The Cub barrels in

Motoring Posted 22/08/17
Jaguar E-Pace and the Land Rover Discovery Sport.

The Cub barrels in

A new Jaguar on the horizon is always interesting, but this one is particularly significant. Before it arrives in showrooms in late autumn – dealers have just started taking orders now – the new E-Pace is already destined to be the biggest seller in the company’s history.

Unveiled at a lavish debut in London’s docklands Excel centre, the car is already a world record holder for a flying barrel roll manoeuvre that was beamed around the world. Affectionately nicknamed “Cub” by its designers, it brings the practical glamour of a Jaguar SUV within closer reach, with prices starting from £28,500 for a front-wheel-drive model and rising to £48,650 for the all-wheel-drive range-topper.

As a smaller sibling for the already very successful F-Pace, which is both the reigning World Car of the Year and Women’s World Car of the Year, the E-Pace is 4.4 metres long, a very comfortable five-seater, and usefully has a 577-litre boot. It has a sporty edge and better connectivity than most rival models, with a USB slot for every seat and four 12-volt charge-points for laptops and other electrical kit.

Engines range from a two-litre, 148 bhp diesel with 124mph top speed, 0-62 mph in 9.5 seconds and 60mpg combined economy, to a two-litre, 197 bhp petrol model capable of 151mph and 0-62 in 5.9 seconds. Distinguishing details to note: an animal print lining to the centre armrest and a Jaguar-and-cub motif etched on to the lower edge of the windscreen.

Practical and adventurous

Mixing business with pleasure is a sensible rationale when choosing a car. Most of us who drive in the course of our jobs want a vehicle that is businesslike for work, as well as practical for family and leisure. It is one of the keys to what drives the tsunami popularity of SUVs with a sharp suit of clothes and a versatile character.

When Land Rover launched the Discovery Sport in 2014 as a successor for the Freelander, it did so in adventurous style. A wild drive in extreme conditions through wintertime Iceland confirmed how capable the car was. Since then it has become an urban favourite in all-season UK.

Now one of Land Rover’s best-sellers, the Discovery Sport is a handsome looker with its clamshell bonnet, slick mesh grille, distinctive rear lights and sleekly practical shape. Unusually for an SUV this size, it can be specified as a seven-seater. Most buyers go for the five-seater configuration, though, and make good use of the generous 689-litre boot, which is bigger than those of key rivals BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60.

This 2017 Discovery Sport has the latest two-litre Ingenium diesel engine, with a power output of 148 bhp and teamed with a six-speed manual gearbox. It is a capable motor, well-matched to a tall vehicle weighing getting on for two tonnes. The 0-62 mph acceleration time of 11.7 seconds sounds quite average, but the actuality feels much sprightlier and the official combined cycle fuel consumption is 57.7 mpg. That’s optimistic in real world driving, of course, but mid-40s mpg is comfortably attainable.

If you work the engine particularly hard it becomes a bit vocal, but under most normal driving it is not obtrusive and general refinement is pretty fair. It’s a gutsy performer with good mid-range torque and it’s a reassuringly competent car to drive. The high driving position is good, with an elevated view over other traffic. This is a family-friendly model, its tall seating a popular feature with small children.

The car’s height poses a question over its handling on the twisty country roads that proliferate here in the South East. Will it lean on the bends and unsettle any queasy passengers in the back? Hustle the Discovery Sport along a rural lane, and that query quickly fades. Body control is very good, there’s no undue lurch into the corners and the suspension cushions firmly and efficiently. The suspension set-up is cannily engineered and the car feels taut, tidy and grippy.

Crash test safety is well sorted, and the car’s Euro NCAP rating is five stars, with a high score for occupant safety. Unusually, pedestrian protection is enhanced by an airbag beneath the bonnet that deploys automatically in a collision.

Discovery Sport prices start from £28,355. This TD4 E-Capability 4WD model is a popular choice at £35,798, but the price ramps up with extra kit such as electronic driving aids, all-round vision assist, auto tailgate and an electric towbar. The all-up bill for our highly-equipped test car is £45,165.

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