The Jaguar X-Type is elegant, comfortable, and fun to drive. It represents a low cost of entry for a Jaguar and a strong value in this highly competitive class. It also gives its owner the distinction of driving a Jag. Yet this entry-level Jag offers something no other Jaguar has: the benefits of full-time all-wheel drive. That makes the X-Type a good choice for rain, snow and ice, and indeed it feels very secure in those conditions.
A new Jaguar Sportwagon has joined the X-Type line for 2005. Already popular in Europe this estate car, as it's called there, offers great cargo carrying capacity while maintaining Jaguar's unique style. It includes a tailgate with independently opening rear window, luggage tie-downs, removable luggage cover and cargo net. It also includes a neat hidden cargo compartment under the rear floor with a 12-volt power outlet.
The X-Type competes with the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and other near-luxury cars. The performance of the Jaguar compares favorably to these cars, while offering a distinct difference in feel and temperament. The Jaguar X-Type is a good alternative to these superb luxury sedans and its quality has improved considerably since it was first introduced, thanks to continuous improvements made by Ford at the factory in the U.K. As with the other cars in its class, the X-Type is smaller in size, making it easier to park and maneuver.
The X-Type looks unmistakably like a Jaguar, and that's no small design feat given its relatively compact dimensions. Better still, the X-Type smells and feels like a Jaguar, with all the traditional British ingredients that have defined the brand for seven decades.
When it was introduced, the Jaguar X-Type set new standards for rigidity of structure. A rigid structure translates into a car that can be tuned to ride smoothly and quietly while cornering like a cat. Our first experience with the X-Type bore this out and was confirmed in the 2005 X-Type Sportwagon.
We've driven the X-Type down winding rural roads near Dijon, France, over mountain roads in north Georgia, and around the high-speed banked oval of Atlanta Motor Speedway. The X-Type was the epitome of stability and confidence in the high-speed sections. Yet it rode smoothly on the streets of Atlanta.
The narrow, high-crowned pavement in France follows the wandering ways of long-ago farm animals over varied terrain. When polished by rain, it becomes a driver's challenge. The dampness was simply erased by the all-wheel-drive system, which offered comforting security. On the French roads, the X-Type seemed to rise to every challenge. Whether on a major highway or winding back road, it always felt smooth and stable. The steering was sharp and precise, and the car feels nimble in corners yet secure at speed.
To further explore the handling, we took the X-Type onto a tight handling course near Atlanta. A corner flooded with water showed off the advantage of the Sport model's tuned suspension; the high-performance Pirelli P Zero tires provided better grip in the wet than the standard, narrower Continental ContiSport Contact tires, greatly reducing understeer (the tendency of the car to push out toward the outside of a turn when the front tires lose grip). The Sport also seemed to offer quicker response, though it wasn't a huge difference. In any case, ride quality doesn't seem to suffer with the Sport package and we liked the way the sports seats kept us in place when whipping through slaloms and chicanes.
That flooded curve also helped demonstrate the value of Jaguar's Traction 4 all-wheel-drive system. The system incorporates a center differential and viscous coupling to split the torque 40 percent to the front wheels, 60 percent to the rear. Slippage at either set of wheels will send more power to the opposite end of the car. The viscous coupling automatically and transparently transfers power away from slipping wheels to those with the best traction, helping to keep the X-Type moving forward and tracking true no matter the conditions underneath. In short, the X-Type performs well in the wet and we presume it handles well on snow and ice.
The optional Dynamic Stability Control system can help a driver maintain control in an emergency handling situation. DSC controls skidding by applying the brakes at selected wheels, something no driver can do. It can help the driver avoid an accident. It reduces the chance of spinning out. We found it makes the car easier to drive at the limit of the tires. It reduced yawing when charging too fast through a slalom. DSC can be switched off for those rare times when the driver feels it's too intrusive, as when we drove the S-Type on a closed course at Atlanta Motor Speedway to test its limits. By default, the system switches back on every time the car is re-started. It's packaged with Brake Assist, which aids the driver in a panic stop by maintaining full braking even if the driver makes the mistake of relaxing pressure on the brake pedal. In short, this package is a smart safety option. Get it.
The X-Type feels equally comfortable on the highway and in fast, sweeping turns. It was supremely stable at 120 mph on Atlanta Motor Speedway's back straight and felt confident turning in for the banked turns at that speed. It was easy to drive flat out through the facility's infield road racing circuit. The well-controlled suspension and the all-wheel drive add to the X-Type's confident feel when driving at the limit. The X-Type offers predictable handling when pushing its tires beyond their limits, something that can happen at much lower speeds wh
Jaguar's X-Type stacks up nicely by virtually any measure, from design to style to space to performance. If it gives up a tick to class leaders in specific areas, it compensates with the elegance only Jaguar can deliver. When you consider all-wheel drive comes standard on all X-Type models, pricing makes them a compelling alternative to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class.
New Car Test Drive correspondent John Rettie filed this report from Palm Springs, California, with Denise McCluggage in Dijon, France, and Mitch McCullough in Atlanta.