Journalist, author and local Guy Bird jumped at the chance to drive the Jaguar E-PACE on an active tour of the city, with his wife and two daughters, in search of places less visited, hidden gems and surprises.
Jumping into the new Jaguar E‑PACE, it’s not surprising onlookers stop and stare. The compact SUV is distinct, while keeping a family resemblance, via inspiration from the sporty F-TYPE’s muscular rear haunches, more vertical front lights and slim horizontal tail lights.
Driving through London, aided by a host of driver assistance features, the high sight lines yet more compact proportions of the E‑PACE, feel appropriate to the urban location.
First things first on our urban adventure: breakfast with a creative twist.
We find what we are looking for at Dominique Ansel’s Belgravia bakery, where the ‘Cronut’ – created by crossing a donut with a croissant – has made it on to the menu from its birthplace in New York.
The French‑born patisserie expert only sells his lovely baked goods in New York, Tokyo and now London. Washed down with coffee, we pop back into E‑PACE and head on to our first non-eating activity of the day.
Dominique Ansel’s divine invention, the Cronut
With the steering both reassuringly firm and swift enough to feel agile, we’re soon making good progress, passing the London Eye and stretching the car’s legs as we head to Manor House’s Castle Climbing Centre, north London.
Housed in a Victorian water pumping station (disguised as a castle back in 1842 to appease locals) the Castle Climbing Centre has evolved into one of Europe’s biggest climbing spaces, hosting 25,000 climbers a month attracted by the array of walls, bouldering options and a 100ft abseiling feature.
E-PACE at the Manor House Castle Climbing Centre
Our teenage daughters are up for the challenge and working off those pastries, allowing my wife and I to grab a breather and drive to visit another well‑kept secret: God’s Own Junkyard, a Walthamstow lighting museum with a collection of neon lights that rivals the illuminations of Vegas.
As we hit the road, E‑PACE’s navigation on the ten‑inch screen Touch Pro infotainment system tells us we’re less than half an hour away. When we arrive, we are presented with a visual spectacular of neon lights and signs, all with a curious history to match.
Current owner Marcus Bracey is the third generation of his family to be involved in sign making, and the business has lit most of London’s West End and made signs for films such as 80s cult classic Blade Runner, to the more recent Captain America.
Often the producers don’t have storage room after their films finish, so give the signs back to Bracey, meaning he now has 12 business units packed to the rafters with the brilliant lighting, spending £700 a week on electricity to keep them lit.
I marvel at this oasis of light in the heart of the city, and pledge to come back. But first, it’s time to head back south (and east) for more fun and adventure.
Exhausted and exhilarated from their climbing activities, the girls are very happy to be picked up and relax in the E‑PACE’s spacious rear seats.
They glance up through its large panoramic sunroof at the city around them, while listening to music on Spotify via the car’s InControl Apps, simultaneously catching up on their busy digital lives via the 4G Wi‑Fi hotspot.
This First Edition specification car has five USB charging points to stay topped up, and a tablet can be stowed under the central armrest. While driving, I see the influence of the F‑TYPE continued inside the E‑PACE’s cabin, which has a sporty driving position with a pleasing cockpit feel that’s also clutter‑free.
Every surface features unique detailing, from the exposed stitching on the dash, to the metal accents around the door handles and sports‑shift gear selector.
Out of rush‑hour it doesn’t take long to get to the Brick Lane area so we can wonder at its signature independent shops, colourful street art and the quirky market atmosphere; a must for curious city explorers and hip city slickers alike.
After bustling east London, we navigate south to Peckham. As my home for 25 years, driving to our next location is like child’s play.
On a sunny London evening like this, the E‑PACE remains calm to drive, but it’s good to know it’s equipped with the All Wheel Drive system for optimum traction on all surfaces, in all kinds of weather – should you need it.
Peckham exudes a heady energy, endlessly morphing and changing as new waves of people choose to call it home and set up places to reflect their culture.
Small but perfectly‑formed Taiwanese restaurant Mr Bao is one such example. Their fluffy steamed buns are dreamy, and the neighbourhood atmosphere buzzes with both locals and well‑informed visitors, served by friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Full again, we leave the car safely parked and walk five minutes down the road to the Peckham branch of the Rooftop Film Club to see Back to the Future as never before.
After the film, we drop off the kids to their granddad close by, check our own luggage in the large 577‑litre boot and head back into the City of London for a grown‑up night at the Napoleon Hotel.
Probably the city’s only “one‑room hotel”, it’s a rather unusual but fitting place for us to end the day, kick back and reflect on an adventure that has taken us through a city that’s truly full of ongoing change and surprises.
Once commuters and revellers have gone home, the Napoleon Hotel room itself is remarkably peaceful for such a wonderfully central part of the city.
After our packed day, rest comes easily. Refreshed, by the next morning we’re ready to take on the world again (and collect our kids). With the new E‑PACE still our transport companion, progress should remain as stylish, practical, swift and connected as before.
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