2018 Jaguar E-Pace First Drive: Brand New Brand Builder

– Corsica, France

I find that I’m tired of the “not a real Jag” argument before I even hear it. It’s true that, much like most of my colleagues and many of you, I’m a fan of fast, sleek, rear-drive Jaguar sports cars and sedans, like the F-Type and XF. But bemoaning this new E-Pace – a front-drive-biased, all-wheels-driven, small SUV – before even turning a wheel is, well, missing the point.

Go ahead and insert some boilerplate comment here about small crossovers taking over the world – but I actually think the point is just how damn attractive the E-Pace looks, glinting in the Mediterranean morning sun. I’m in, of all places, Corsica, and Jaguar’s new small ute is looking (at least) very willing to play the role of island-traversing companion.

Until this trip to France, I’ve only seen the E-Pace in pictures. It’s clear that two dimensions don’t do this vehicle justice. Jaguar designers have cleverly disguised the tallness and overall mass of the SUV, allowing the graceful bodyside and muscular rear haunch to dictate the look. With wheels – 20-inch wheels in the case of the car I’m driving, but with a flabbergasting 21-inch option available – pushed out to the corners to truly drive home the sporting intentions. From the dead front and rear views it’s easier to see the utility vehicle proportions (at about 65 inches high, it’s taller than an Audi Q3 but shorter than a BMW...