IT’S one of motoring’s truly evocative names. Redolent of performance and presence, looks and luxury, the Jaguar marque continues to cut a dash, as it has long done down the years.
From sports coupes to large saloons, driving a motor with the Big Cat badge has always meant you are going to have your hands on a coveted steering wheel.
Since 2015, the Coventry marque has extended its range, turning its skilful attention to the model of the moment … the sports utility vehicle or SUV.
Setting the bar high with the big, handsome F-Pace, the company’s SUV offering now extends to the E-Pace and the I-Pace, with The Best Life Project taking up the opportunity of a road-test week in the former, a D180 Chequered Flag version with all-wheel-drive.
The E-Pace’s lines echo those of its larger sibling, the F-Pace. Svelte and dynamic, with the distinctive Jaguar front grille, the five-door car has real kerb appeal. Chequered Flag designation adds some tasty design features including an exterior style pack and 19in satin dark grey alloy wheels (ours had optional 21in wheels), LED headlights with signature daytime running lights, side-vent badging featuring the aforementioned flag and Chequered Flag-branded metal scuff plates. A tailgate spoiler and twin exhaust pipes emphasise the sporty look.
The inside story is one of quality, comfort and style, with pleasantly supportive seats upholstered in grained leather with contrast stitching. Other cabin features include chrome side vents, a centre console with armrest and storage box, twin front cup holders, sun-visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, second-row air vents, and an overhead lighting console.
The Chequered Flag specification adds the likes of a fixed panoramic roof, powered tailgate and ten-way power-adjustable, heated front seats to an already impressive array of kit.
Those features include heated washer jets, heated windscreen, heated electric door mirrors, rain sensing windscreen wipers, automatic LED headlights, LED rear lights, three-flash lane change indicators, approach illumination (via remote) and follow-me-home lighting, and two-zone climate control.
You will also find posh satnav, connectivity suite, a 180-watt sound system including DAB radio, front and rear parking aid, rear view camera, electric parking brake, cruise control and speed limiter.
And on the safety front there is a lot of hi-tech assistance, including anti-lock braking system (ABS), pedestrian airbag system, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), emergency brake assist (EBA), front airbags, with passenger seat occupant detector, front side airbags, full-length side-window curtain airbag, and an intrusion sensor.
From the push-button start, to the stubby selector for the eight-speed automatic gearbox and the leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, it’s a pleasure to slip behind the wheel, and the driving experience is involving and confidence-inspiring, with the raised seating height of the SUV a plus.
On the practicality front, there are four 12-volt power sockets and two USB sockets, and a generous luggage bay (although the load-lip is a bit on the high side) with a luggage net, tie-downs and a light. The seat-backs have a 60/40 split-fold.
The car acquitted itself well in a range of conditions, from tootling around town to a motorway stretch, with its willing 178bhp two-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engine well-mated to that silky-smooth gearbox. Handling is responsive while ride, with adaptive dampers, is well-judged.
Performance figures are: 0-60mph in 8.6 seconds and a top speed of 127mph, with combined fuel consumption of 39.5 to 36.1mpg and emissions of 158g/km.
Price as tested, inc options: £47,435