Jaguar’s Junior SUV Ready To Battle BMW

YOU’LL BE SEEING a lot more of this new SUV, which is gearing up to become Jaguar’s biggest seller. The E-Pace is the smaller sibling of the hugely successful F-Pace, and looks set to provide some serious premium competition for the dominant Germans. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, with a choice of engines and variety of trim levels, the E-Pace is bang on trend: a relatively affordable premium SUV when global demand for upwardly mobile crossovers seems insatiable. While Jaguar’s XF and XE are impressive rivals for BMW’s four-doors, the rapidly changing market means a sports saloon is no longer the make-or-break product it once was.

The SUV is swallowing other bodystyles whole, with buyers won over by the combination of image and space. Last year, one in three Jaguars sold globally was an F-Pace – and it didn’t reach showrooms until April. In contrast to the F-Pace’s 45,793 sales, the equally hyped XE sold 44,095 over a full year, with the XF managing 36,544. Once you add E-Pace to the equation, Jaguar will sell more SUVs than it does saloons, a remarkable change of direction in under two years – and one that hasn’t been at expense of Jag’s stablemates Land Rover.

At BMW, where saloons are equally important to the brand’s history, the trend is heading in the same direction but on a grander scale. Global BMW sales were up 5.2% in 2016 at more than two million worldwide. While the 3- and 5-series still dominate with more than 700,000 sales between them, both were down in 2016. X-branded models are heading the other way; X1 was up 76% in 2016 and even the old X3 was up 17%. The X5 is no spring chicken either but BMW still sold more than 150,000 worldwide. Together those three X models achieved half a million worldwide sales, and the rise shows no sign of abating.

That makes the E-Pace potentially Jag’s new best-seller. And why wouldn’t it be, judging from these first official images. The styling’s clearly inspired by the F-Pace in the long bonnet, curved flanks and truncated tail, but in the detail it’s F-Type that comes through, deliberately pitched towards younger buyers who want a sportier edge. The higher prow of the grille and swept-back headlights are copycat features from the F-Type, while the rising windowline is more coupe-like than the F-Pace.

The E-Pace maintains Jaguar’s commitment to aluminium construction: it’s used in the body structure, roof, bonnet and tailgate, with selected areas given high-strength steel. All the engines are JLR’s aluminium Ingenium units. There’s a super-frugal front-wheel-drive version running a i48bhp 2.0-litre diesel; on base-spec 17-inch alloys it manages a combined 60.1mpg and 124g/km of CO2. At the other end of the scale the hottest version at launch kicks out 296bhp from the 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol Ingenium, hitting 62mph from rest in 6.1 seconds. Six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic are the gearbox options.

At 4395mm the E-Pace is over 300mm shorter than its big brother but crucially sits on a wheelbase that’s a scant 13mm shorter, and it’s slightly longer than the XE saloon’s, ensuring decent space in the rear for passengers and a usable boot at 577 litres. You can opt for the F-Pace’s activity key and gesture-controlled tailgate, techy treats not all rivals can offer. It’s also the first Jaguar to get an updated full colour head-up display system, a much-needed replacement for the current outdated offering. Due to JLR’s UK factories running at near capacity the E-Pace will be built by Magna Steyr in Austria, alongside next year’s production version of the I-Pace electric concept. Chinese-market E-Paces will be built at the joint Chery JLR facility in Changshu.

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