All-wheel drive and lower pricing make for a compelling luxury car.The Jaguar X-Type is Coventry's entry-level luxury sedan, designed to compete with the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and, to some extent, the Lexus IS 300 and Acura TL. The performance of the Jaguar compares favorably to these cars, while offering a distinct difference in feel and temperament. The X-Type is elegant, comfortable, and fun to drive. Starting at $29,330, it represents a low cost of entry for a Jaguar and a strong value in this highly competitive class. It also gives its owner the distinction of driving a Jag.
The X-Type looks unmistakably like a Jaguar, and that's no small design feat given its relatively compact dimensions. Better still, the X-Type smells and feels like a Jaguar, with all the traditional British ingredients that have defined the brand for seven decades. Yet this $30,000 Jag is more than an inexpensive knock-off because it offers something no other Jaguar has: the benefits of full-time all-wheel-drive. That makes the X-Type a good choice for rain, snow and ice, and indeed it feels very secure in those conditions.
For 2004, Jaguar delivers the first significant changes since the X-Type was introduced two years ago. There are new colors and new, larger wheel designs. Inside, the X-Type gets a new wood veneer that Jaguar calls Sapele, and claims it offers the most powerful premium stereo in the class. Option packages have been re-aligned, and perhaps most significantly, the X-Type's price-value equation has been improved. The less-expensive 2004 X-Type 2.5-liter actually costs $620 less than when the car was launched in the fall of 2001. The high-trim X-Type 3.0-liter is nearly $3,000 less than last year. With new standard equipment, Jaguar says the 3.0 represents a savings of $5,200 compared to 2003.
The Jaguar X-Type is a great alternative to some superb luxury sedans.
Model LineupJaguar offers its small sedan in two models: the X-Type 2.5-liter with a 192-horsepower V6 ($29,330) and the X-Type 3.0-liter with a 227-horsepower V6 ($33,330). All-wheel drive, which Jaguar calls Traction 4, comes standard.
Both have standard equipment expected of a Jaguar: glossy Sapele wood trim, Connolly leather-trimmed seating, and power windows, mirrors, door locks and driver's seat. All X-Types are also equipped with automatic climate control, a 120-Watt AM/FM/cassette, remote locking, an auto-dimming interior mirror, tilt/telescope steering wheel and heated door mirrors and windshield washers.
The 2.5-liter model comes with a five-speed manual transmission. Ordering the optional five-speed automatic ($1,650) also adds a single-disc CD player, full-size spare tire and additional wood trim on the doors.
The X-Type 3.0-liter adds even more standard equipment, some of which was optional last year, including a power tilt-and-slide moonroof, a split folding rear seat, automatic headlamps and a wood-and-leather steering wheel. That glossy Jaguar wood is more lavishly applied inside the 3.0. The five-speed automatic is standard, and the wheels are upgraded from 16-inch to 17-inch alloys.
The X-Type 3.0-liter also offers more options than have been traditionally available on a Jaguar. Three packages are popular: Premium, Sport, and Luxury. The Premium package ($875) includes an eight-way power passenger seat and two-way power lumbar support for both front seats, rain-sensing wipers, a trip computer and Homelink-compatible garage door/gate opener.
The Sport package ($2,750) includes gray-stained wood trim, sports seats with extra side bolstering, body-colored exterior trim as opposed to chrome, a rear spoiler, Dynamic Stability Control, a sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels with high-performance tires. It also adds xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps and a premium 320-watt Alpine sound system. The manual transmission is available with this package for the same price.
The Luxury package ($3,500) delivers Jaguar's traditionally high level of luxury, starting with lamb's wool floor rugs, contrasting piping on the seats, burl walnut wood trim and more expansively applied exterior chrome. It includes Reverse Park Aid to warn the driver of hidden obstacles, heated front seats, the Alpine stereo with a six-CD changer (in the trunk), the DSC electronic stability control system, and the contents of the Premium Package.
Individually priced options for all X-Type models include the heated seats ($500), Reverse Park Aid ($325), and DSC ($525). The GPS navigation system ($2,300) includes a seven-inch touch-screen that also provides control for the audio and climate systems and allows subscription to the JaguarNet emergency communication and tracking system. Voice activation for audio, climate control and the navigation system is available as a dealer-installed option.
Safety features include curtain-style head protection airbags for front and rear passenger, dual-stage frontal airbags and front side-impact airbags managed by a sophisticated sensor system. Anti-lock brakes (ABS), pre-tensioning front safety belts with load-limiters and three-point belts for all seats are also standard.
Walkaround Ever since Ford took over Jaguar, purists have been scrutinizing every move the company makes in an effort to turn up some evidence of Fording down the illustrious British marque. The fact that the X-Type has a common ancestry with Ford of Europe's front-wheel-drive Mondeo really got their ears up. Can you imagine a front-wheel-drive Jaguar? No, and those dyed-in-the-green types at Jaguar couldn't either. Thus the X-Type has all-wheel drive, a happy state that would probably not have come about had designers started with a clean sheet of paper. In reality, only about 20 percent of the X-Type has any connection to the Mondeo.
The X-Type is clearly a Jaguar. It looks more like the full-size XJ than the more retro, mid-size S-Type, which was Jaguar's first effort to broaden its customer base.
The X-type is some 7 inches shorter than the S-Type. So the challenge facing the X-Type designers was to make a relatively short car look low and long. They did it using lots of horizontal lines, body sculpting and a high-tailed wedge shape, though the wedge is more obvious in photographs than in person. The illusion is generally successful and the X-Type looks bigger on the road than its dimensions suggest.
The design of the grille and headlamps, with fluting that sweeps back over the hood, make the X-Type look like a baby XJ. The front view is broadened with two sets of side-by-side round lights flanking Jaguar's traditional horizontal split grille. This makes it look more conservative than the S-Type, which features a unique round grille. Riding the hood of the X-Type is the traditional bounding Jaguar known as the bonnet leaper. Such hood ornaments are outlawed in Europe, so X-Types there make do with the flat, full-faced Jaguar known as the growler.
The visual stance of the X-Type is not affected by the all-wheel-drive system. To try to gain awareness for the all-wheel-drive, the 2004 X-Type models have added an AWD badge on the trunk chrome. This is a ground-loving vehicle that makes the eye believe it is longer and lower than it is, and bigger as well. What at first blush seems to be busy-ness about the indents, horizontal lines and visual cues of Jaguarness fades with on-going exposure, evolving into acceptance and even appreciation. Anyway, the car looks better on the road than it does in pictures, or even in the showroom.
Interior This is a real Jag on the inside, too. Jaguar's leather and wood are done as well as they were in the days when those luxury touches were not added to every model on the road.
The standard seats are quite good, supportive and comfortable, and they can be adjusted every which way. Aggressive side bolstering is added with the Sport package, which is appropriate for more aggressive driving. Side bolstering requires more effort when getting in and out of the seat, however, so the Sport package is best left for those who love spirited roadwork. We had no trouble flinging the car around with the standard seats.
The cabin has a spacious feel, and outward visibility is enhanced by the slimness of the roof pillars. With the elevation of the driver's seat easily adjustable, drivers of varying heights have an excellent forward view over the hood. The outside mirrors are particularly generous in size, a welcome safety feature at a time when the mirrors on some of the German cars appear to be getting smaller.
All the switchgear operates intuitively. The silky appeal of Jaguars has made them a favorite with women, and the woman buyer figured early in planning the ergonomics of the X-Type. While there is no evident feminization, this thinking is obvious in controls that fall within easy reach and a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, allowing her to adjust perfectly to the car. Good ergonomics know no gender, however, and the X-Type adjusts to men quite swimmingly. People of all body types will find a comfortable home in the X-Type. There's plenty of headroom unless you're wearing a helmet in a car equipped with the sunroof.
Lots of stowage inside the X-Type adds to the convenience. The doors have a handy tray near the door handle, as well as a large main pocket. There are dozens of nooks to stow phones, cassettes, CDs, pens, maps or tissues, even ice scrapers and an umbrella. There's even a retractable hook in the glovebox release to hold a handbag, small shopping bag or take-out. The center console is small, however, and there is only one cupholder.
The design of the X-Type isn't all about style. The trunk is big, something that can't be said for all Jaguars. With 16 cubic feet of cargo space, the X-Type beats the impressive trunk on the Audi A4 (13.4 cubic feet) and the relatively dinky boots in the Mercedes C-Class (12.2) and BMW 3 Series (10.7) sedans. Further, if you pull one or both of the small handles in the X-Type trunk you can easily flip the rear seats forward for carrying longer items. That makes this a practical Jaguar.
The optional navigation system did a great job of locating our destination after we had to detour to avoid an accident. To reduce the chance of driver distraction, destinations cannot be programmed while underway.
Driving Impressions When it was introduced, the X-Type set new standards for rigidity of structure. A rigid structure translates into a car that can be tuned to ride smoothly and quietly while cornering like a cat. Our experience with the X-Type bears this out. We put the X-Type through its paces on winding rural roads near Dijon, France, and north of Atlanta, Georgia, and around the banked high-speed turns of Atlanta Motor Speedway. In all situations, the X-Type was the epitome of stability and confidence without resulting to a buckboard ride around town.
The narrow, high-crowned pavement in France follows the wandering ways of long-ago farm animals over varied terrain. When polished by rain, it becomes a driver's challenge. The dampness was simply erased by the all-wheel-drive system, which offered comforting security. On the French roads, the X-Type seemed to rise to every challenge. Whether on a major highway or winding back road, it always felt smooth and stable. The steering was sharp and precise, and the car feels nimble in corners yet secure at speed.
To further explore the handling, we took the X-Type onto a tight handling course near Atlanta. A corner flooded with water showed off the advantage of the Sport package; the high-performance Pirelli P Zero tires provided better grip in the wet than the standard, narrower Continental ContiSport Contact tires, greatly reducing understeer (the tendency of the car to push out toward the outside of a turn when the front tires lose grip). The Sport package also seemed to offer quicker response, though it wasn't a huge difference. In any case, ride quality doesn't seem to suffer with the Sport package and we liked the way the sports seats kept us in place when whipping through slaloms and chicanes.
That flooded curve also helped demonstrate the value of Jaguar's Traction 4 all-wheel-drive system. The system incorporates a center differential and viscous coupling to split the torque 40 percent to the front wheels, 60 percent to the rear. Slippage at either set of wheels will send more power to the opposite end of the car. The viscous coupling automatically and transparently transfers power away from slipping wheels to those with the best traction, helping to keep the X-Type moving forward and tracking true no matter the conditions underneath. In short, the X-Type performs well in the wet and we presume it handles well in the snow.
The Dynamic Stability Control system made it easier to drive the car most of the time. By applying brakes at selected wheels, it can help control a skid by tightening up the sliding corner of the car. DSC reduced the chance of losing control or spinning out and it reduced yawing when charging too fast through a slalom. In practical terms, DSC can help a driver maintain control in an emergency, to help avoid an accident or reduce its severity. The system can be switched off for those rare times when the driver feels it's too intrusive, as when we drove the S-Type on a closed course to test its limits. By default, the system switches back on every time the car is re-started.
The X-Type feels equally comfortable on the highway and in fast, sweeping turns. It was supremely stable at 120 mph on Atlanta Motor Speedway's back straight and felt confident turning in for the banked turns at that speed. It was easy to drive flat out through the facility's infield road racing circuit. The well-controlled suspension and the all-wheel drive add to the X-Type's confident feel when driving at the limit. The X-Type offer predictable handling when pushing its tires beyond their limits, something that can happen at much lower speeds when it's slippery. It felt comfortable when braking and turning at the same time, a move that ruffles many cars. The handling is quite neutral, understeering at times, yet willing to rotate according to the skilled driver's wishes in the middle of a turn through use of the throttle.
The brakes, particularly the high-performance Brembos in the Sport Package X-Type, were authoritative and reliable. We'd call them Autobahn brakes, able to slow the car quickly from high speeds. They worked well at Atlanta Motor Speedway, braking at the threshold at the end of a long straightaway in preparation for the slower turns in the infield road course. Using the brakes repeatedly revealed no problems.
Engine torque is spread over a power curve in the desirable mesa shape. The 3.0-liter V6 engine doesn't have the hard edge of BMW's inline-6, but the Jaguar's power is there early at launch and accessible over a wide range of speeds. A car like this somehow feels more powerful than it really is because there is never a questing need for more oomph at a critical moment, as when you're making a left turn onto a busy thoroughfare or passing a tractor-trailer rig on a narrow two-lane road. Moreover, the X-Type's 0-60 mph acceleration figures (6.6 seconds for the 3.0, 7.9 for the 2.5 with manual transmissions, according to Jaguar) are competitive among small luxury sedans.
The weight of the 2.5-liter and 3.0-liter X-Type models is the same. The 3.0-liter V6 delivers quicker acceleration performance, while the 2.5-liter provides better fuel economy. The 3.0-liter with manual transmission offers an optimum combination of power and fuel efficiency and is the enthusiast's choice.
Choosing between automatic and manual transmissions mostly comes down to personal preference, however, as both are good choices. Our preference for 2.5-liter model is for the manual. While the 2.5-liter V6 provides good power when paired with the five-speed manual transmission, it sometimes feels a bit underpowered when paired with the automatic. The power of the 3.0-liter makes it a better companion for the automatic.
The five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission works very well. Put it in Drive and it shifts smoothly and predictably up and down, keeping the X-Type's engine in the proper gear for smooth cruising or quick acceleration. Its shift points seem to be the result of some clever mind reading because the transmission selects shift patterns according to driving conditions. The driver can select a sport mode, which raises the shift points to make full use of available engine power. Jaguar's J-gate shifter allows the driver to shift semi-manually, keeping it in the selected gear until the lever is moved. The J-gate works fairly well, but it's more cumbersome than the plus-minus sequential pattern on other semi-manual transmissions. Most of the time, we prefer putting it in Drive and leaving it there.
The five-speed manual, standard on the 2.5-liter and available as a no-cost option with the 3.0 Sport package, has a short throw with sports-car feel. It can add to the fun. If only to nitpick, the clutch pedal is a little vague, and it takes practice to achieve smooth launches and elegant shifts, but a little time in the car solves this. The clutch/shifter package works great when driven with gusto in a high-performance setting.
Jaguar devoted much attention to making the X-Type engines sound right and they were successful. A driver might actually search for some stonewalls to motor between, touch the instant-down on the window and smile at the reverberation.
Summary Jaguar's X-Type holds its own in the extremely competitive compact luxury car market. It stacks up nicely by virtually any measure, from design to style to space to performance. If it gives up a tick to class leaders in specific areas, it compensates with Jaguar elegance. With standard all-wheel drive and a full palette of standard features, it delivers more for the money than many competitors in objective terms.
It comes to this: If you've always lusted after a Jaguar's feline mystery and thought that some day you should own one, but can't afford one of the pricier models, then some day may have arrived. Pricing for the 2004 Jaguar X-Type pricing has pulled that day in like a zoom lens. When you try one on be sure to search out some plate glass windows to mirror your passing, and to reflect on the sweet growl of that V6 engine.