Jaguar has introduced an all-new sedan for 2002 called the X-Type. Starting at $29,950, the X-Type is a major step downward in price for a Jaguar, and a big step upward in mass appeal. It's elegant, comfortable, and fun to drive.
A new competitor in the tough foyer of compact luxury sedans, the X-Type is designed to compete with the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, and, to some extent, the Lexus IS 300. The new Jaguar compares favorably to these highly competent cars in performance figures, while offering a distinct difference in feel and temperament. No question, the Jaguar X-Type is a serious player. After driving it, we feel it's a great alternative to these other superb sedans.
The X-Type sets new standards for rigidity of structure. This translates into a car that's got its intentions focused on serious matters: running smoothly and quietly and taking to corners like a cat to ice cream. We put the X-Type through demanding paces in the spaghetti roads of rural France near Dijon and on the winding roads north of Atlanta, Georgia. Narrow, often high-crowned pavement in France followed the wandering ways of long-ago farm animals over the varied terrain. Polished by the rain, it was a dedicated driver's dream. The dampness was simply erased by the all-wheel-drive system, which offered comforting security.
The brakes, particularly the Brembos in the Sport Package X-Type, were authoritative and reliable. We have taken to thinking of them as Autobahn brakes, able to slow the car from high speeds. Using the brakes repeatedly revealed no problems.
Engine torque is spread over a power curve in that desirable mesa shape. The 3.0-liter engine doesn't have the edge of a BMW, but the Jaguar's power is there early at the launch and accessible over a wide range of speeds. A car like this somehow feels more powerful than it really is because there is never that questing need for more oomph at a critical moment.
The weight of the 2.5-liter and 3.0-liter X-Type models is identical, regardless of engine size. The 2.5-liter engine provides good power when paired with the five-speed manual transmission; it sometimes feels a bit underpowered when paired with the automatic transmission. The 3.0-liter engine delivers quicker acceleration performance, while the 2.5-liter provides better fuel economy. Best combination of power and fuel efficiency is with the 3.0-liter and manual transmission.
EPA-estimated fuel economy (city/highway): 2.5-liter automatic (19/26); 2.5 manual (19/28); 3.0 auto (18/25); 3.0 manual (18/28). Acceleration performance (0-60 mph in seconds): 2.5 manual (7.9 seconds); 2.5 auto (8.5); 3.0 manual (6.6); 3.0 auto (7.1).
Something must be said about the sound of the V6 engines. The English are an essentially auditory people; you can be ranked socially merely by how you sound (think Eliza Doolittle), so perhaps it is no surprise that much attention has been given to making the X-Type engines sound right. They do. A driver might actually search for some stonewalls to motor between, touch the instant-down on the window and smile at the reverberation.
The transmission choices are both quite good and come down to personal preference. The five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission costs more on the 2.5-liter model, but is a no-cost choice on the 3.0-liter version. Put it in Drive and it shifts smoothly and predictably up and down, keeping the X-Type's engine in the proper gear for smooth cruising or quick acceleration. Its shift points seem to be the result of some clever mind reading; this is because the transmission selects shift patterns according to driving conditions. There's also a switch to select either normal or sport modes; sport mode raises the shift points to make full use of available engine power. Jaguar's trademark J-gate, allowing the driver to shift over to partial manual use, works okay, with shorter, sportier shift throws than those of the Jaguar S-Type.
The five-speed manual, standard on the 2.5-liter and available as a no-cost option on the 3.0-liter, has a short throw with a sports-car feel. It can add to the fun and is our first choice for race tracks. If only to nitpick, the clutch pedal is a little vague, and it takes a little practice to achieve smooth launches and elegant shifts. A little time in the car solves this, however. It works great when driven with gusto in a high-performance setting.
On the French roads, the X-Type seemed to rise to every challenge. Whether on a major highway or winding backroad, it always felt smooth and stable. The steering is sharp and precise, and the car feels nimble yet secure.
To further explore the handling,
It comes to this: If you've always lusted after a Jaguar's feline mystery and elegance and thought that some day you should own one, but can't afford one of the pricier models, then "some day" may have arrived. Pricing for this newest of Jaguars has pulled that day in like a zoom lens. When you try one on be sure to search out some plate glass windows to mirror your passing. And reflect the sound of that engine.