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Jaguar E-Pace


Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

Summary

Jaguar E-Pace

The E-Pace is a new Jaguar, or is it? Jaguars used to be something your boss drove, cars with a whiff of snob about them, as well as subtle scents of cigar, whisky, mahogany and Old Spice.

They were also loud, powerful and proud machines, and as British as referring to Australians as “colonials”.

The E-Pace, on the other hand, is a small SUV that smells, sounds and seems like a lot of other cars in what Jaguar refers to as, “the hottest segment in the car world; premium soft-roaders". If that sentence alone, coming out of a Jaguar spokeshead’s mouth, doesn’t sum up the way the company has changed, I don’t know what does. 

Making your brand more affordable while still making it look desirable is a hell of a profitable trick, if you can get away with it.

Jaguar claims the E-Pace is “the coolest SUV” reasonable money can buy, and with prices starting under $48,000, this really is a Jag for the workers, rather than the bosses.

What does set it apart, however, aside from that tempting price point, is its looks. Jaguar’s genius designer, Ian Callum, has done it again, creating a simply sexy vehicle that’s so instantly desirable that Australians have piled in with pre-orders, so many of them that the company is already certain the E-Pace will be its biggest-selling model.

Those customers who’ve slapped down deposits without even sitting in one, let alone driving it, might be in for a few surprises. 

The E-Pace might not be the full Jaguar, but is it a cute enough cub to cut it? We drove as many variants as we could at the Australian launch to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency5.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

Buuuuuuuur, parp, buuuuuuuuuuuur, parp. Anyone who knows anything about cars immediately recognises the sound of a 45-engined A-class derivative. It's the sound you hear in a tunnel as old mate blasts past with a giant carbon-fibre wing atop his hatchback. It's the sound you hear at 3:00am on a summer morning (if your suburb has no speed bumps, of course).

In short, that sound means big power from a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, a seven-speed transmission, and a bunch of Germans who clearly had a sense of humour in charge of tuning the exhaust note.

Sure, the GLA compact SUV is probably a slightly unexpected source of all that noise. But then, Merc's Ingolstadt rivals stuffed Audi's stupendous five-cylinder engine into a Q3 to make the hugely improbable RSQ3, so why not do the same with their skirts-lifted A-Class?

To be honest, my expectations for this car were low. So do I owe Mercedes a grovelling apology? Or can I still claim the moral high ground after a week of GLA 45 "ownership"?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Jaguar E-Pace7.9/10

There is absolutely no question the Jaguar E-Pace will be a huge success for the company, and will increase the number of Jags you see on the road exponentially. Much as the German brands have done, since way back when Mercedes launched its A-Class, the British brand has now made itself attainable to the masses.

There’s plenty to love about the way the E-Pace looks, particularly from the outside, and about how it drives. There are, however, some niggles that suggest you might want to test drive one before slapping down your hard earned, and the cheap-feeling plastics in the interior, even in up-spec models, will disappoint some people. Overall, though, Jaguar has built an absolute banker.

Check out Peter Anderson's E-Pace video from its international launch earlier this year.

Could the E-Pace be your first Jaguar? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class7.1/10

My wonderful wife, who is not really into this kind of car, admitted to me in a quiet voice that she really liked the GLA45 as long as it was in Sport + mode. And I have to agree. While I'm very fond of the ridiculous Audi RSQ3 (that turbo five-cylinder sounds amazing), I think I'd stump up the extra for the GLA.

Importantly, it can be comfortable, it can be quiet and it's a better fit for most humans than the A or CLA. It is getting on a bit and could do with a further clean-out of the poor ergonomics, but in what is likely its final year on sale, it's still a belter.

Has Peter finally lost it? Can the GLA45 be the best of the A-side 45 trio? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Design

Jaguar E-Pace8/10

Frankly, design might just be the E-Pace’s most important feature. It manages to make a small SUV look genuinely desirable by being sexily shapely and perfectly proportioned. This is a seriously difficult trick to pull off, but it’s one that Jaguar has done before, with the hugely successful  F-Pace, so this is a case of giving people slightly less of the same.

There really isn’t an angle from which the E-Pace doesn’t look good, but the more money you throw at your car, the better it looks, as the wheels grow from the standard 17-inch ones to very tough looking optional 21-inch units.

At the bottom end of the spec chart, on that sub-$50,000 version that almost no one will actually buy, you don’t even get exhaust tips, and indeed at first glance it looks like the car doesn’t have pipes at all (a weedy little pipe is tucked away underneath), and this does look a bit ordinary.

More chrome and shiny bits are thrown at the car as you move up the price points, and the R-Dynamic spec is obviously the sexiest version of all.

What’s interesting is how different the design feels once you get inside. Imagine being given the famous blue box from jewellers Tiffany and finding a plastic cereal-box ring inside and you’re somewhere near the E-Pace experience.

There is some really quite nasty cheap plastic around the gear lever, in the doors, and right around the window switches in an area you’ll touch every day. The shabby grey plastic surround of the shifter is made of the kind of nasty stuff Hyundai no longer uses.

Not only can you see that it will mark up and wear quite badly, but if you tap on it it makes the kind of noise you’d expect from a kids’ lunch box.

Fortunately, the steering wheel still feels premium, the touchscreen is large and top quality and there’s plenty about the E-Pace that reflects Jaguar design, but it’s hard to get past the feeling that the corners that have been cut to save money are showing so clearly you could cut yourself on them.


Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class7/10

The GLA45 isn't a looker, but then, none of the GLAs are. There's a certain blobbiness to it. A bit of Teletubby mixed with...um, another Teletubby. It's not ugly, it's just not particularly attractive. The 20-inch wheels do much to lift the appearance and negate the effect of the raised ride height compared to the A45/CLA45.

The body kit stops just short of lairy, which is heartening. So if you want to stand out, venture out into the aftermarket world.

Inside was a mild surprise. The last time I drove a CLA 45 I used the word "gaudy". While the GLA isn't amazingly better, the texture of the Alcantara replacing the brushed metal-look plastic, or the carbon of the option pack, was much more pleasant. The brightwork in the cabin is still a bit odd looking, and it's still overcooked with its red detailing, but it is an otherwise beautifully built and well-detailed interior.

Practicality

Jaguar E-Pace8/10

While the interior might feel cheap in places, it’s certainly spacious, with excellent headroom front and rear, and a sense of light and airiness that’s much helped by optioning the panoramic glass roof (for a hefty $2160).

Jaguar claims its rear seats are so large customers will shop the E-Pace against bigger vehicles, like BMW’s X3, rather than just direct competitors like the X2. This might be a stretch, but I certainly found it comfortable enough to sit behind my own seating position (I’m 175cm/5'9") without my knees touching the seat back. Shoulder room is also good and four adults could certainly ride in this car in comfort.

Sadly, the seats aren’t quite as comfortable as you might hope, being slightly flat and unsupportive, particularly in the cheaper models.

There’s a cheap-feeling oddments tray that covers two differently sized cupholders between the seats, which can be lifted off and stowed in a good-sized storage big under your left elbow. Another oddment storage tray, made of a quite ugly plastic, sits underneath the head unit and there are large storage pockets in the doors, front and rear, as well as storage for large bottles. Boot space is also reasonably capacious at 484 litres.


Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class7/10

The front seats are utterly brilliant and feel as good as they look. On first acquaintance they may feel under-padded, but once you've adjusted them to your liking, you never want to leave. The AMG cars also feature one vast improvement over a normal GLA - the ergonomic disaster of a column-mounted shifter is removed, with a console-mounted shifter added where a small cubby once lived. It's so much better, although the Park button is oddly difficult to press.

When luxuriating in those snug front seats, you'll have access to two cupholders and door-mounted bottle holders, as well as a console bin (where the USB ports are) and a tray under the climate controls. Rear seat passengers will find legroom tight but headroom good, even with the huge sunroof.

The GLA's boot holds an entirely reasonable 421 litres, rising to 1235 when you drop both rear seats.

Price and features

Jaguar E-Pace8/10

There’s no doubting the perceived value of offering a vehicle with a Jaguar badge that starts under $50,000, an idea that would have seemed unimaginable not so long ago.

And if we all bought cars by the kilogram, the E-Pace would certainly be a bargain, because it’s a heavy beast of a thing, far outweighing any of its competitors at not far off two tonnes.

And there’s certainly an astonishing amount of choice in the range, with no less than 38 variants, thanks to what Jaguar calls its 'Ultimate Customer Choice', which allows you to build any kind of E-Pace you fancy.

Spec levels range through S, SE, HSE and R-Dynamic, and you can have each of those with your choice of five different engines, three diesels and two petrols - the D150, D180 D240, P250 and P300.

All E-Paces sold in Australia are fitted with all-wheel drive, despite European models offering a front-drive only option.

In Australia, the company says it will be competing aggressively in the $50,000-$70,000 price range and pin points its $62,430, D180 SE model as where its volume, and its conquest sales, will come from.

Early adopters, though, might be tempted by the First Edition, which will only be available for the first model year and comes with all sorts of temping goodies at a price of $80,952 for the D180 or $84,370 for the P250 version.

The First Edition gets spiffy 'Caldera Red' paint, 20-inch 'Satin Grey Diamond Turned' finish alloy wheels, a 'Black Pack' exterior and the fixed panoramic roof, which really does improved the interior ambiance.

Inside you get special mats, branded tread plates, 'Ebony Windsor' leather and a head-up display (which really should be standard across the range, for safety’s sake, but is largely optional).

Other gimmicks include configurable ambient interior lighting, extra power sockets, the sexy 'Jaguar Activity Key' and the gesture tailgate. Overall, this does look like strikingly good value, if you’re willing to spend that much on a small SUV (it's more than 300mm shorter than an F-Pace, at 4411mm long).

In terms of standard features across all models, the list is reasonable, with classy-looking 17-inch wheels, LED lights, space saver steel spare wheel, air vents for the back seats (an absolute must for those with kids), eight-way adjustable seats, which are cloth at the bottom end, 'All Surface Progress Control' - which sounds Land Rover-like but doesn’t mean you can climb boulders - push-button start, a 10-inch 'Touch Pro' screen, which is lovely but does not offer Apple CarPlay, even as an option, and plenty of safety kit, including lane-keep assist, 'Driver Condition Monitor', Front and Rear Parking Aid and Emergency Brake Assist.

The base E-Pace, with no bling spec at all, starts at $47,750 for the showroom-bait D150 diesel, and rises to $50,150 for the D180 (you get an extra 22kW, up to just 132kW) or the same price for the P250 petrol (with 174kW).

Step up to S spec - which includes 18-inch wheels, approach lights on your door mirrors, leather seats, and 'Navigation Pro' and 'Park Assist', plus a Wi-Fi hot spot - and prices range from $55,200 for the D150 through $57,600 for the D180, $64,020 for the D240 (yet another version of the diesel) and then $57,600 for the P250 and finally the same $64,020 pricing sweet spot will get you an S spec P300, the full-fat petrol model with 221kW.

The SE - stepping up to 19-inch wheels, a powered tailgate, 14-way adjustable seats rather than just 10-way and a Meridian sound system and Adaptive Cruise Control - ranges from $60,020 to $70,265 across the same models, while the (almost) top-line HSE (with lashings of leather and colourful stitching, plus 20-inch wheels and a 12.3-inch Driver Display) starts at $65,590 for the D150 (and honestly, who’s going to go for the top spec with the least-wondrous engine, honestly?) up to $77,493 for the P300.

The final choice, for extra icing on your icing, comes with the R-Dynamic pack, which you can add to your base model, or your S, SE or HSE, for around $4500 a throw, offering a range of $52,550 to $83,733.

In proper European gouge style, there are plenty of options as well, including heated and cooled seats that can cost up to $1870, and leather packages that can cost north of $8000, red brake callipers for $660 and a whopping $430 for a DAB radio, or the panoramic roof for $2160. Even keyless entry can set you back $950.

Not offering CarPlay is a mysterious and annoying omission in a brand-new model, but overall there is value to be found in the range, or you can spend yourself silly if you still want to pay $100K plus for your Jaag, but you want a small SUV.


Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class7/10

The GLA 45 lightens your wallet by no less than $89,211 - more than double the GLA 180 front-wheel drive, and about $5000 more than the bonkers (and ancient) RS Q3.

Packed into the GLA's kit bag are 20-inch alloy wheels, a 12-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, comprehensive safety gear, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, electric and heated front seats, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, leather trim (some real, some not), auto parking, powered and heated folding mirrors, a massive sunroof and dynamic dampers. There's no spare tyre, just a tyre-repair kit.

The multimedia system is Mercedes' COMAND unit and it is as user-unfriendly as ever. It does, however, power a very decent stereo, and also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Thankfully our car was bereft of both the carbon-fibre package ($990) and the aerodynamics package ($1990).

Engine & trans

Jaguar E-Pace8/10

Truly, it is amazing what feats the modern 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is capable of, and the more expensive choices out of the E-Pace’s five offerings really do perform wonders, particularly considering the weight they have to haul.

There’s slightly less excitement at the bottom end, though, as you’d expect, with the 2.0-litre Ingenium D150 diesel making 110kW at 3500rpm and 380Nm at 1750rpm, and taking a leisurely 10-seconds plus to accelerate from 0-100km/h.

The D180 gets 132kW at 4000rpm, and 420Nm at 1750rpm, and runs 0-100km/h in a still sluggish 9.3  seconds.

The D240 makes 177kW at 4000 rpm and 500Nm at 1500rpm, and is far more fun, with a 0-100km/h time of 7.4 seconds, and plenty of grunt down low.

The two 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol turbo units offer 183kW at 5500rpm and 365Nm for the basic P250, or 221kW at 5500rpm and 400Nm, available between 1500 and 4500rpm, for the top-spec P300, the fastest thing in the range at just 6.4 seconds 0-100km/h.

All E-Paces are fitted with a slick-shifting nine-speed automatic, which makes changing gears manually annoying. Only the R-Dynamic offers shift paddles.


Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class8/10

AMG's fabled 2.0-litre turbo four lurks under that higher bonnet, still kicking out an improbable 280kW and 475Nm. Drive reaches the road via Merc's own seven-speed twin-clutch transmission and all four of its wheels.

All that power and grip translates to a 4.4-second dash to 100km/h for the slightly tubby (over 1600kg) GLA, but just between you and me, anything under five seconds feels scorchingly quick.

Fuel consumption

Jaguar E-Pace8/10

Obviously, running such small engines is a move aimed at fuel economy, so you’d expect the figures to be good, but imagine if the E-Pace was some 400kg lighter, like an Audi Q3 is, how much better the figures could have been.

Still, a claimed 5.6 litres per 100km for the two base diesels, and 7.7 for the perkier and petrol powered P250 is pretty good going. The top diesel D240 can give you 6.2L/100km and you’d still be pretty happy with an 8.0L/100km return from the P300, if you ever managed such a figure, which we seriously doubt.

We averaged closer to double figures in all the variants we drove (albeit enthusiastically).

The CO2 outputs range from 147g/km for the bottom two diesels, stepping up to 162g/km for the D240 and 174 and 181g/km respectively for the two petrols.


Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class7/10

The official combined-cycle figure suggests the GLA45 will consume 7.5L/100km. Obviously that figure is largely irrelevant, and not just for the usual reasons, but because you don't buy a GLA45 to potter about in. I got, uh, 12.5L/100km, so you can imagine how much I was enjoying it.

As you might expect, you'll need to feed it 98RON.

Driving

Jaguar E-Pace8/10

The good news is there’s plenty of genuine Jaguar in the way the car feels to drive, up to a point.

Through long sweeping bends of the medium to high-speed variety, it is great, fluid fun, with minimal body roll, and properly involving, muscular steering.

You can actually feel you’re in a car that’s related to the hugely enjoyable and tough-feeling F-Type. Turn-in is crisp and involving and the front-end set-up feels as sporty as Jaguar people enthusiastically suggest it will be.

And then you arrive, quite quickly, at a 35km/h-marked corner, throw it in and remember that you’re not sitting with your bum anywhere near the ground, and you are piloting a top-heavy machine that weighs nearly two tonnes.

At this point you will get a mild scare, but even then the Jaguar doesn't really misbehave, it simply puts you back in your box and reminds you that a sports car, this is not.

The E-Pace really is a surprisingly heavy vehicle, though, and while that weight can feel like solidity and premium quality while you’re cruising along, it does dull the driving experience on a twisty road.

With diesel-engined cars weighing “from” 1936kg and petrol-engined versions just slightly less, the E-Pace not only weighs in significantly heavier than competitors like Audi’s Q3 or BMW’s X2, it’s actually heavier than its big brother, the F-Pace, despite being a lot smaller (4731 mm vs 4411mm overall length).

The reason is that, while the F-Pace is made of expensive aluminium, the smaller Jag is built on a more steel-heavy platform, a revised version of the architecture Range Rover’s Evoque sits on.

Jaguar says the E-Pace platform is all-new from the firewall forward, so it can have more Jag-like handling, but the decision to share an older design rather than giving it new, lightweight underpinnings of its own is yet another case of saving on cost to get the price tag down.

As sporty as the performance of the up-spec engines is, it’s interesting to wonder just how much better this car might be if it was shaved of 200kg or even 400kg, of weight.

The fact is the E-Pace is not really about being sporty, it’s about stretching the Jag brand as far as possible. If it feels and looks like a Jaguar, and a lot more people can afford one, then genuine sportiness really won’t matter.

For all that, Jag has genuinely managed to engineer in enough Jaguar DNA, particularly in the steering department, to please customers.

On the downside, the ride is unfortunately jiggly and jarring on our rough and broken Aussie roads, particularly if you spec the larger and more attractive 19-, 20- or 21-inch wheels rather than the more sensible standard 17s. And there is quite a bit of tyre roar on coarse-chip surfaces.

The top-spec diesel is meaty and pleasant to use and manages to sound enthusiastic under strain, only becoming slightly clattery at low throttle openings in traffic.

The only time you really notice it’s an oil-burner, however, is when the start-stop system kicks the engine back into life with a cough and a splutter.

Slip down the diesel engine range, however, and the weight-versus-performance equation becomes more noticeable. The base diesel is a bit of a slug, with a 0-100km/h time on the wrong side of 10 seconds, and seems to pause and take a deep breath each time you apply the throttle, or at the base of a hill. Those using the E-Pace for the school run probably won’t mind.

The top-spec petrol engine is, not surprisingly, the pick of the bunch; willing to rev and genuinely quite remarkable when you consider that it is merely a four-cylinder 2.0-litre unit that’s being asked to haul around more than two tonnes of machine and human.

It’s fair to say that, being the hardest working four-cylinders in show business, they sound like they’re straining at high revs rather than having a good time.

It should also be noted that there is absolutely none of the traditional Jaguar growling or howling to be found in the E-Pace.


Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class7/10

When the 45-badged cars first launched, they were something of a revelation. BMW's turbo six-cylinder fans sniffed at the 2.0-litre's staggering outputs and all-wheel-drive chassis, but this car really captured the imagination. The GLA45 might be slightly unexpected, but it's better in almost every way as a daily driver than the A or CLA.

For a start, its higher ride height seems to translate to a much better ride quality. Anything on 20-inch wheels should have an appalling ride, but the GLA45 manages to be firm yet comfortable. Put the other two in Race mode and you'll need to up your private health insurance extras to include osteo, physio and whatever "o"-ending specialist fixes your back.

The improved ride quality meant I was far happier to chuck this car around. While it doesn't have the same ultimate overall performance of the lower cars, it's far more comfortable whether you're on it or just driving around. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, and the steering is excellent.

As for the engine...well, it still farts like toddler during a moment of silence at a funeral, but you can't deny its technical brilliance and huge power outputs. I remember the CLA45's engine as being a bit highly strung. Perhaps I couldn't separate the overall high-strung nature of the car from the engine, but I felt the same engine in this car wasn't as jumpy.

The way it propels this car into triple figures is tremendous fun. It's not as charismatic as the Audi five-cylinder, perhaps, but that doesn't matter in the end - it's properly fast, attached to a better chassis and offers a cabin with a driving position fit for humans.

Safety

Jaguar E-Pace8/10

It seems fair to give extra points to a car that cares about pedestrians, particularly after the autonomous Uber accident, so hats off to the E-Pace for its class-leading pedestrian airbag system, which pops out of the trailing edge of the bonnet to protect slow-moving humans.

Jaguar also combines its blind-spot monitor and its lane-keep assist to come up with something called 'Blind Spot Assist', which will help to prevent you from sideswiping motorcyclists, using flashing lights and corrective steering. Handy. Sadly it's not standard, but it can be had as part of a $1020 'Drive Pack'.

The E-Pace is yet to be crash tested by local authorities, but offers an “optimised body structure” to help it “exceed all safety standards worldwide”.

Six airbags are standard, and there are two ISOFIX points.

In active-safety terms, the E-Pace has Emergency Braking tech, with pedestrian detection, which will first prime the brakes after identifying danger, and then activate them if you don’t.


Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class7/10

The GLA comes with nine airbags (including driver's knee), blind-spot sensors, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning and mitigation and driver-attention detection.

The GLA does not have its own ANCAP rating, but the A-Class on which it is so heavily-based scored five stars in 2013.

Ownership

Jaguar E-Pace7/10

Jaguar's new E-Pace comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty, which is okay, but not quite the full Kia seven-year deal. It does however, include paint and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty.

A servicing plan is available at a cost of $1500 for five years. Service intervals are 12 months/26,000km for diesel engines or 24 months/34,000km for petrol models.


Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class7/10

The Mercedes standard warranty is three years/unlimited kilometres with roadside assist to match. Service intervals are a very reasonable 12 months/20,000km.

The company also offers capped-price servicing - first service is $576 but the second and third are a whopping $1152 each. Three years will set you back $2880.