Jaguar has certainly woken up to the possibilities of selling SUVs. The F-Pace, which went into production in 2016, upped the British carmaker's sales by a staggering 83 per cent last year. So it is little wonder that its Pace range is now three strong: before the all-electric I-Pace is launched in the UAE (sadly, at least 18 months away), we already have the baby of the stable, the E-Pace.
Jag bills it as a “compact performance SUV”, but that suggestion of speed is unfairly hamstrung from the start during my time with the car, because I take the keys less than 24 hours after climbing out of the I-Pace at the EV’s international launch in Portugal.
The most-potent petrol-powered E-Pace’s 6.4-second 0-to-100kph time lags somewhat behind its battery-rocking bigger brother, although that car will go on to 243kph, versus 200kph for the I-Pace.
On the road, you need to switch it into Dynamic mode to get a real move on, albeit hampered by the spurty sensation of an occasionally over-sensitive throttle – there are also paddle shifters, should you want to truly get the 2.0-litre engine into a racing mindset. As you might predict, when you select Comfort or Eco, the result is a far more sedate experience better suited to the car’s core purpose.
True performance, you see, might not be front and centre of the minds of those who purchase the E-Pace. It metaphorically has “young family” written all over it. The approachable, almost friendly looks are vaguely reminiscent of an F-Pace given a Cars-style cartoon makeover.
The Dh186,480 entry price – compared to the Dh206,115 base for an F-Pace – back up such demographic assumptions. And the neat circular projections onto the floor by the front door at night, showing an adult Jaguar with a cub in tow, complete that picture.
There is a design precedent for the spoiler-framed rear window – and it isn’t one that Jaguar would probably want to entertain. There are echoes of the Nissan Juke’s much-maligned lines here, and the upshot is a somewhat restricted view from your rear mirror. If this was a concert seat, you would ask for a discounted rate. Still, the 20-inch split-spoke alloys are mighty smart and the overall impression is neat and tidy.
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The front grille elements feel strangely flimsy, but look pleasingly aggressive, especially in the all-black of my First Edition test car. The noir theme continues into the interior, although the finishes are a tad hit and miss: sparingly used Alcantara and plentiful leather clashes with hard plastics and an ugly polished metal panel around the gearstick. There is also an incongruous big-cat-patterned storage tray in front of the gearstick that vaguely resembles a cheap handbag at night.
Other interior boons include head-up display, rotary dials with electronic displays and a panoramic sunroof. The 10-inch touchscreen is clear and painless to use, while the connectivity and gadget support is more than satisfactory, with the usual USB slots and 12-volt sockets, plus a micro Sim reader and an iPhone Lightning connection charger.
Which of Jaguar’s Pace family would be sitting in my apartment’s underground parking should I come into an unexpected sum of money? I have to admit the E-Pace would probably be third on my personal wish list, but it remains a neat little package that will doubtless please plenty of those aforementioned young families, imbued with a decent dose of quality.