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First drive in Brighton: JAGUAR E-PACE

The fact of the matter is, after you dispense with all the hype and discussion, it all comes down to three magic words: compact Jaguar SUV. In today’s market, if that phrase doesn’t sell cars, nothing much will. Especially as it is a compact Jaguar SUV priced (initially anyway) in the mid €30,000s. Yes, that’s about the same price as a well-specced Volkswagen Tiguan. We don’t often get that sort of posh-meets-mainstream on price.
So I might as well be blunt: people will buy it because it is a Jaguar no matter what the likes of this reviewer says.
Encouraging them to do so are some good things about it. And there some things I’d find fault with too.
The E-PACE makes its Irish debut early next month. It’s the new baby of the brand. They call it their “cub” and have a little emblem to that effect in the lower left hand corner of the windscreen. It’s the smallest and least expensive vehicle they have made.
The entry-level €36,000 is an introductory launch price for the 2.0D i4 150PS manual model (124g/km, €270 road tax).
There are two other diesels: 180PS and 240PS. And two petrols: 249PS or 300PS. And all-wheel drive. And a 9spd auto box. And lots of spec levels and options.
First Edition models are based on the R-Dynamic SE spec pack and include sports seats.
I drove the “cub” in southern England last week, but to say it was a real examination of its claimed vim and vigour would be an overstatement. A longer test awaits.
I can say the following with certainty. Despite my few reservations, it is clearly and cleverly targeted at mainstream buyers of those higher specced compact crossovers I mentioned.
Jaguar expect 80pc of those who buy to have never had a Jag before. That’s a lot of people leaving other brands.
I think those interested will like the front a lot. I did. And the side profile.
But I don’t think the rear is Jaguar enough now I’ve seen it in daylight and from the perspective of driving behind one on the road. Sure they spoke about the “stepped” design of the lower regions, but take that out of your line of vision and are you a million miles from your ubiquitous mainstream formula? I don’t think so.
A colleague made a good point too: they need wider tyres for the more muscular look they seek because this is aimed at attracting more men – a sort of antidote to the female success of the Range Rover Evoque (from the Jaguar/Land Rover stable of course).
For all that, I prefer it to the larger F-PACE SUV look (I am in my usual minority on that).
This chunky, funky five-seater may be the F-PACE’s little brother but it draws heavily on the sportiness of the wonderfully agile F-TYPE sports car, manifestations of which adorn cabin, design and chassis (the large grab handle being one, while I like the inclusion of a gear-shift instead of rotary control).
Sitting low in the cabin is meant to be more engaging, but the driver’s position is not quite as dominant as, say, the Audi Q3 (or Q2) or the underrated BMW X1. But I think it’s a lot more stylish than either and has a better vantage point than the Mercedes GLA. There was good room all round and decent rear space in the cabin. Headroom behind would only be an issue for those taller than 6ft 2ins. And there’s a fine boot (577 litres). However, it is a car that looks bigger than it is (4,395mm long; 2,681mm wheelbase) and I felt it particularly colour sensitive. I liked it most in red (always do).
We drove the 300PS 2-litre petrol first – irrelevant here and a bit disappointing. I was far better disposed towards the 2-litre diesel which they’ve quietened a good deal up the revs.
On the few occasions we got to drive, it was as you’d expect from a Jaguar with notions of generating mild hothatchery.
There is a nice tendency towards understeer on corners as well as technology to boost grip and traction. But the ride at low speed could be a little harsh.
With several driving modes – we used Comfort and Dynamic mostly – you get the response and handling to suit your preferences.
The multi-link rear suspension comes via the F-PACE. Not so sure it’s a great idea to have its lower regions showing out back. I think it’s a bit of a put-off and part of the reason I’m not a fan of the rear.
The large touchscreen infotainment system Touch Pro connects you to all sorts, but Apple Car Play remains an omission.
Families (they expect young people/couples to buy in big numbers) will like the idea of up to four 12-volt charging points and five USB connections – as well as a 4G wifi hotspot for as many as eight devices.
And if you have a trailer, there is an 1,800kg (braked) towing capacity.
We also tried out the off-road cruise control technology. This is a system that ‘thinks’ for itself on inclines and where there is treacherous underfoot conditions (ice, snow and mud). So technically you should be able to get around safely should we get a big freeze (remember the chaos last time?). The only stipulation is you don’t touch the pedals. Just steer.
Similar to what salespeople will do with potential customers – just steer them towards the car with three magic words: compact Jaguar SUV.

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Tesla Model S

I DID a bit of grocery shopping in Lidl in Thurles last week. What else would you be doing on a crisp November day with a big, black electric Tesla Model S at your disposal? I’d driven one before for a while. But this time it was all about doing the everyday things with it; up close and personal over a few days and nights. How would it (from €91,395, car on test €105,847) really translate onto Irish needs and conditions?
I drove under all sorts of conditions during my 500km stint at the wheel of what is one of the most talked-about cars of recent years. Think diesel Mercedes S-Class rival on electric charge. Would I buy it over the Merc, I asked myself?
First off, I left Dublin at 10:06. I was in Lidl Thurles at 12:06 after stopping to make/take a couple of calls (including one from nature). I’d started with 386km in the battery. I had 170km left in Thurles. I’d driven at motorway speed (110kmh/120kmh) nearly all the way on cruise control.
It was effortless. The 17ins display/tablet in the middle of the dash covers and controls everything – there are no buttons. Better still, it has the best satnav out there. I keyed in Thurles Lidl and that’s where it took me. No stupid questions about zip codes or city streets. Others please copy. Just don’t expect to understand some of the placenames the voice comes up with. Hilarious. Think old Gaelic with Cantonese intonation.
Of relevance too is a criticism: there were no hooks to secure the shopping and laptop bags in the boot.
Via Two-Mile-Borris the next stop was Ballacolla (Topaz) where Tesla have their supercharging station (eight points). Satnav had me there in no time, with 126km left on charge. It’s so simple. You flip open the little red reflector lens on the left rear light cluster, plug in and leave the charger to do its work. ALL chargers should be this simple. Why not?
It certainly got to work; the kilometre range ticked up fast. This is a model for recharging cars. I headed for a cup of tea, a muffin, another muffin, did a bit of work on the laptop and headed back. There was 383km in the tank. All in well under an hour.
I arrived in Dublin with 225km to spare. I plugged in at the house; a token gesture. I drove around (errands, gym), picked up the daughter from the airport. And still I had 140km left even after heavy use of headlights and climate control. I wasn’t worried. The only annoyance was the noisy wipers and previous generation Mercedes’ steering wheel/ switchgear, which is at odds with the look/feel of cabin ‘S’.
My single biggest crib was the chassis’s poor ability to absorb smaller surface abrasions, even on motorways, and the choppy feeling over anything but the smoothest of surfaces anywhere. Partly to blame was the coil suspension, now discarded in favour of air. That might alter perspectives. Something to watch for.
There’s still a kick to come, but up to this point I have to say I’d enjoyed this immensely. Even after the ‘newness’ wore off, I felt there was a substantial intelligent, intuitive machine at my disposal. I could live with it on a daily basis. I’d plug it in overnight on the special wall connector (around €1,500 all in) and not worry about range. My instinct is my basic model would do 300kmh without (the Model X SUV claims 600km+ range).
Noticeable too was the level of regeneration of energy (slowing, braking). It can give a battery boost if your driving is urban for any appreciable time.
Third and last day with it, I intended bringing the cousin for a spin. I planned on charging at Enfield but some instinct prompted me to do so at Topaz Templeville Road, Templeogue (satnav excellent again).
Only the blinking charging point wouldn’t charge. Not with a Tesla anyway, I was told by eCars. Everything fitted. I had a CHAdeMO adapter. Nothing. That’s two weeks in a row this has happened with an eCars public charger. Doesn’t instil confidence, does it? And the fast charger at Stillorgan Luas was occupied by a Nissan Leaf.
It left a bit of a sour taste. We have the cars; we need real availability, accessibility and help with the charging Points.Yet I left it back quite buoyed by the experience. The car is indisputably impressive in many areas. It is not by any means as well put together as a Merc S-Class; I won’t labour the deficit of ride/handling quality with coils. But as an electric, digital entity primarily in its first major incarnation, it can’t be rivalled. I’ve no doubt Mercedes, BMW et al will ultimately give Tesla a run for its money but for now this Model S is a benchmark.
So I’d buy it, then? Probably not. I’d wait for a better fast-charge network, more superchargers and see what’s what in electric cars for a couple of years. But of course in an ideal world I’d be tempted. There isn’t anything like it.
KEY FACTS
They claim €3,000/year (40,000kms) savings over a conventional engine, with a 75kW battery pack. 0-100kmh in 4.4 seconds – it is really quick. Two electric motors = all-wheel drive. €120 road tax. A ‘fill’ can cost around €12 on a home charge. Too long on a 3kW charger (25 hours from empty). Much quicker on a home 7kWh Wall Connector. Or with 16kW destination chargers, or superchargers (up to 270km in half an hour). New BIK 0pc rate for company car users makes EV attractive. But after grants it’s still pricey at around €100,000. Free software updates for car’s lifetime. Battery under floor. Rear seats elevated. Can have rear-facing jump seats; 17ins centre touchscreen – media, satnav, communications, cabin control, vehicle data. Intuitive interface. Several functions mirrored on instrument panel.
Standard: AEB, collision avoidance, cruise control. Enhanced Autopilot an option. Supercharger gets you 400kW hours free each year (about 1,600kms). After that it’s 20c/kWh – €100 for 1,000 kms. Voice command wasn’t great.
Four-year warranty (or 80,000km); eight years for battery. Four-year warranty on used versions.

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