It’s been a while since we drove the E-Pace, Jaguar’s entry in the sharply competitive subcompact luxury SUV segment. (It’s also now Jag’s entry-level model, following the XE sedan’s death.) Our verdict from past test drives was mixed: We loved the way the E-Pace drove, but we were put off by the interior’s cheap plastic bits and a glitchy and confusing infotainment system. Jaguar revised the E-Pace for the 2021 model year, and guess what’s changed?
Inside and Out
Jaguar worked to rectify those previous E-Pace faults, and by and large it succeeded. The cabin is purged of most low-rent plastics, and the new pieces that replace them fit in much better with the baby Jag’s rich leather upholstery.
The new infotainment system leaps forward like a Jaguar. Anything would have been better than Jag’s old system (anyone have a spare Nintendo Wii lying around?), but the new stereo and nav setup is a serious improvement. The screen is larger, the hardware more powerful, and the home screen makes more sense, now divided into three zones for navigation, audio, and your connected device, be it Apple or Android. It’s a much simpler piece of equipment to use, and in our week with the 2021 Jaguar E-Pace, it behaved itself nicely, which is a major upgrade. Color us satisfied.
Jaguar also freshened the E-Pace’s front styling. The differences are subtle enough that you pretty much need to park the old and new cars side by side to see them, but the updates give the 2021 E-Pace a harder, more aggressive look. We like it.
Still Fun to Drive
One thing that hasn’t changed for the 2021 Jaguar E-Pace is the chassis tuning, and for that we are grateful. We drove the top-of-the-line 300 Sport model, and it impressed us once again. For those unfamiliar (and really, are there any MotorTrend readers who don’t have the E-Pace’s spec sheet committed to memory?), the E-Pace 300 Sport features Jag’s Active Driveline AWD system, which employs a pair of wet clutches to give the rear axle true torque vectoring. It’s quick, agile, and very stable in the curves.
Some of our editors have opined the suspension is stiffer than many of its competitors, while others don’t think the ride is firm enough to be objectionable. We drove the 2021 E-Pace on the roads between New York and Connecticut, and we found the ride to be comfortable enough, even on the battle-scarred paving in and around the Big Apple. Out on the rural two-laners, we enjoyed the 2021 Jaguar E-Pace so much that we were able to forget its primary drive goes to the front wheels. Oh, and it’s worth noting that while this particular test drive took place exclusively on paved roads, we know from past experience the E-Pace is surprisingly adept off-road.
One issue unaddressed by Jaguar’s 2021 refresh is the E-Pace’s engine. We hit the start button and thought, “Hey, when did Jaguar start exporting diesel-powered E-Paces to the U.S.?” It turns out the 2.0-liter Ingenium turbo merely sounds like a diesel, especially at idle and especially when cold. That said, the torque is certainly diesellike: 295 lb-ft, 1 shy of the horsepower figure. Last time we tested an E-Pace 300, it accelerated to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. The nine-speed transmission is a nice performer, and the E-Pace’s perky performance makes it worth putting up with the racket the engine makes. If you prefer your luxury SUVs to be, well, more luxurious than sporty, you should keep in mind the E-Pace does not have the most polished of powertrains.
Our other main criticism is the lack of rear passenger and cargo space compared to other compact SUVs. Jag fans might argue the F-Pace is the brand’s more family-friendly entry, but nonetheless, practicality is still not the E-Pace’s forte. It’s well suited to singles and couples, those who mostly use the front seats and can fold down the back bench for a rare trip to the furniture store. If anything, the refreshed E-Pace is all the more pleasant for them now that Jaguar improved the cabin and the infotainment system. Handsome styling, strong (but noisy) performance, and sharp driving dynamics remain the 2021 Jaguar E-Pace’s strengths.
Is It Worth It?
How does the 2021 Jaguar E-Pace compare to the competition? The Volvo XC40 is our favorite of the luxury subcompact SUVs, with its funky styling and roomy, well-considered interior. It’s not as good to drive as the Jaguar, but it is available in an all-electric version. BMW’s X1 drives every bit as well as the E-Pace, and it offers a surprising amount of interior room given its compact dimensions. The Audi Q3 is also a more family-friendly alternative, though you’ll find plenty of cheap plastic bits in its interior, and it doesn’t stand out on styling or driving dynamics like the Jaguar does.
Whether the E-Pace is right for you depends on your own priority list. If rear space is secondary to styling and performance—and if you can live with a little noise—the 2021 Jaguar E-Pace is now a more appealing choice than ever.
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