Thursday, June 17, 2004

I know that winter is long passed, but I’m remembering back when there was still snow on the ground and Jaguar provided a Winter Driving Experience for automotive journalists at the Rally Art Winter Driving School just outside Steamboat Springs, Colo.

The folks at Jaguar Cars North America, part of Ford’s elite Premiere Automotive Group, chose the snowy site to showcase the prowess of the All-Wheel Drive X-Type Jaguar in slippery ice and snow conditions. The all-wheel drive is also nice to have beneath you in good weather and on dry roads.

The event was great fun, while teaching the rudiments of piloting a vehicle safely under hazardous conditions.

Both manual and automatic versions of the Jaguar X-Type four-door sedan, powered by the 3.0 liter V-6 motor were used for the event — on regular tires.

The All-Wheel Drive X-Types showed their stuff with the Dynamic Stability Control both on and off. DSC is capable of saving the average driver from disaster when engaged, but switching the system off provided more of a challenge and a greater “fun factor” to boot.

The X-Type performed admirably on the road to and from as well as on the course. Peak horsepower kicks in at 6,800 rpm. Power is transferred to all four wheels through a permanent Jaguar Traction-4 all-wheel-drive system, featuring a 40 percent/60 percent front/rear average distribution.

There are no dramatic styling changes evidenced in the X-Type for 2004, which is based on the global Ford Mondeo platform (CD-132). It is a compact four-door luxury sport saloon and shares less than 20 percent commonality with the Mondeo.

The two engine variants for the X-Type are based on the Durotec block, while heads and other componentry are exclusively Jaguar. The standard transmission is common with Ford, while the automatic is unique, with a shorter throw.

Visually, the X-type is proportionately pleasing with an overall wedge effect — low front and high rear. The frontal appearance seems to borrow design cues from the larger Jaguar XJ model but with smaller quad headlamps. The rear picks up on the quad light treatment found at the front end, and is not dissimilar to the S-Type on a very general basis. However, the X-Type’s styling package translates as totally different from any other Jaguar model.

The stance is wide and aggressive with wheels positioned at corners for a “planted on its boots” look. The car looks longer, lower and leaner than the Ford Mondeo and one of its primary competitors, the BMW 3-Series, while really it is not.

The test X-Type was a 3.0 liter finished outside in Platinum metallic and inside in a Charcoal theme. The base sticker was set at $33,330. It came with extras, elevating the final price tag to $36,565 — less than its predecessor when considering content.

It is possible to order an X-Type to suit your every whim, personalized to your ride and driving preference, while remaining within your chosen expenditure range.

My personal pick is the 3.0-liter with a five-speed manual transmission and Sport package. Next up on the desirability list is the 3.0-liter with auto-gated shifter, a power/convenience package and standard suspension. Upon entry, one instantly notices that the instrument panel is less intrusive into the occupant area — it contains a high degree of functionality while providing a sense of spaciousness and ambient luxuriousness accented with polished wood, leather and metal trim. The sport seats offer more side bolstering and firmer support for spirited driving, but the standard seats are inviting as well.

Acceleration is brisk, handling characteristics are right on target and confidence inspiring, with a sporty feel, and the bottom line friends is this, the All-Wheel-Drive X-Type is a Jaguar through and through with no compromises — a tribute to the art of performance.

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