IT'S THE E-PACE – Car & Driver

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What It Is: Having trouble keeping pace with the flood of Jaguar crossovers both real and conceptual using the very similar -Pace naming scheme? Allow us to explain: The camouflaged SUV pictured here is the E-Pace, which will join the larger F-Pace (and the all-electric I-Pace) in Jaguar showrooms next year. As unimaginative as Jaguar’s emerging crossover nomenclature might seem, there is logic behind it. The F-Pace is to the mid-size XF sedan as the E-Pace will be to the smaller XE four-door. (This despite the fact that the F-Pace is nearly nine inches shorter than the XF.)

Why It Matters: Jaguar has made huge strides in expanding its U.S. sales in the past two years, but its volumes are still tiny compared with those of luxury giants such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Part of Jaguar’s sales success is attributable to the presence of all-wheel drive throughout its range, which has attracted more buyers in four-season states. The F-Pace crossover has sold like wildfire, proving how critical crossover sales are becoming to any automaker’s bottom line, and the more affordable E-Pace should only continue the momentum.

Platform: You might expect that the architecture that underpins the XE sedan will be reconfigured to support a taller body for E-Pace duty, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Look closely at this E-Pace prototype’s dash-to-axle ratio (how far forward the front wheels are), and you will see that the hood is too stubby to hide a longitudinally mounted engine. Instead, the E-Pace likely will ride on a variation of the front-drive-based platform that sits beneath Jaguar Land Rover’s Land Rover Discovery Sport (itself derived from the Range Rover Evoque). This should pay dividends for the E-Pace’s interior packaging, which is a weak point in both the larger F-Pace and the XE sedan.

We don’t expect the chassis layout will deter buyers. Most people shopping for compact luxury crossovers aren’t looking for all-out sportiness as much as they are seeking practicality, style, and an elevated seating position. The E-Pace would appear to have style for days, as it’s clear this prototype’s thin layer of camouflage hides some curvaceous sheetmetal. Slender headlights flank a large, squarish grille opening and sit above aggressive air intakes, while the tail features the same jaunty kickup beneath a raked rear window as the F-Pace. Given the aggressive roofline, don’t count on a third-row seat being offered here.

Powertrain: Like the Discovery Sport and the Range Rover Evoque, the E-Pace will use a turbocharged inline-four, likely plucked from JLR’s new Ingenium engine family. A ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic transmission will be standard and help extract the most from whatever engine Jaguar chooses; all-wheel drive, naturally, will be included.

Competition: Audi Q3, BMW X1, Infiniti QX30, Lexus NX.

Estimated Arrival and Price: Jaguar will reveal the production E-Pace sometime early in 2017 before putting it on sale by year’s end. If the E-Pace’s competition is any indication, its pricing will begin in the low-to-mid-$30,000 range.

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