Lexus RX VS Jaguar E-Pace
- Exterior design
- Steering feel
- Affordability (for a Jag)
- Cheap interior touches
- Jiggly ride
- No CarPlay
For those of us unlucky enough to remember the first Lexus RX to launch in Australia, the memories aren’t the fondest.
If you can’t remember it, just picture the stodgiest-looking SUV you can - make it so bland a mere picture of one could cure insomnia - dragging a glass-walled cube behind the rear wheels.
All of which makes the current-generation RX so incredible. I mean, just look at it; those big rims, the 3D-effect grille, the outrageous lines and creases. It’s about as far removed from its snooze-worthy predecessors as it is possible to get.
Little wonder, then, it has emerged as the second-strongest performer in the Lexus line-up. And with the RX recently refreshed (and with a seven-seat RX L model added for the first time) its high time we took a closer look at the Japanese premium brand’s large SUV.
Read More: Lexus RX 450h 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Lexus RX 450hL 2018 review: snapshot
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|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
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.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
A comfortable and ferociously well-equipped offering (even from the cheapest trim level) - and with a very good ownership package to boot - the RX has earned its place high in the Lexus pecking order.
There are faster, more pulse-quickening SUVs available, of course, but as a sedate suburban warrior, the RX is hard to fault. For ours, we'd be opting for the bang-for-bucks sweet spot of the Luxury trim, paired with the punchy-but-efficient hybrid powertrain.
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.
This current RX is like the butterfly that’s emerged from the caterpillar-cocoon of the older models, looking plenty premium and serving up road presence by the bagful.
No matter which model you go for, you’ll find the angry 'Spindle Grille' up front (which, for ours, is reminiscent of the Predator’s toothy grin, while 20-inch alloys are an impressive size, and a very un-Lexus body kit wraps from the front end all the way around to the rear spoiler.
The interior (check out the interior photos for a closer look) is premium-feeling, if a little busy, with the doors and dash covered in a combination of soft-touch materials and padded leather.
The brushed aluminium-look central tunnel that separates the front seats is super wide, as it houses the cupholders, drive-mode selector and the strange mousepad that controls the entertainment system, but feels nice under the touch and becomes a kind of focal point in the cabin.
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.
With dimensions stretching 4890mm long and 1895mm wide, the RX sits squarely in the large SUV category, and there’s plenty of space for riders in both the first and second row.
Up front, there is a cup holder for both driver and passenger and extendable pockets in each of the front doors, and the deep cubby that separates the front seats adds plenty of storage space, and is home to two USB connections, a power outlet and and aux connection, but there is no sunglass holder.
The interior dimensions ensure there’s plenty of space in the back seat, although the central stack that houses the air vents and another power outlet does jut out into the rear legroom of the middle-seat passenger. There are two bonus cupholders hidden in a pulldown divider that drops from the middle seat, and two ISOFIX attachment points along the backseat.
Open the automatic tailgate (by waving your hand in front of the Lexus badge) and you’ll find 453 litres of luggage capacity, with boot space increasing to 942 litres by folding the backseat down. Theres’s a sliding cargo cover (the SUV version of a tonneau cover), too.
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.
Price and features
The Lexus RX arrives in plenty of trim and engine combinations, so exactly how much yours will cost is largely up to you.
The minimum RRP, though, is $74,251, which will buy you an RX300 Luxury. A little further up the price list lives the RX350 Luxury, at $81,421, which makes use of a bigger engine, while the hybrid RX450h Luxury will set you back $90,160.
The range then steps up to the second of three trim levels, the F Sport, for which you’ll be paying $86,551 for the RX300, $93,721 for the RX350 and $102,460 for the RX450h.
Finally, the range tops out with the Sport Luxury trim, which will push the budget to $92,701 for the RX300, $99,871 for the RX350 and $108,610 for the RX450h.
Okay, so that’s what you’ll be paying. But take a deep breath now, we’re dive into the model comparison.
Even the Luxury-badged cars are a premium package, arriving with 20-inch alloy wheels, tinted windows, a powered tailgate, LED headlights and fog lights (with daytime running lights) , a smart key with keyless entry, roof rails and rain-sensing wipers. Inside, expect a laundry list of standard features, including dual-zone climate control, sat nav (which, as far as GPS navigation systems go, is a breeze to operate), push-button start and leather trim.
Your 8.0-inch screen (it’s not a touch screen) pairs with digital radio and 12 speakers, there’s Bluetooth for your MP3s, as well as wireless charging (though iPhones require a special case), and you get heated and cooled front seats, too. Be warned; there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto anywhere in the range.
Step up to the F Sport - a pseudo sport edition - and you’ll add a bigger, 12.3-inch infotainment screen that adds a CD player and DVD player and pairs with a better Mark Levinson sound system complete with 15 speakers (including a subwoofer). You get a new colour head-up display (HUD), too, and a whole heap of sport-flavoured styling flourishes.
Compare that to the Sport Luxury, which adds with soft leather trim elements, heated seats in the second row (vs just the front seats on the F Sport trim) and a power folding function for the backseat. There’s no heated steering wheel here, but then, who needs one in Australia? The adaptive front lighting system cn be switched off, too, should you prefer the traditional approach.
Colours include 'Titanium' (metallic grey), 'Sonic Quartz' (white), 'Premium Silver', 'Onyx' (a kind of black), 'Graphite Black', 'Vermilion' (red), 'Metallic Silk' (rose gold), 'Deep Metallic Bronze' (a fancy brown) and 'Deep Blue'.
How many seats? That would be five. If you want a third row seat, then you’re shopping for the RX L, as the standard RX is strictly a five-seat affair.
A thick accessories catalogue includes specialty floor mats, roof rack and boot liner options, bull bar, nudge bar and rear seat entertainment system options, as well as a panoramic sunroof, which will set you back $3675. You won't find Homelink though (which automatically opens your garage door), as it's yet to be made available in Australia.
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.
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.
Engine & trans
There are three (petrol) engine size options on offer; a turbocharged 2.0-litre in the RX300, a punchy V6 in the RX350 and a hybrid set-up in the RX450.
First up, the four-cylinder turbo engine serves up 175kW/350Nm (decent specs for a smaller engine), channelling it through a six-speed automatic gearbox and sending it on to the front wheels.
The six-cylinder petrol engine is good for 221kW/370Nm, sending that power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The hybrid (it’s not a plug-in hybrid) option uses the exact same engine, but paired with an electric motor that lifts the total output to 230kW/335Nm. That combination pairs with a CVT auto, sending its horsepower to all four wheels.
All are petrol powered (there are no diesel or LPG options, and no manual transmission, for that matter), and for ours, the combined engine specs of the hybrid powertrain make the most - and most expensive - sense.
While the Luxury, F-Sport and Sport Luxury models all have adjustable drive modes (including Eco mode), tweaking throttle response and gearing, only the Sport Luxury serves up true variable suspension.
The F Sport and Sport Luxury also make use of the Lexus AWD system (though 4WD aficionados will notice the lack of low range that prevents it being a true 4x4). The RX300 is front-wheel drive, with no rear-wheel drive options anywhere in the range.
Expect a braked towing capacity of at least 1000kg (provided you’ve picked a tow bar/tow hitch receiver from the accessories catalogue) with a gross vehicle weight that starts from 2500kg.
For reported problems and maintenance, including transmission problems, battery and oil type, and changing your timing belt or chain, see our owner’s page.
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 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.
For the smaller, turbocharged engine, Lexus claims fuel economy of 8.1 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, with emissions pegged at 189g/km of CO2. Stepping up to the RX350 increases fuel consumption numbers to 9.6L/100km and 223g/km, while the hybrid gets by with impressive mileage of just 5.7L/100km and 131g/km.
Expect a 72-litre fuel tank that requires 95RON fuel in the 300 and 350, while the hybrid’s fuel tank capacity is 65 litres.
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.
If BMW serves up the 'ultimate driving machine' and Mercedes delivers 'the best or nothing', then surely the review tag line for the RX SUV range should be 'easy like a Sunday morning'.
Sure, there are sportier-feeling SUVs - and faster ones, too - but there is an easy comfort to the way the RX goes about its business that you’ll undoubtedly appreciate more frequently than you would harder suspension, more in-touch steering and the endless pursuit of speed and 0-100 performance figures.
For the record, though, the hybrid cars will sprint from 0-100km/h in a brisk 7.7sec, a smidge quicker than the 8.0sec of the regular V6. The RX300 records a far more leisurely 9.2sec.
Probably most impressive, the RX doesn't feel overly large and cumbersome, and nor does its turning radius, and it’s equally at home in the cramped inner city as it is eating up kays on the freeway. The six- or eight-speed transmission is silky-smooth seamless, switching between cogs without you even noticing, and the cabin is commendably quiet - especially when you're coasting though the ‘burbs - locking the worst road noise outside out of the cabin.
You can inject a little excitement by selecting 'Sport' or 'Sport +' via the central dial, tweaking the accelerator and steering settings, and in Sport Luxury cars, firming up the suspension, removing some of the lolling about in corners, though there’s no air suspension.
While the F-Sport and Sport Luxury cars are AWD-equipped, the off road capability is hampered somewhat by its ground clearance, big chrome-look wheels and skirtings. This is an SUV built for the city over the bush, but you likely don’t need us to tell you that.
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.
Even the cheapest RX (which, admittedly, isn’t all that cheap) arrives with a long list of standard safety features, including a reversing camera, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, AEB, lane assist and parking sensors (but no park assist).
You’ll also find 10 airbags, and twin ISOFIX mountings for you baby car seat, as well as cruise control and the usual suite of braking and traction control systems.
The Lexus RX received a five-star ANCAP safety rating, the best possible ratings outcome, when tested in 2015. The Lexus RX is built in Japan.
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.
Expect a four-year/100,000km warranty (that's 12 months longer than BMW or Mercedes-Benz, so think of it as a kind of extended warranty), and the RX will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 15,000km.
Your first service cost is gratis, and the total maintenance cost for each service is available online - so there are no surprises at the dealership.
For common problems, complaints, issues and the like, visit our Lexus RX owner’s page. But your owner’s manual should be required reading, too. Traditionally, Lexus product ranks well in reliability ratings, resale value and initial value rating charts.