interior finish, E-Pace totally wins. The X1 might feel a bit sportier and lighter, but E-Pace absolutely handles better than the GLA and A3.
It can easily double as a daily commuter and weekend family car with a decent amount of cargo space in the “boot” for strollers, groceries or luggage.
At the end of the day, E-Pace is practical, attractive and fun-to-drive and certainly worth testing if you’re looking at a compact luxury SUV.Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Jaguar covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.