Jag considers the new X-Type one of the biggest steps in its colorful history. Unlike its previous cars that relied on their "Jaguar-ness" to hook buyers (describing "Jaguar-ness" is like describing the taste of milk-it has a uniqueness that defies comparison), the X-Type needs to stand toe-to-toe against heady offerings from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Talk about tough competition! When Editor Brown asked me to spend a few days with the X-Type, my first impression was that this would be an exercise in futility-the idea that Jaguar could build a car good enough to pull sales from the big three was almost laughable, sorta like watching Prince Charles fight in the WWF.
I was wrong.
The X-Type still reeks of "Jaguar-ness"-rich burlwood, Connolly leather, singular instrumentation-but it also manages to blend a huge amount of sportiness in the mix. And I'm not referring to ascot-wearing, tea-sipping, cricket-playing sportiness, I'm talking about crossed-up, smoke-boiling, rev-slamming sportiness, the kind of activity that would make Billy-Bob circle track racer swallow his chew. I never thought I'd feel that way about a Jaguar but the new X-Type is an exception. It's going to make people look at Jaguar cars in a whole new way.
Jag would like everyone to forget the X-Type is based on the FWD Ford Mondeo, but the truth is it is a fine base-car. Ford spent big bucks schooling the Mondeo chassis and Jaguar spent even more giving it better underpinnings and 4-wheel drive. The end result is a car so tenacious it almost defies description.
I spent two days trying to unhinge this well-heeled cat, both on the track and twisted roads of Dijon, France, but to no avail. My hopes were to go flying off into a field of bright yellow mustard, I figured it would be repayment for all the times I had to lend my dad my GTI while his XJS was in the shop.
The X-Type would have none of it however, countering my ham-fisted maneuvers with exceptional forgiveness while rewarding deft moves with exceptional grace.
I spent time in both the 2.5 and 3.0-liter versions of the X-Type and while the 2.5 is a willing partner, preferred the larger more powerful version because of its more heavily bolstered chairs. Seated behind the wheel, the Jag is luxurious and well sorted and in this writer's opinion, very tasteful and understated. I like it better than its more luxurious siblings. The X-Type is a very quiet car with most of the noise emanating from the gearbox which makes rowing through the gears quite entertaining. Jag says is spent considerable time tuning the X-Type's exhaust note -puzzling because it's so damn quiet.
The test drive was split between driving rain, drizzle, and full sun-you would have thought the crew at Jaguar ordered it that way. On wet roads the car feels wonderfully planted and you can feel the electronic wizardry (DSC) working hard as it keeps all four wheels in touch with the pavement. Turn it off and things get more entertaining but never so much that you can't set it right. I really liked the steering-not over-assisted with enough feedback to feel where things are.
The shifter features modest throws and a firm feel and the gears well spaced for sport-minded driving. The suspension on the sport model with 17-in. wheels was fabulous, certainly one of the firmest Jaguars I've ever driven. It is an outstanding mix of firmness and compliancy. No matter what we threw at it, the X-Type regained its composure with near instantaneous reactions. Long, undulating sweepers-tight, chunked-up bits...the X-Type has the agility of a Chinese acrobat.
Pushed to the limit and the X-Type will gently push until you ease off the throttle. Muscled around the track however, and its possible to slide the sedan until the tires melt. Great fun!
I came away from the X-Type totally surprised. I expected to find a meek and mild sedan but instead found a serious contender in the sport-sedan market. These first two offerings are great...I can't wait to see what those rouges at Jag's R division have in store for the X-Type.