Back in the early 70’s, the hair was big, the shoes were platformed and the trousers were bell-bottomed wider than Cheshire Cat’s Smile. It was a flamboyant and expressive time where collars were long and the attention span wasn’t. Popular music was Disco and more importantly Glam Rock, with one of the Glamest being Marc Bolan or T-Rex. Unlike his dinosaur moniker would suggest, T-Rex was a sensitive soul and although he was a singer-songwriter, in many ways he was also a poet. Among his long list of hits (and I strongly recommend you hunt them out) was Jeepster.
A Jeepster is a guy that pursues the object of his desire with unfettered tenacity, and through the song’s lyrics T-Rex sets about wooing his girl with adoration, ‘You’re so sweet, You’re so fine, I want you all and everything just to be mine’. But one line has stuck with me from the moment I first heard it, and now (after driving the new E-PACE) it seems fitting to share – after all, it is the basis of this piece.
‘Just like a car, you’re pleasing to behold, I’ll call you Jaguar if I may be so bold.’
You see, when T-Rex released Jeepster in 1971, the Jaguar du jour was the V12 Series III E-type, so being compared to ‘The most beautiful car in the world’ was by no means a bad thing!
Since then, the British marque has continued its tradition of performance vehicles both on and off the track. With their endurance and sprint racing cars at the core of models such as the XJ-S (of The Saint fame), the jaw-dropping XJ220, the XK8, S-type, and of course the F-type. And this flow on effect has now been introduced to their new E-PACE SUV.
The Jaguar E-PACE merges certain aspects from the World Car of the Year F-PACE and blends this in with styling cues from the F-type, not a bad way to begin creating a mid-sized (although I believe Jaguar refer to it as a compact performance) SUV ‘Cub’.
In many ways, it could be easier to call the E-PACE a practical sports car and here are some of the reasons why. The new cub takes its exterior good looks and driver-focussed interior from the F-type. Enhanced powerful bonnet lines and muscular rear quarters bring out the SUV’s racing DNA, while its big eyes (LED headlights) and big paws (21” Alloys) are very ‘cub like’ on its smaller frame.
The cabin has been designed for both driver and passenger bias. The cockpit has a sense of encapsulation with tactile controls and fingertip access to the gears. For me, the steering wheel felt a hint oversized in diameter but I’m sure this would become very normal very quickly. Stowage and storage is class leading and with its deep centre console and angled door compartments, there is room enough for 1.5-litre bottles and ever increasingly large smartphones.
On the subject of connectivity, the E-PACE comes with vehicle WiFi and a raft of connected technology. Jaguar’s InControl infotainment system comes to you via a 10” colour touchscreen. This, combined with the 12.3” hi-def interactive driver display and very clear head up display means that you have no excuses for not being reliably informed as to where, how or why to go – banish thee back seat drivers! In fact, there is sooo much technology inside the E-PACE, that Jaguar now have an app to explain it all. Needless to say, Meridian supply the sounds, and you can also connect up your Apple and Androids.
Jaguar’s remote technology is also available, where you can find the SUV, check fuel levels and even start your car (to control the cabin’s climate) without having to go through the drama of having to be inside – a bit of tech humour there for you.
There is an additional sense of fun that surrounds this SUV too. A Jaguar parent and cub graphic is strategically placed on the windscreen, the base pads on some of the storage compartments are animal patterned and have skin feel to the touch. Chicane lines appear in areas such as the LED tail lights and cabin stitching, some are more apparent than others but they’re there if you ‘hunt’ for them.
We took the E-Pace on a run out to the ‘wilds’ of Piha. Swapping from diesel to petrol powertrains and S and R-Dynamic models (all with 9-speed boxes). They hungrily consumed the tarmac and (thanks to Jaguar’s smart torque vectoring tech) felt secure on the road even as the heavens opened up.
With its cute (but practical) size, great looks and star performance, Jaguar’s new cub the E-PACE is sure going to grab the attention of the insatiable SUV buyers market, and when you add to this the marque’s strong heritage and wooing Glam rock love song, there’s sure to be a whole host of Jeepsters out there that are going to adore this new Jaguar.