Story and photos by Haney Louka
A Pauper in Prince’s Clothing?
There used to be a time when car companies stuck to doing what they knew best. You remember, don’t you? Porsche built sports cars, Cadillac made full-size luxury cars, and Jaguar manufactured posh luxury cars and grand tourers.
But I guess being a niche manufacturer doesn’t pay the bills these days. Porsche is in the process of launching the Cayenne sport-utility vehicle. And Cadillac sells the gargantuan Escalade. And, what’s this? Jaguar now competes in the hotly contested (and decidedly middle class) entry luxury market? Heresy!
We’ll just have to get used to watching the car companies go where the money is. That is, after all, why Jaguar et al are venturing into previously uncharted territories. Upon launching the X-Type in 2001, Jaguar had lofty goals of doubling its worldwide sales with this model. Has it worked? Too early to tell, but Jaguar is certainly on a roll, having just capped off their fifth consecutive year of record-breaking global sales.
So in evaluating this X-Type I find myself asking the question: what’s in it for the buyer? Has Jaguar truly enhanced the entry-lux market with something different or will it quickly fade into the background of also-rans in an already crowded arena?
2003 X-Type Features
The X-Type carries over into 2003 essentially unchanged, save for one major difference: base price for the 2.5 litre model is now $41,195, down almost $1,800 from last year. My British Racing Green tester was equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission for an as-tested price of $42,695.
The standard equipment list is lengthy, with the most notable features being all wheel drive, leather seats, power driver’s seat, side curtain airbags, and bird’s eye maple trim.
The “2.5” moniker signifies that this cat is propelled by a 2.5 litre V6 that produces 192 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 180 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. Employing dual overhead camshafts in each cylinder bank, variable induction geometry, and variable valve timing, the motor is a modern yet not ground-breaking design. In fact, the roots of this engine block can be traced to the Duratec engine that’s used in parent company Ford’s Taurus. Jaguar, though, has designed everything that is mounted on that humble block under the hood of the X-Type.
Those output numbers compare favourably with the base engines of some competitors – Audi’s A4 1.8T puts out 170 horsepower and 166 lb-ft, while the Mercedes-Benz C240 cranks out 168 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of twist. The 2.5 power output does, however, fall short of some similarly priced competitors, like the 220-horsepower Cadillac CTS and 260-horsepower Infiniti G35.
While a five-speed manual transmission can be had with either X-Type model, my tester used a five-speed automatic to transfer the V6’s power to all four wheels. This is Jaguar’s first all wheel drive model, a product of the conversion from a front-wheel drive European Ford chassis to something that would be acceptable in a Jaguar showroom. 40 percent of the engine’s power is sent to the front wheels, while 60 percent goes rearward for more of a traditional rear-biased feel. A planetary gear centre differential performs this duty, and sends more power to the axle with more grip should the conditions dictate.
The X-Type delivers a bit of a mixed bag in the styling department. The single strongest exterior styling cue is the front view with its quad oval headlight arrangement and chrome hood ornament – Jaguar’s making a point of establishing a strong family resemblance between this X-Type and the upscale S and XJ models. The rear view is understated and elegant, with “jewel effect” taillights and a chrome strip on the bumper.
It’s in the profile, though, that this X-Type loses its Jaguar-ness. It’s too busy with creases, mouldings, and sill extensions as if it’s just trying too hard. It manages to adopt a little bit of Pontiac Cladding Syndrome, even though there is no actual plastic cladding on the car’s lower half. It just looks that way, and it’s distracting. The C-pillar (roof pillar behind the rear doors) treatment is a little low rent, too, doing too good a job of resembling that of a Chevrolet Malibu.
Inside, though, the X-Type is pure Jaguar. Fine leather (for this class) and wood abound in what amounts to a modern interpretation on a classic theme. Jaguar’s interior designers do a good job of developing an ergonomically sound interior without having it look like any that of any other marque.
The first giveaway is the J-gate shifter that has graced (cursed?) every Jaguar model in recent history. While it looks elegant and makes for a classy centrepiece, it pretty much gives up any sort of utility in the process. But we’ll get to that in a moment. Next up is the centre stack that is surrounded by a hoop of dash-coloured material that nicely separates the stereo and HVAC controls from the rest of the controls and dials. The design of the instrument panel is simple and easy to read, but there is no trip computer on the base 2.5. It’s part of the $1,300 Premium package.
Overall it’s an attractive interior that stands up well against the competition.
The Driving Experience
Let me just start by stating that 192 horsepower is not enough to propel this nearly 1,600 kg vehicle with any sort of urgency. The V6 doesn’t seem to possess a sweet spot and it’s not particularly smooth in its sound or feel. And will someone please explain this to me: why does an engine that is so unremarkable require premium fuel?
(Photo: Jaguar) Click image to enlarge
The transmission shifts smoothly but far too early in automatic mode for my liking. And I had to forget about shifting gears myself. Unlike most of the X-Type’s competitors, Jaguar’s smallest cat does not feature a dedicated manual shift mode for its slushbox, and the irritating J-gate shifter quells any attempts to do so with what’s there. The detents are far too mushy and the positions just too close together for spirited driving. It’s easy to overshoot selection of the desired gear.
The drivetrain is adequate, to be sure, but it’s nothing that will help you achieve your target heart rate for burning calories. Adequate is a word that can be used to describe many aspects of driving the X-Type as well. The brakes do their job but don’t inspire a lot of confidence through the spongy feel of the pedal. Also, the steering is nicely weighted but not particularly quick in the response department.
Ride quality over Winnipeg’s streets is a little on the abrupt side. In this class, a stiff ride is normally accompanied by a welcome ability to corner with minimal body roll, but that’s not the case. The X-Type corners with a fair amount of body roll, so it doesn’t excel in either area.
It wouldn’t be fair to leave the impression that the X-Type is not impressive, because it is in some less important ways. The seats are comfortable, and as I mentioned earlier the quality of the leather is better than most in its class. The quality of interior fit and finish is excellent and many of the controls and knobs-the interior door release handles in particular-have a very substantial feel in their operation. All four windows are one-touch up and down from the driver’s seat. It’s amazing how seldom I’ve seen this simple yet convenient feature.
To Sum It Up
With the X-type, Jaguars are now accessible to a whole new group of people. But this poor man’s Jag does not really offer buyers something different in the entry-lux class. And here’s another way to look at it: Is a Mercedes C240 a gussied-up Sebring? No. Is the Infiniti G35 a tarted up Altima? Nope. But the X? It’s got upscale Ford written all over it.
The bottom line? If being able to say, “I bought a new Jaguar” is really important, then go for it. If not, be sure to have a look at the list below.
The entry-lux market is brimming with new models every year. Although this is not an inexpensive group of machines, the class is extremely price competitive. Here’s the competition:
- Acura 3.2 TL Type S ($41,800)
- Audi A4 1.8T quattro ($38,650)
- BMW 325xi ($42,300)
- Cadillac CTS ($39,900)
- Infiniti G35 ($39,400)
- Lexus IS300 ($37,775)
- Mercedes-Benz C240 4Matic ($42,900)
- Saab 9-3 Arc ($40,500)
- VW Passat 4Motion ($43,475)
- Volvo S60 AWD ($44,695)
Technical Data: Jaguar X-Type 2.5
|Price as tested||$42,695|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger entry-luxury sedan|
|Layout||front transverse-mounted V-6, all wheel drive|
|Engine||2.5 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves, variable valve timing and induction geometry|
|Horsepower||192 @ 6,800 rpm|
|Torque||180 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|Curb weight||1,595 kg (3516 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2,710 mm (106.7 in.)|
|Length||4,672 mm (183.9 in.)|
|Width||1,789 mm (70.4 in.)|
|Height||1,392 mm (54.8 in.)|
|Cargo volume||258 litres (9.1 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 12.5 L/100 km (23 mpg)|
|Hwy: 8.3 L/100 km (34 mpg)|
|Warranty||4 yrs/80,000 km|