- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2005

Jaguar caught some flak from loyalists when it brought the X-Type to market in 2002. Most of the bellyaching was provoked by the X-Type’s perceived departure from Jaguar’s tradition of opulence and performance.

After all it was conceived as a car for the masses. Jaguar aimed at the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3-series and the Audi A4 and the X-Type was the resulting shot across the bow of those nameplates. The idea: Attract a younger, less well-heeled buyer to the brand. Hardly out-of-the-box thinking; securing a younger owner base is business as usual in today’s automobile industry. To reach that lower price point, though, much of X-Type’s structure had to be borrowed from others in the far-flung Ford family — principally the Mondeo sedan marketed in Europe. Such cross-division brand-sharing is also widespread today and while the X-Type may not quite measure up to other Jaguar models, it is certainly competitive in its segment in terms of price, power and amenities.

When first released, the X-Type’s only body style was a four-door sedan. It offered two V-6 engines, either of which could be mated to a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. To enhance its value in the segment, it came only as all-wheel drive. With the addition of a station wagon, the body styles were increased to two for 2005, but for 2006 the smaller 2.5-liter V-6 and manual transmission were dropped, leaving the 3-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic as the only powertrain available. All X-Types are still AWD.

The X-Type works well as a wagon or Sportwagon as Jaguar tags it. Its elegant lines and 17-inch wheels unite to craft some serious curb appeal. It’s still a wagon, but a fine-looking one. Despite its role as the brand’s entry-level product, the X-Type has an interior loaded with leather and wood accents, as well as the usual power accessories. All of this for a base price of $36,995. Adding the $2,200 Premium Package piles on a few more goodies, such as rain-sensing wipers, trip computer, memory for the driver’s-side seat and outboard mirror, and an eight-way power passenger seat.

Making 227 horsepower, the X-Type’s V-6 stacks up well against the V-6s found in its closest European competitors. The driver-shiftable automatic smoothly transports engine output to all the wheels. Downshifts in the automatic mode seem a bit slow, but acceleration is determined and relatively effortless. Engine and transmission are as well suited to highway cruising as midtown stop-and-go. Fuel economy isn’t quite up to segment averages. All three key European competitors get at least a mile or two better mileage per gallon. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Sportwagon at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway.

Suspension tuning is skewed more toward ride comfort than handling. Opting for the Sport Package with its sport-tuned suspension tightens things considerably. The variable ratio steering is precise. An antilock system to oversee the four-wheel disc brakes is standard. Stability control is not. That adds $525 to the bottom line.

The overall driving experience is a mixed bag. With “sport” as part of its nomenclature, one would hope the Sportwagon would be a little sharper in its handling. Power is sufficient and certainly competitive within the segment. Someone looking for a tad more spirited performance can no longer opt for the manual transmission and that’s a shame.

From behind the wheel the Sportwagon is adequate and competitive in every respect, but doesn’t do anything to raise the bar within its class.

Passenger space is adequate and on par with the three German wagons. There is no more than an inch or so difference in front- or rear-seat legroom among the four wagons. Cargo space, however, provides more disparity with the X-Type and 3-series wagons very close, but the C-Class and A4 wagons both have at least a 10-cubic-foot advantage in cargo-hauling capability.

Interior styling is classic Jaguar. Similarities in the design of the center stack, the J-pattern shifter and instrument panel clearly identify this as a Jaguar cabin. Also familiar is the wood/leather steering wheel with tilt/telescoping adjustments. The conglomeration of buttons in the center stack can be a bit daunting, but operating the assorted systems isn’t as complicated as it seems at first glance. Automatic climate control and a six-speaker audio system with CD player are standard. The front bucket seats are supportive and comfortable. A split-folding rear seat can be configured for passengers or additional cargo.

Ultimately the X-Type is successful at affording buyers a less expensive avenue for entering the Jaguar family. It may not possess the class of the XK-series or the luxury of the S-Type, but the Jaguar DNA is obvious and plentiful inside and out. Additionally the Sportwagon offers a degree of versatility attractive to younger families that’s not available in any other Jaguar model. Every brand’s lineup must begin somewhere and at Jaguar it begins with the X-Type.

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