New Car/Review

Jaguar X-Type (2002)

SEE ALSO: Jaguar Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL: 2002 Jaguar X-Type 
ENGINE: 3.0-liter DOHC V6 
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 231 hp @ 6,800 rpm/210 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm 
TRANSMISSION: Five-speed automatic 
WHEELBASE: 106.7 in. 
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 183.9 x 70.4 x 54.8 in. 
STICKER PRICE:  $35,950 

A few years ago, then-Jaguar North America president Mike Dale commented that he was in charge of a company with one and a half car lines. With the introduction of the Jaguar X-Type last week, that lineup has grown to five car lines, and there is at least one more in the pipeline.

The Jaguar X-Type is an all-wheel-drive sports sedan that fits in the entry luxury category, a category Jaguar has never participated in before. It is intended to compete with the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Lexus IS300, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It is in some pretty heady company, but judging from the driving experience we had in the North Georgia hills, this typically Jaguar automobile is ready for the challenge.

The model quoted in the specifications is the top-of-the-line version with a 3.0-liter V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Jaguar also offers a 2.5-liter version with a five-speed manual ($29,950) or five-speed automatic ($31,225) and a five-speed manual with the 3.0-liter engine ($39,950).

Performance is also better with the larger engine. The extra 37 horsepower and 30 lb.ft. of torque do make a difference. On some of the winding roads we traveled, I found myself wanting to stay in third gear for maximum performance with the 2.5-liter ans stick, while the 3.0 was more comfortable in fourth of fifth.

We also had an opportunity to drive all versions of the car through a tight slalom course. In this instance, the 3.0-liter version was almost too powerful, while the 2.5 handled itself admirably with both transmissions.

On the road course of Atlanta Motor Speedway, we naturally went a bit faster with the 3.0, but I'd be willing to bet our lap times were similar with both cars.

So from a performance standpoint, you can choose a slightly higher-performing 3.0-liter or the sportier 2.5-liter that may require you to work a little harder to extract maximum performance. But let's face it, the 2.8-liter Bimmer isn't that much of a screamer either.

Outside, there's no way you'd mistake the X-Type for anything but a Jaguar. It has typical Jaguar styling, with a split grille, four round headlights, and a return to the pinched-in look so familiar to Jaguar owners of the past. I remember when the S-Type came out I was disappointed in the Americanization of the rear end of the car.

Inside, of course, it's all Jaguar, with leather seating and walnut trim all around. There is comfortable seating for five passengers, and all of us who sat in the rear found excellent legroom. Unlike Jaguars of the past, there has been some consideration given to amenities. This Jaguar actually has a decent trunk of 16.0 cubic feet capacity, so there's plenty of useful room to carry your luggage.

Handling is also typically Jaguar. According to chief engineer Colin Tivley, the X-Type is "nimble, sporty and refined." It incorporates an all-wheel drive system called Traction 4 that was developed especially for the X-Type. While in theory, 100 percent of the power can be directed to either axle, the normal split is 60/40, rear/front. The X-Type is not intended to be an off-road vehicle or a sport utility. The all-wheel drive system was included to improve handling and make Jaguar more user-friendly to a larger audience. It is also designed to appeal to a broader, more diverse, audience.

The X-Type was also the second Ford family product to make use of a production control system called C3P, which allowed the engineers to spend more time working in virtual reality than constructing prototypes. This allowed the car to be developed in just over three years, from the time and day the final approval was given until the first cars were tearing along Georgia back roads.

Having been a Jaguar owner in the far-distant past, and having researched the entire history of the company for a book or two, I feel I have a knowledge of the company that is as broad as you can get. This is one of the better Jaguars to come down the road. It is a good size (although you can't argue with the stately luxuriousness of the XJ series), it has decent power to get out of its own way, and its handling is typical Jaguar. Tivley realized all through the development process that this was a car that still carried the imprint of Sir William Lyons, the founder of Jaguar. As such, he knew he had a heritage to follow, and he did an excellent job of continuing that heritage.


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