Jaguar fans without deep pockets may have thought this day would never come. A Jag for less than $30,000? Impossible! But as of Aug. 1, 2001, American devotees of the legendary British marque have been able to drive home a new X-TYPE sport sedan for as little as $29,950. Even more surprising, the X-TYPE will be equipped with Traction-4 all-wheel drive a first for the company rather than the rear-wheel-drive setup that Jaguars have featured since the beginning.
Introduced in 2001 at the Geneva Motor Show, this is Jaguars first compact sedan in more than 30 years and the fourth model in its current lineup. Though the X-TYPE is related to the European Mondeo, only 20 percent of its components are shared with that model. Jaguar hopes to attract a whole new group of buyers, especially those who may have coveted a Jaguar in the past but never imagined they could afford one. Rivals include the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Jaguar expects to double its sales totals once the X-TYPE is rolling. By 2004, more than 200,000 units may be sold worldwide, with as many as 80,000 heading for North America. Weve always been aspirational, said Mike ODriscoll, president of Jaguar North America. Now, a Jaguar is accessible as well.
Making the X-TYPE immediately recognizable as a Jaguar was a prime goal. Classic styling themes are familiar to Jaguar aficionados, including a traditional forward-leaning grille augmented by some sporty modern touches. Elliptical quad halogen headlights are installed, and xenon high-intensity-discharge units are available as an option. Fog lights are integrated into the lower front fascia, and the roofline is said to echo Jaguars sedan heritage.
Proportion and balance are uppermost. If the proportions are right, said principal stylist Wayne Burgess, it will be seen as a thing of beauty. Designers have broken away from the long, linear look and substituted a new high tail for the traditional low tail of the past, which creates what Burgess calls a menacing stance. Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires, and an optional Sport Package includes special spring shock absorbers and stabilizer bar tuning, as well as 17-inch tires.
Five occupants may be seated in the cockpit-style interior, which features Connolly leather and traditional wood veneer in light brown birds eye maple. We use wood in an architectural way, said Burgess. Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, a 120-watt cassette stereo system, and Integrated Communications and Entertainment controls for the stereo and optional telephone.
The Sport Package includes specially contoured Connolly leather sport seats, a sport steering wheel with perforated leather trim, and darker gray-stained maple trim. Power and Convenience packages add such extras as a glass moonroof, rain-sensing wipers and reverse park control. A navigation system with a 7-inch screen is available, and dealers can install a voice-activation system.
Under the Hood
The 2.5-liter X-TYPE gets a 194-horsepower V-6 engine, driving either a five-speed-manual transmission or an optional five-speed-electronic automatic. An automatic transmission is standard with the 231-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 model, but the manual shift is a no-cost option. Jaguar claims a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of 6.6 seconds with the larger engine and manual shift. All-wheel drive normally sends 40 percent of engine power to the front wheels, but it can deliver a split as great as 80/20 when needed. Switchable dynamic stability control also is available.
Utilizing sophisticated occupancy sensors, the X-TYPE features dual-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and side curtain-type airbags for front and rear occupants. Antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard, and a collapsible brake pedal mechanism is installed. Front seat belts have pretensioners and load limiters.
Character is the question that first pops into mind. Because its structurally related to the comparatively commonplace Ford Mondeo, one has to wonder whether the X-TYPE is truly a Jaguar. Worry not. The X-TYPE is no Jaguar wannabe. Instead, its an eager-performing, competent-handling sedan thats well able to carry on the companys illustrious heritage.
On wet, twisting two-lane roads, the X-TYPE demonstrated its handling skills at every curve and corner. Responding quickly and surely to steering inputs, the sedan is confident and surefooted at all speeds. The ride is sheer pleasure, even on moderately imperfect pavement. Rougher patches can produce some jostling of occupants, but the car corrects itself crisply and happily without excessive rebounding by the taut suspension.
Acceleration with the larger engine is suitably vigorous and supremely confident, helped by crisp automatic-transmission operation. Shifts are noticeable but utterly devoid of uncertainty, which yields swift responses for passing. The X-TYPE runs exceptionally quietly and exhibits complete evidence of solid, careful construction. Jaguar cues are evident inside, led by the familiar J-shape gearshift layout for the automatic transmission. Seats are comfortable and supportive. Oversize mirrors are a big help, while the driving position is inviting. Jaguars available navigation system is one of the best, with a big screen and an easy-to-grasp panoramic view of the road ahead.