Mountain Wheels: Jaguar, Land Rover provide awesome autos while dealing with Brexit pain
The last two years have been some strange but occasionally wonderful times, especially if you’ve had the willpower to look beyond domestic international politics.
Unfortunately, the wave of weirdness and uncertainty going on hasn’t always led to the best economic conditions — here, General Motors will be laying off the first of 4,000 employees next week. It’s also true over in England, where the very real uncertainty about the country’s decision to pull out of the European Union has had a very major impact on industries, including automotive.
It was about a year ago I got to head off to France on a memorable launch event to celebrate Jaguar’s E-Pace, its somewhat compact but very stylish compact crossover; I also look back to the very cool experiences I had during the U.S. launch of the new Land Rover Discovery, the three-row, upscale midsize SUV that was picked as Four Wheeler Magazine’s SUV of the year in 2018.
If you’ve been following the rollercoaster of the U.K.’s Brexit vote and the current uncertainty about England’s future with its European partners, you might have guessed may have had some impact on Jaguar/Land Rover.
Last month, the company announced it was laying off 4,500 employees, approximately 10 percent of its workforce, and will be extending a planned production shutdown in March and April to see what happens with the Brexit debacle (U.K. BMW and Honda plants are also planning for six-week closures, in their own wait-and-see mode). Politics, a slowdown in the Chinese economy and a fickle international market for diesel-powered vehicles are all to blame.
It’s a difficult turn for Jaguar/Land Rover in particular, as the company had been doing so well and its most recent automobiles were just part of aggressive plans for an expanded footprint, especially in North America.
I’ve recently had Colorado drives in both the E-Pace and a diesel-powered version of the new Discovery and they both show the British carmaker’s serious strides in product quality and diversity.
My $44,300 E-Pace SE model, bumped to $54,190 with leather, a full-cabin sunroof, 20-inch wheels and a variety of other options, was indeed a comfortably sporty and speedy, somewhat smaller alternative to the zillions of other crossovers flooding the market.
True to the “cub” images in its puddle lamps and the edges of its windows, this smaller Jaguar takes the design details of the large F-Pace and the inspirations of the F-Type sports car and keeps them adventurous and accessible — with a healthy mix of smaller luxury crossover passenger space and cargo room.
It also hustles and largely behaves like a Jaguar, with its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine able to cruise and careen like a more traditional Jaguar automobile. And the sports heritage is still largely true in its better-than-most cornering capabilities, solid braking and handling, plus adaptable driving modes to amp up the experience. Overall, I got about 29 miles per gallon.
That’s actually about what I got in the diesel-ized Discovery, which is pretty decent for a three-row, Explorer-sized SUV, though it’s rated at 26 MPG on the highway. Mine was the $67,490 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury edition, whose final price reached $81,395 with full-cabin climate control, improved off-road equipment and the full adaptive cruise and electronic safety package added, plus 21-inch wheels and other options.
Since we now live in a parallel universe where gasoline is cheaper than bottled water, the mileage benefits of the Discovery’s low-emission diesel have momentarily waned, though the big improvement over the standard engine is diesel torque, topping out at 443 lb.-ft. That allows on-highway acceleration surprisingly close to the gasoline-powered V-6, and ample extra power for your highway or off-road hill climbing.
The diesel upgrade and the higher-end luxury package do push this “everyday” luxury machine a bit closer to posh Range Rover territory, physically and financially, with a leatherized cabin, brushed aluminum and two kinds of wood trim. I guess I survived being without a cooled console box, but I still had a powerful Meridian sound system and those stylish 21s, so any notion of this being a more workaday Land Rover offering go out the window.
What is emphasized — and really works, when/if you ever need it — is the Discovery’s intense off-road capability, plus the American family-friendly second- and third-row passenger space, complemented with a ton of USB ports, dual-cabin sunroofs and near-the-tailgate seat auxiliary seat controls (and the carpeted, drop-down, picnic-worthy seating plate) which will impress all your domestic SUV-driving friends.
The diesel can be a little cranky at startup but that torque is easy to find. The entire vehicle is big to the point of almost being ponderous, but comfortable and easy to drive.
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