London - Jaguar is putting itself on the fast track to mass appeal with its E-Pace, which is a compact SUV that will take on popular premium compacts like the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 when it lands on South African shores in early 2018.
It also happens to be the first Jaguar since the ill-fated X-Type to offer front-wheel drive, although most models will sport an advanced all-wheel drive system.
You see, unlike the F-Pace, which is built around Jaguar’s advanced but expensive aluminium architecture, and which caters for rear-wheel drive layouts with its longitudinal engine positioning, the E-Pace instead shares its steel-bodied architecture with the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque, and thus sports transversely mounted engines.
In a nutshell this layout means a less sporty driving experience, but does lend itself to better interior packaging and thus more space for occupants and luggage - something that buyers in this segment are no doubt going to appreciate more than mountain pass-gobbling agility in any case.
On that note, Jaguar claims its new ‘baby’ offers generous legroom and a sizeable (577-litre) boot.
However, Jaguar still refers to the E-Pace as the hot hatch of its segment, and there is a relatively powerful flagship engine in the form of JLR’s most potent 2-litre, four-cylinder ‘Ingenium’ turbopetrol, rated at 221kW and 400Nm, and reputedly capable of getting the little cat (or cub as Jaguar affectionately calls its new offspring) from zero to 100km/h in just 6.4 seconds.
Jaguar will also offer a 183kW/365Nm version of this engine, along with a trio of 2-litre Ingenium turbodiesels in 110kW/380Nm, 132kW/430Nm and 177kW/500Nm guises.
All but the base diesel are fitted with the ‘Active Driveline’ all-wheel drive system that Jaguar has adapted to offer a rear-wheel bias and the ability to allow “controlled drifting” on low-friction surfaces. Furthermore, the ‘Adaptive Dynamics’ suspension system offers adjustable damping and drivers can also personalise the vehicle’s throttle, steering and gearbox settings.
Jaguar claims that the E-Pace is one of the most “connected and intelligent” vehicles in its class. The SUV boasts up to four 12-volt charging points and five USB connections, and as many of eight devices can stream content on its 4G Wi-Fi hotspot.
The car comes with a 25cm customisable touch-screen infotainment system as standard and there are plenty of enticing options available for those wanting to give their E-Pace an electronic pimping.
For starters, there are two high-end Meridian audio options on offer, including an 825W, 15-speaker surround sound system.
Buyers can also opt for a 31.2cm digital instrument cluster, as well as JLR’s new-generation TFT Head-Up display system with full-colour graphics for speed, satnav directions and various alerts and updates.
Let’s not forget the wearable, and waterproof, Activity Key, which allows you to lock the vehicle and then go for a swim without worrying about getting your key wet. During drier, everyday activities, you can also keep tabs on your E-Pace through your smartphone or smartwatch, with the InControl app allowing you to check fuel levels, turn on the heater or even start the vehicle.
The new SUV is big on safety too, with a suite of driver assist gadgets that includes Forward Traffic Detection, in addition to all the usual lane assistants, auto braking with pedestrian detection and so on.
Oh, and as if people would not be interested enough in the car alone, Jaguar decided to set yet another Guinness World Record during the unveiling of the E-Pace, this time completing a 15.3 metre-long jump that included a 27-degree corkscrew-like ‘barrel roll’.
Check it out in the video below.