PORTO-VECCHIO, Corsica — You know that the shift to crossovers and SUVs has staying power when you find yourself crossing a stream in a Jaguar — on purpose.
During a media introduction this month of the Jaguar E-Pace compact crossover, Jaguar Land Rover officials devised a tortuous obstacle course on this mountainous French island to test the second utility to wear a Jaguar badge.
Jaguar is trying to create some marketing space between its crossovers and those of its competitors from Audi, Infiniti, Mercedes, Porsche and BMW by endowing the E-Pace with serious off-road capability.
Jaguar has an advantage here because the bones of the E-Pace can be found under Land Rover's Discovery Sport and the upcoming generation of the Range Rover Evoque. So even though E-Pace drivers are unlikely to veer far into the weeds, that capability is built-in.
Jaguar engineers, taking a page from Porsche, tuned the E-Pace's four-wheel independent suspension for lively on-road handling. The raised ride height for occasional off-road driving doesn't affect the two-ton vehicle's cornering ability, thanks in part to electronic nannies in the suspension and powertrain that assist the driver in strenuous maneuvers.
The E-Pace landed at Jaguar dealerships late last month. It is powered by Jaguar's gasoline Ingenium 2.0-liter turbo four, rated at 246 or 296 hp, depending on the model. All versions come with a nine-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel drive. The base price is $39,595, including shipping; the top model, the R Dynamic, checks in at $54,095 for the top-level HSE version, including shipping.
A diesel engine is unavailable because of a lack of space to install a tank large enough for diesel exhaust fluid, or urea.