The new Jaguar E-Pace is a fantastic premium family car and fun to drive

Jaguar’s updated E-Pace has a plug-in powertrain, improved interior and a mildly modified appearance. But what’s it like to drive?

The E-Pace is Jaguar’s baby SUV, and when it was introduced back in 2017 it was fairly well received but didn’t feel quite like the polished product we hoped it might. It had cute looks and could be fun on the right road, but at low speeds it was uncomfortable and the interior was let down by poor material quality in some places.

So this mid-life refresh is a big opportunity to elevate the E-Pace in line with the rest of the Jaguar range, much of which has also been given some nip and tuck for 2021. The results have been excellent, and with big changes beneath the surface, the signs are promising for the new E-Pace.

What’s new?

There are some mild exterior tweaks but don’t let the fact that the new E-Pace looks a lot like the old one fool you – under the skin the changes are big and important.

The first thing of note is that this small SUV now sits on a new platform. The details are too complex to succinctly go into but considering the old one rather crashed into road imperfections Jaguar’s promise of ‘enhanced refinement and improved ride comfort’ are promising.

Secondly, a new plug-in hybrid powertrain promises low running costs and emissions-free running, and finally, the E-Pace gets a similar interior overhaul seen elsewhere in the range.

What’s under the bonnet?

There are various petrol and diesel engines, most of which have economy-improving mild hybrid technology. However, the headline powertrain, and the one we’re testing today, is the plug-in hybrid.

Badged P300e, it uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor on the rear axle. That’s fed by a 15kWh battery pack that can deliver up to 34 miles of electric-only range, while the combination results in fuel economy figures of 141mpg and CO2 emissions of 44g/km.

What’s it like to drive?

The move to a new platform has worked wonders for the E-Pace’s refinement. It’s immediately obvious that its low-speed comfort is much improved, and it settles into a refined cruise at higher speeds.

It still handles pretty well in corners too, despite now erring more on the side of comfort. However, this is a very heavy car and you can certainly feel that when cornering at higher speeds.

This car’s happy place is a relaxing drive, preferably around town where the electric motor can do its thing. You get the typical punchy response from the motor and the near-silence accompanying it really adds to the premium experience, while the switch to the petrol engine is barely noticeable.

How does it look?

When it was first introduced, Jaguar said it had borrowed some of the styling cues from the F-Type, such as the front and rear lights, highlighting its sporty character. Fortunately that character has moved more towards comfort, but Jaguar must be happy with how the styling is resonating with buyers because little has been changed.

Look closely and you’ll spot an aerodynamically optimised front bumper, LED headlights with a new light signature, and a new grille. Despite its sporting inspiration the E-Pace has a cutesy look that’s sleek, fun and appears to be ageing well.

What’s it like inside?

We’ve been massively impressed with the interior changes seen in other Jaguar models this year and it’s no different here. The centre-point is the new Pivi Pro infotainment system, which is controlled through a large central screen. The menus have a slick design and it’s very responsive, as well as coming with great connectivity and over-the-air software updates.

The perceived quality is much higher than before and it’s harder to find those scratchy plastics. The comfort and refinement is improved too, which coupled with the electric driving, gives a real feeling of sophistication.

What’s the spec like?

The Jaguar E-Pace range starts at £32,575, but the plug-in hybrid model starts at £45,995. There are three trims called S, SE and HSE and the PHEV is only available with the sporty R-Dynamic styling package.

Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, sports seats with leather upholstery, and the new infotainment system. Upgrade to SE (from £47,920) and you get 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with the new running light signature and an interactive driver display. Finally the HSE (from £50,860) has 20-inch alloy wheels, more adjustable driver’s seat and a Meridian sound system.

Verdict

While this might look like a mild facelift from the outside, the 2021 Jaguar E-Pace feels like a decent leap on from the old one. It has retained much of the fun driving characteristics of the old one but smoothed out the low-speed ride as well as elevating interior quality.

Overall it’s a fantastic premium family car, with the plug-in hybrid powertrain making it perfectly suited to those who can charge at home and regularly do short journeys. The E-Pace’s biggest problem? It’s similar in price to a Range Rover Evoque…

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