- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

Jaguar has two advantages as it tries to crack the entry-level luxury class with its new-for-2002 X-Type: First, it's a Jaguar, which gives it a certain cachet, though not necessarily credibility, and it comes standard with all-wheel drive.
It has a few disadvantages as well, but more about that later. The X-Type is an expansion of the Jaguar lineup, now that the company is owned by the Ford Motor Co.
Earlier, Ford developed the Jaguar S-Type in concert with the Lincoln LS, though the Jaguar sells for a much higher price and is aimed squarely at the luxury market, where the Lincoln is positioned both in near-luxury and luxury territory, depending on how it is equipped.
The new X-Type is a spinoff from the European Ford Mondeo, which also was the basis for a couple of failed models in the United States the Ford Contour and the Mercury Mystique.
But unless you're a member of the automotive cognoscenti, you'd never dream that the new X-Type had anything whatsoever in common with a Contour, so crafty is the transformation.
The base X-Type is powered by a 2.5-liter V-6 engine of 194 horsepower that is linked to a five-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is optional. There's also a model with a 3-liter V-6 with 231 horsepower. It comes with either the five-speed manual or the five-speed automatic, with no difference in price.
Either version is available with different option packages. The test car had the 3-liter engine with the five-speed gearbox and the Sport package, which includes high-performance tires on 17-inch wheels, sport seats, an anti-skid system called Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob, and a more tightly snubbed suspension system.
The base price of the X-Type Sport is $38,595, which also is close to the delivered price. On the test car, the only option was $550 for metallic paint, which brought the suggested sticker to $39,135. That's right near the top of the entry-level luxury class.
The X-Type is a fairly handsome car, especially viewed from the front where it has all the Jaguar cues, including the leaping cat hood ornament. Going away, however, the rear view is not particularly distinguished.
It is an exhilarating car to drive. The 231 horses come on with a vengeance through the five-speed manual, propelling the X-Type to extra-legal speeds in less than 10 seconds. Zero to 60 comes up in just over seven seconds.
The clutch action is light and the engagement is smooth, but the shifter itself is a tad on the clunky side. However, it gets the job done if you're not ham-fisted.
With the stability control and the all-wheel drive, which allocates power to the front and rear wheels depending on road conditions, the X-Type inspires confidence in the face of most road conditions. The brakes have a solid, capable feel, and the tight suspension system contributes to the confident handling
However, the suspension system lacks the supple quality that Jaguar engineers have been known for in the past. The result is a ride that feels much harsher than you expect from a Jaguar.
Inside, the surroundings are not particularly attractive. The test car had gray woodgrain trim that virtually disappeared into the other dark surfaces.
However, there's no British quirkiness to the instruments and controls, which are ergonomically mainstream.
A few luxury touches are lacking. Though the climate control is automatic, it lacks dual-zone controls to set different temperatures for the driver and front passenger. And the steering wheel has an ordinary manual friction adjustment.
The X-Type has one interesting European characteristic. Like some of its counterparts across the pond, it has a central door-locking system that, when activated, sounds like a guerrilla cocking an assault rifle. It's loud and startling until you get used to it.
The sunroof on the test car, while not particularly large, was located toward the rear, which meant that when it was open the driver's eyes were shaded from the sun. But the sunroof also trimmed away some headroom, which could pose a problem for taller drivers and passengers.
Like its progenitor, the Mondeo, the X-Type suffers from a smallish back seat, which is suitable only for people of small stature. Average-sized humans will find it cramped and hulks will find it impossible. As in most cars in this class, the center position in back is impossible for everybody.
The Jaguar folks obviously know this because they provided rear headrests only for the outboard passengers.
Out back, there's a decent-sized, nicely finished trunk that oddly does not have a flat floor. There's a hump halfway across.
The cachet is there in the X-Type. The credibility part awaits judgment. Though Jaguar quality has increased substantially, potential customers who recall the old days may still need convincing.

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