Is “driver’s crossover” an oxymoron? We’re not so sure.
If it’s not, it’d probably look something like the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace.
Despite its front-wheel-drive bias, the E-Pace offers an impressive facsimile of a fun-to-drive sedan. It uses hardware borrowed from the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport, which are built on a similar platform to the E-Pace, but shifts power to the rear in a surprising way.
That’s thanks to an optional rear end that offers torque vectoring in ways that other automakers haven’t delivered. Down the driveline is the E-Pace’s best look. Toward the top end, where the engine and transmission live, the news isn’t as good.
Starting from an average score, we knock the E-Pace one point for its 9-speed that needs more help. The turbo-4 isn’t bad, but we’ve only driven it in top spec so far. We add two for remarkable all-wheel-drive systems (thanks Range Rover Evoque) and a competent ride. It earns a 6 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The E-Pace is a first for Jaguar in more ways than one. Its turbo-4 is planted transversely in the nose, rather than longitudinally, which speaks to the E-Pace’s front-wheel-drive bias. A front-wheel-drive E-Pace is offered abroad, but not in the States. At least, not now.
That engine is a corporate turbo-4 that’s loud and unrefined from the outside. It rumbles and clatters into life in a way that’s obnoxious like sneakers and a tuxedo. Luckily, the clattering is filtered out of the cabin and kept outside for the rest of the world to endure. The 2.0-liter turbo-4 returns 246 or 296 horsepower, depending on configuration. Our testers were the latter, and despite some low-end hesitation that could be attributed to an indecisive 9-speed, the turbo-4 worked well. Jaguar estimates that the E-Pace will shuttle up to 60 mph in less than six seconds in top spec, and our real-world experience confirms that feeling. It’s brisk but not entirely quick, and more importantly, perfectly acceptable for its class.
The 9-speed still leaves something to be desired. It’s easily caught flat-footed, and eager to upshift from takeoff in normal mode. Tip the drive selector into Dynamic and some of that bad behavior is tempered, or use the paddle shifters to call your own plays—just don’t ask for gears too quickly.
The news is better with Jaguar’s all-wheel-drive system, which is standard on all E-Pace models this year. The base setup should be familiar to buyers by now; Jaguar has tuned its all-wheel-drive setups to be among the best for luxury automakers since bringing it back a few ago.
The base system ideally operates at a 50/50-split, front-to-rear, but can shuttle nearly all of its power to the front or the back in slippery conditions.
Opt for the more powerful turbo-4 and the all-wheel-drive system gets a bump to the Active Driveline configuration that can shuttle power front-to-back, and side-to-side. The key difference between the two all-wheel-drive systems is the latter detail. It adds more power to outside wheels helps carve a tighter line around corners and finds grip where it might be hiding. The Active Driveline can also lock power to the rear wheels in concert, simulating a rear-drive bias that doesn’t exist in the E-Pace and making it the least-likely drift car on the roads today.
The E-Pace manages to take the hardware from the Evoque and Discovery Sport and make it drivable, and consequently, livable. The ride is quiet and relatively calm, even on 20-inch wheels, without much crashing or correction. Variable dampers on top trim levels can dial in a firmer suspension in Dynamic mode, but the E-Pace is hardly stiff.
The electric power steering is light and disconnected from the front wheels in normal mode, which shouldn’t bother too many drivers. Tipping into Dynamic mode adds more weight to the tiller, but no more road feel.
Review continues below