Jaguar wants E-Pace owners to take the car here, there and everywhere. Adventure is the name of the game, and it’s why you’ll see E-Paces plunging through distant lands or sweeping through bends framed by craggy mountains and rivers in most of its promotional material.
It is an SUV after all – a sports utility vehicle – and though it is indeed very capable at doing the everyday activities that we all get up to (trips to the shops, the daily commute, etc), I do feel that cars like the E-Pace need to be taken a little further afield to a) find out how they cope with different challenges and b) to see if they can actually live up to the marketing they’re sold with in the first place.
Which is why I specified ‘our’ E-Pace with a bike rack, and made sure that it came complete with Jaguar’s special ‘activity key’, which comes in the form of a wristband allowing you to lock and unlock the car without its conventional key – but more on this later.
Back to the bicycles. The rack we’ve specified is fitted easily to the Jaguar’s roof, and from there you’re pretty much good to go. Placing the bikes themselves takes a little bit of effort; you need to heave them above head height to locate the wheels in the long plastic channels, before locking the holding arm (which looks like a robot’s claw) in place on the bike’s frame. I did this several times on the day of our trip, and by the end it was becoming a bit of a struggle. If you’re after a slightly less taxing way of taking your bikes with you, opt for a rear-mounted carrier.
However, what you don’t get with a rear-mounted carrier is the cool-factor that comes with having your mountain bikes on the roof. The E-Pace is a smart looking car regardless, but, in my opinion at least, it looks even better with two bicycles mounted atop it.
It’s a little unnerving to begin with, setting off with the bikes on top. There’s a sense, straight away, that there’s something quite heavy mounted to the roof and with each corner or bump in the road you get a screech through to the cabin. I’ll admit, my first time with the rack saw me stop every now and again just to check everything was as it should be; soon enough, however, I just left it safe in the knowledge that both bikes really were strapped on good and proper.
The E-Pace’s boot, which offers up 577 litres of space (150 litres more than you’ll find in the Audi Q3, in fact) swallowed up all the accompanying cycle gear. Helmets, pumps, jackets and locks all found a home in there, and I could’ve extended this further by lowering the rear seats too, of course. The side sections of the load area are particularly handy for smaller items, but there’s only netting on the right-hand side; I’d rather it was on both to maximise the amount of bits and bobs you could store in the boot, assured that they aren’t going to be flung around when you go around a corner.
The short motorway hop to our cycle route went without drama, and on arrival the bikes were lowered successfully, jackets zipped up and tyres pumped in readiness for the journey. It was here I decided to the give the activity key a crack; it’s designed for just these types of situations, where you may not want to have to carry the conventional key with you. The idea is that you leave the key in the car, close the doors and press the smart key ‘band’ against the ‘J’ of the Jaguar badge on the bootlid to lock (or unlock) the vehicle. And try as I might I just couldn’t get it to work.
I was on the launch of the F-Pace back in 2016 when the technology was first showcased, and it worked superbly then – but I just couldn’t seem to be able to lock the E-Pace with ‘our’ band. Despite reading the instructions properly, I may of course be doing it completely wrong – I’ll report back to see if that’s the case.
The cycle trip itself went without fuss (save for getting ever-so-slightly lost in parts of the New Forest), and we returned to the E-Pace glad to get out of the cold. I was happy to be able to switch on the heated steering wheel at this point – it’s a really welcome touch at this time of year, particularly if your hands have been hanging on to cold handlebars. By the time we got back to the car it was dark – which is why the bright, sunny pictures you see here were taken close to a golf course nearby the next day.
So there you have it – an activity vehicle taken on a genuine activity. The E-Pace may be as adept at nipping into the supermarket as it is taking two bicycles, two people and all their gear on a Saturday day out, but it’s good that it can do the latter just as well as the former.