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Pace First Drive Review: A Crossover SUV Cub Goes Scouting in Corsica

Time:2018-02-13 20:44Turbochargers information Click:

First review Drive crosso PACE

In 2018, SUVs have become the lifeblood of every carmaker. And they’ve become a lifeboat for performance brands that might otherwise have been scuttled by the SUV armada. Porsche, most famously, found the Cayenne and Macan crossovers to be its salvation, not its ruin; their global success paid for the development of relatively-underperforming sports cars. If Porsche had to live on returns of the 911, Boxster and Cayman, it might have been out of business by now. Jaguar has found itself in the same position—which is why I found myself on the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranean, driving the E-Pace crossover SUV. (Before we get started, a word about that confusing name: The E-Pace is not the electric Jaguar. That’s the Jaguar i-Pace, coming later this year.) 

If this rocky island seems an unusual place to sample a Jaguar, this SUV also springs from an unexpected locale: Not England’s green and pleasant land, as exalted by William Blake, but Graz, Austria, at the Magna Steyr factory that also builds the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and BMW 5 Series. Like Napoleon Bonaparte, who rose to fame from his Corsican birthplace, the E Pace is small, powerful, and commandingly stylish. Like the larger F-Pace, it can easily be argued as the most-stylish crossover in a class whose two-box proportions don’t lend themselves to handsome looks. The secret here is girth rather than length: Tall, small pseudo-hatchbacks like the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and Audi Q3 (or the Chevy Bolt for that matter) can appear stubby or insubstantial, like half-smoked cigars.

Lawrence Ulrich

E-Pace is a head-turner by any measure

But the Jaguar is a significant three inches wider than any small-fry rival, including the Mercedes, Audi, and BMW X1 (and now X2, too). The E-Pace, in fact, precisely matches the width of the one-size-larger Audi Q5. Yet at 173 inches long, the Jag is about 10 inches shorter than the Q5 and other “genuine” compacts like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. (I guess we should start calling those “full-size compacts,” given the endless splitting of SUV sizes and segments). So the Jaguar not only feels a touch roomier and airier than the typical tiny crossover, but it looks tremendously appealing as I view our E-Pace convoy from my spot in the rear.

Jaguar 

Four-cylinder Ingenium engine delivers 246 or 296 horsepower

Luxury brands love to claim, often dubiously, that their SUV designs are directly related to their sports cars, but the E-Pace really does evoke Jaguar’s sexy F-Type. The family resemblance includes the grille, of course, but also shark-like creases on the front fenders, muscular haunches, and blade-like horizontal taillamps that visually amplify the Jaguar’s wide, planted stance. Optional 20-inch split-spoke wheels look equally robust (17-inchers are standard), and buyers can even stuff those wheelwells with optional 21s. Adam Hatton, the E-Pace’s exterior designer, shows us the “eyelashes” inside the LED headlamps, his homage to the Lamborghini Miura. For this kitten-scale SUV, design Easter eggs include a graphic of a jaguar cub and its mother along the windshield base, a motif repeated by the puddle lamps’ projection on the pavement.

Jaguar

Corsica's notoriously knotted roads are delightful or a death wish, depending

With its tumbled granite mountains, exfoliated cliffs, dense forests and seaside villas, Corsica provides a cinematic backdrop for the E-Pace. But I’m thinking a stunt double might make sense on these wilderness roads, which must be among the curviest, craziest you’ll find anywhere in the world. The Tour de Corse rally, held here since the ‘50s, is dubbed “The Rally of 10,000 Bends.” After a few hours of never-ending high-concentration corners, we learn it’s no exaggeration. The locals—who tend to speak both French and Corsican—drive in the oblivious, home-turf manner common to island natives. Some introduce themselves by appearing directly in our lane as they attempt passes on blind corners, flirting with either a head-on collision or a deadly plunge off a strip of pavement barely wide enough for two cars. For an idea of the pucker factor, check out these heartwarming rally hints from Tour de Corse organizers:

Tight and twisty mountain roads are often bordered on one side by a rock face and on the other by a steep drop into the sea.

Rough and abrasive asphalt places high demands on tires.

Narrow roads mean errors can be punished heavily.

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