I drove a $54,000 Jaguar E-Pace to see if the crossover SUV could deliver both on luxury and performance - here's the verdict

Jaguar E PACE 6Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • After launching its first-ever SUV with the mid-size F-Pace, Jaguar has followed with the compact E-Pace.
  • It's a sharply and stylishly designed luxury crossover.
  • I liked the F-Pace better, but there's no arguing that the sport R-Dynamic trim level delivers eye-opening Jaguar-caliber performance.


For most of its dazzling history, dating back to 1935, Jaguar was known for gorgeous cars that were captivating to look at and thrilling to drive.

During the financial crisis, Jaguar and stablemate Land Rover were sold by then-owned Ford to India's Tata Motors. Since then, Tata has done a marvelous job of keeping Jaguar relevant. That's meant stunningly high-performance cars like the F-Type, but also Jag's first-ever SUV, the F-Pace, which arrive for the 2017 model year.

Designed by Ian Callum, that vehicle was a stunner. But the insatiable market for luxury crossovers wouldn't be sated by a single SUV with a Jaguar badge on the grille. Thus, the smaller E-Pace arrived for 2018. Now Jaguar has the crossovers it needs to compete head-to-head, segment-by-segment, with BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Lexus.

The big issue for Jaguar isn't that the company can't do SUVs. With the F-Pace, it showed it can. The question is whether it can consistently translate Jag's storied DNA - Enzo Ferrari named the classic E-Type as the most beautiful car he'd ever seen - to the more awkward genre of the crossover. Because let's face it, these are basically just large hatchbacks, or lifted station wagons. You aren't supposed to drool over them.

You are supposed to drool over Jags, however. All Jags. And that extends beyond the aesthetics. You're also meant to relish the driving part. Speed and beauty have always found themselves conjoined - such is the destiny of all leaping cats.

We were intrigued to see if Jaguar could pull off a repeat performance with the E-Pace, after the F-Pace blew us away. So we borrowed a 2018 E-Pace R-Dynamic HSE, stickering at $54,095. Here's how it went.

Photos by Hollis Johnson.

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Our 2018 E-Pace might look white, but that exterior paint job is actually "Borasco Gray" — a sort of chalky tone.

Our 2018 E-Pace might look white, but that exterior paint job is actually "Borasco Gray" — a sort of chalky tone.

The E-Pace is a little brother to the F-Pace, Jaguar's first-ever SUV.

The E-Pace is a little brother to the F-Pace, Jaguar's first-ever SUV.

Read the review.

While the F-Pace is a triumph of automotive design (congrats to Ian Callum for creating the most beautiful SUV in history), the E-Pace has a strong visual presence for a compact SUV.

While the F-Pace is a triumph of automotive design (congrats to Ian Callum for creating the most beautiful SUV in history), the E-Pace has a strong visual presence for a compact SUV.

That said, the vehicle is indeed compact: a scrunched-down F-Pace. The bold, yet tasteful, lines and the overall lack of too much exterior details are a plus. The large, scooped vents under the headlights are a it off-balance, however.

That said, the vehicle is indeed compact: a scrunched-down F-Pace. The bold, yet tasteful, lines and the overall lack of too much exterior details are a plus. The large, scooped vents under the headlights are a it off-balance, however.

If I were to describe the E-Pace in terms of the animal kingdom, I wouldn't call it a cat so much as a taut little terrier.

If I were to describe the E-Pace in terms of the animal kingdom, I wouldn't call it a cat so much as a taut little terrier.

Stashed under the hood, behind the blacked-out grille and the crimson-and-chrome Jaguar badge is 296-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, making 295 pound-feet of torque. There's a nine-speed automatic, with paddle-shifters for manual made in R-Dynamic trim package.

Stashed under the hood, behind the blacked-out grille and the crimson-and-chrome Jaguar badge is 296-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, making 295 pound-feet of torque. There's a nine-speed automatic, with paddle-shifters for manual made in R-Dynamic trim package.

Fuel economy is in-line with the segment: 21 mpg city/27 highway/23 combined.

The front and rear live in harmony. Note the smooth flow of all the E-Pace's shapes, curves, and angles.

The front and rear live in harmony. Note the smooth flow of all the E-Pace's shapes, curves, and angles.

Dual exhaust pipes, and a narrow backlight — the latter means that your side-view mirrors will get a workout.

Dual exhaust pipes, and a narrow backlight — the latter means that your side-view mirrors will get a workout.

The toughest part to get right visually with an SUV is the back end, but the E-Pace's is both proportionally and jazzy, particularly with that liftgate spoiler consuming so much real estate.

The toughest part to get right visually with an SUV is the back end, but the E-Pace's is both proportionally and jazzy, particularly with that liftgate spoiler consuming so much real estate.

The cargo area affords 24 cubic feet of storage — and that was plenty for family-of-four duty in the suburbs. Families of five, on the other hand, might struggle. The liftgate is powered.

The cargo area affords 24 cubic feet of storage — and that was plenty for family-of-four duty in the suburbs. Families of five, on the other hand, might struggle. The liftgate is powered.

Let's slip inside. Yes, that interior is red — "Mars Red," to be precise.

Let's slip inside. Yes, that interior is red — "Mars Red," to be precise.

Jaguars are supposed to both elegant and sporty, and this E-Pace bears the extra burden of the R-Dynamic performance setup.

Jaguars are supposed to both elegant and sporty, and this E-Pace bears the extra burden of the R-Dynamic performance setup.

In execution, that means beyond just the R-Dynamic branding in the steering wheel, the driver should feel that they're piloting both a stylish cruising vessel and a leaping feline that can be called upon at any time to show its claws and fangs.

In execution, that means beyond just the R-Dynamic branding in the steering wheel, the driver should feel that they're piloting both a stylish cruising vessel and a leaping feline that can be called upon at any time to show its claws and fangs.

The instrument cluster is digital, but with analog gauges.

The instrument cluster is digital, but with analog gauges.

The gauges will present a different "look," depending on which drive mode you're in. Overall, the design is clean and purposeful.

The gauges will present a different "look," depending on which drive mode you're in. Overall, the design is clean and purposeful.

We're not big fans of these newfangled joystick-type shifters, but Jag's is relatively easy to use.

We're not big fans of these newfangled joystick-type shifters, but Jag's is relatively easy to use.

The panoramic moon roof is actually an included, no-cost option for E-Paces at our the trim level of our tester.

The panoramic moon roof is actually an included, no-cost option for E-Paces at our the trim level of our tester.

It floods the front ...

It floods the front ...

... and rear seats with abundant natural light. You'll note that the back seats don't exactly provide a massive amount of leg-room. Remember, this is a compact crossover, with all the drawbacks (and as we'll see in a second) advantages that implies.

... and rear seats with abundant natural light. You'll note that the back seats don't exactly provide a massive amount of leg-room. Remember, this is a compact crossover, with all the drawbacks (and as we'll see in a second) advantages that implies.

The ten-inch touchscreen provides access to an spanking-good 825-watt Meridian Surround Sound audio system.

The ten-inch touchscreen provides access to an spanking-good 825-watt Meridian Surround Sound audio system.

We're really torn about Jaguar Land Rover infotainment system. On one hand, it's well designed and modern. On the other, it's laggy and at-times glitchy. In my testing on the E-Pace, it was mostly excellent, however.

We're really torn about Jaguar Land Rover infotainment system. On one hand, it's well designed and modern. On the other, it's laggy and at-times glitchy. In my testing on the E-Pace, it was mostly excellent, however.

Navigation was accurate and reliable, and the maps were beautifully rendered.

Navigation was accurate and reliable, and the maps were beautifully rendered.

There's a suite of apps to go along with Bluetooth connectivity, in-vehicle wifi, and the usual USB/AUX ports.

There's a suite of apps to go along with Bluetooth connectivity, in-vehicle wifi, and the usual USB/AUX ports.

There's even an option for those who want to obsessively track their stats — and what's not to love about that red London phone booth as the prompt to connect a phone?

There's even an option for those who want to obsessively track their stats — and what's not to love about that red London phone booth as the prompt to connect a phone?

So what's the verdict?

So what's the verdict?

The bottom line is that F-Pace is bigger, more beautiful, and better overall — but also much more expensive. The F-Pace that we sampled in 2017 was $72,000.

The E-Pace is now the entry-level Jaguar SUV, and it's a pretty solid first taste of this growing family of vehicles. Jag has long been a sports-car-and-sedan marque, and while those rides aren't going away, the market — especially in the US — is demanding crossovers.

Luxury crossovers are doubly important because while SUVs are more profitable than cars, luxury SUVs are way more profitable.

Every box has been crossed off the list when it comes to the E-Pace. Yes, it's a sharp set of wheels. Yes, it has good cargo capacity. Yes, it can carry two adults and three smaller folks (but ideally just two) in Jaggy style. Yes, it's crammed with all the airbags and driver-assist features modern luxury buyers demands, a bird's-eye park-assist camera view to lane-keep assist to emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and adaptive cruise control.

But what genuinely makes the E-Pace a Jaguar worthy of the brand's long lineage and celebrated DNA is what happens when you drive it in a spirited way.

This cat is fast and fun. Very quick, and an absolute blast to throw into corners. That almost 300-horsepower turbocharged mill send the E-Pace on a brisk dash to 60 mph in just over six seconds, on its way to a top speed of 135 mph. Our $54,000 tester was basically a second faster than the $40,000 base trim of the crossover.

Is it a crossover-cum-sports-car? Nah, the overall dynamics, while bracing, aren't anything like what you might find in a Jaguar F-Type. But that's a Thoroughbred coupé — the comparison is sort of silly, and as long as the E-Pace drives sort of like a Jag, then it's mission accomplished.

Obviously, this is an SUV, so all-wheel-drive is in the picture. The weather during our test week wasn't lousy enough to stress it. I kept things in Dynamic mode, for the most part, dropping back to Normal for highway cruising.

The upshot here is that the E-Pace combines great looks with dandy performance, Jaguar panache, and solid compact crossover utility. For those just dipping a toe into the luxury SUV segment, it's one of the best places to start.

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