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Review: Jaguar X-Type 2.5 Sedan

SEE ALSO: Jaguar Buyer's Guide


Not too many years ago, Jaguar looked to be another venerable marque headed for the history books. Prices escalated, quality control was problematic, and sales slumped. Fortunately, Ford Motor Company stepped in and bought the company, and set about correcting Jaguar's deficiencies with massive investment in new plants and new models. Britain's big cats were saved from extinction. Not only has Jaguar survived in recent years, it has thrived.

An important reason for Jaguar's health has been expansion. The Jaguars of the 1950s and 1960s were expensive, but not unattainably so, with a line of sports cars and luxury sedans that became legendary. For a variety of reasons, Jaguar prices rose during the 1970s and 1980s, and market share dropped. The S- Type, introduced in 1999, was the first Jaguar developed under the Ford regime, and led Jaguar back to mid-luxury territory. With its combination of classic Jaguar Mark II-inspired styling and a competitive price due to more efficient production and access to the Ford parts bin, the S-Type was a hit. Jaguar sales skyrocketed.

What to do for an encore? Why not expand more, and into territory previously uncharted by Jaguar? And so the X-Type was born. It's the first Jaguar in the fiercely-competitive entry-luxury sedan segment, and, since its launch a year ago, it has pushed Jaguar sales to record levels, attracting people who never could have afforded a Jaguar before.

All X-Type Jaguars have V6 power and full-time all-wheel drive to get that power to the ground efficiently. Two versions are offered, one with a 194-horsepower 2.5-liter engine, the other with a 231 hp 3.0-liter. They are true sport-luxury sedans, with the combination of performance, comfort, wood, and leather that Jaguar does best.

When it came time to spend a week with an X-Type, I purposely chose to drive a ``base model'' 2.5-liter car which was equipped with no options other than metallic paint. As I discovered, there is no doubt that it is a true Jaguar. It has all of the style, performance, and character associated with the marque, and stands distinct in a crowded class.

APPEARANCE: There is absolutely no doubt as to this cat's pedigree. You don't need to read the badge on the hood (the ``growler'') or look at the hood ornament (the ``leaper) to know what this car is. From the body shape to the tiniest of details, it is undeniably a Jaguar. The front styling, with an oval twin-port, waterfall grille, quad headlamps, and curvaceous fenders and hood, is similar to but more youthful and sportier than the front of the big XJ sedan. The roofline suggests the S-Type, without copying it. The tail panel combines styling cues from both the XJ and S-Type, again in an original manner, without being a copy. A pronounced character line cut into the flanks, and a rounded wedge profile hint at performance. Tastefully European chrome trim highlights the bumpers, side windows, and rear license plate holder. Regular models have a chromed grille, while the grille of sport versions is body-colored.

COMFORT: Jaguar has always been known for opulent use of the finest wood and leather for the interior of their cars. If it is not quite at the sumptuous level of an XJ - it is the company's entry-level model, after all, the X-Type 2.5 has far more traditional British elegance than anything else in its class. My test car had no interior options whatsoever, and was still a quiet, comfortable luxury automobile. Standard specification includes stained bird's-eye maple on the doors and instrument panel and leather-trimmed seats. The instrument panel has all of the expected Jaguar styling cues, including the ``horse collar'' center stack, and places instruments and controls correctly. The driver's seat is power-adjustable, while the front passenger's is manual. The seats are softer than those of the Continental competition, but offer very good comfort. The rear seat has as much room as expected for the car's size, and can hold adults for a short time, or smaller children longer. The trunk is large for the size of the car, even with a full-sized spare tire underneath.

SAFETY: All-wheel drive, responsive steering and handling, and four-wheel antilock disc brakes give the X-Type a head start for active safety. Passive safety items include a structure designed for controlled deformation in a crash, dual-stage front airbags, side and side curtain air bags, and many other features.

ROADABILITY: Jaguars have always been as respected for their handling as for their luxury, and the X-Type will not disappoint. A rigid chassis, well-damped fully-independent suspension, and all- wheel drive combine luxury comfort and great handling and traction. The standard car is sprung softly for comfort, but still handles well. The sport package offers a firmer suspension, with little compromise to comfort. In either trim, it's a wonderful highway cruiser, and works just as well on the back roads. At the press introduction, I had a chance to drive all varieties of X-Type on an infield road course and part of the banked oval at Atlanta Motor Speedway. While not normal X-Type habitat, the track highlighted the X-Type's sports side. It was sweet and predictable, with excellent all-wheel-drive traction.

PERFORMANCE: The aluminum alloy, dual overhead cam 2.5- and 3.0-liter V6 engines available in the X-Type are based on the 3.0-liter AJ-V6 used in the S-Type. While they are related, distantly, to the ``Duratec'' V6 found in the Ford Taurus, don't look to your local Ford dealer for engine parts. The vast majority of engine components are exclusively Jaguar, including the intake and exhaust systems, ignition, and the cylinder heads. My test car had the 2.5 liter engine, and it's a sweetheart, combining excellent torque characteristics - 80 percent of its maximum of 180 lb-ft (at 3000 rpm) is available from 1500 to 6800 rpm, with 90 percent between 2500 to 6000. It pulls strongly right from a standstill, and has a satisfying rush of top-end power as well. The standard five- speed manual gearbox has a good choice of gear ratios and great linkage, enhancing the X-Type's sporty character.

CONCLUSIONS: Jaguar is back from the edge of extinction and expanding strongly.

SPECIFICATIONS 2002 Jaguar X-Type 2.5 Sedan

Base Price $ 29,950 Price As Tested $ 30,680 Engine Type dual overhead cam 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in. Horsepower 194 @ 6,800 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 180 @ 3,000 rpm Transmission 5-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 106.7 in. / 183.9 in. Curb Weight 3428 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 17.7 Fuel Capacity 16.0 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium recommended for best performance Tires P 205/55 HR16 Continental Conti Touring Contact Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink Drivetrain front engine, all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 28 / 23 0 to 60 mph 7.9 sec (mfg)

OPTIONS AND CHARGES Metallic paint $ 550 Transportation and handling $ 180