My biggest whine about rubber is this: Jaguar decided that H-rated Continental ContiTouringContacts are good enough for the X-Type's $2,000 Sport package, even though the superb ContiSportContact shoes worn by our past BMW 330i long-termer manage to slum as low as Ford's Focus SVT and Nissan's Sentra SE-R Spec-V. I disagree with Jaguar, finding the ContiTouringContacts' grip inadequate for the car's performance handling mission. Indeed Sport, in this case, seems to mean the kind of activity for which one would wear a sport coat. The package includes a long list of features that do go far in enhancing our car's appearance, including the very nice British Racing Green paint. The fact that premium automobiles can again be purchased with non-metallic paint (not only this one) suggests that particular fashion requirement may be reaching the end of its course. One observer commented, when approaching it in an empty parking lot, that the 17-in. wheels looked too big for the car, and I found myself agreeing.

Sport Package items that affect dynamics begin with sport-style leather seats and Dynamic Stability Control (which, as like every other such system save PSM, must be switched off to drive in any manner resembling sporty) and include suspension Jaguar states is "sport tuned." It feels adequate on smoother roads, but over rough bumps and larger undulations, reveals itself to be undersprung and underdamped.

The car does do one thing very well. Perhaps due to the choice of tires, it doesn't turn in as well as some competing cars, but when you put the throttle down in a turn, the attitude changes; its awd chassis takes a set and exits as it should. I find myself forgetting how much this car costs and driving the hell out of it, foot to the floor and 5500-rpm shifts just getting around town, the way I would a good GTI. That tells me the X-Type has potential. It's the new Mondeo platform. The SHO Shop remade itself as Evosport and started working on BMWs because it was tired of building Contours and Tauruses that couldn't do anything with 400 hp. This engine is the same as those only in the fundamentals of its architecture, but the differences all suggest it should have even more headroom. Rubber can be replaced with harder rubber or something even more solid. Springs and dampers are easy to change, as are brake pads and lines. Tires are the easiest upgrade. This car could be friggin' amazing. But it's not.

When I get near the X-Type, my wrench hand tingles. For $2,650 less than the sticker on an M3 coupe, it shouldn't.

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