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2003 Jaguar X-Type

Jaguar’s X-Type Proves That Good Things Can Come In Small Packages

     When it comes down to it, the auto business is actually quite simple. Develop a product that can be sold for a profit and then sell as much of that product as you can for the largest possible profit. It only gets complicated when a company hits a “glass ceiling” of sorts. Like in biology, the automotive market has a carrying capacity. In other words, there are only so many consumers who can afford to drop at least $50,000 on their vehicles. And during the late 90’s Jaguar showrooms offered few choices, and none of them even close to the magic $30k mark. Jaguar decided to try something it had never done before. Combine all of the style, elegance, comfort, and prestige that make a Jaguar desirable in a package that could be sold for under 30 grand. The X-Type is that product and though its success in the sales department is not the subject of this article, its success as an entry-level luxury car is.
     It just so happened that our $40,440 black X-Type 3.0 was in the AT fleet over the long Labor Day weekend. The fight for the keys between Senior Editor Muxlow and I was epic but ended in the best man winning. Editor Muxlow was sent off to the woods in a Mountaineer and the sensuous X-Type was mine for a weekend drive along the lake.
     It is immediately obvious that this is the best looking entry-level luxury car on the market. Jaguar’s classic lines transfer to the X-Type’s smaller body well and liberal amounts of chrome give off an appropriately elegant look. The highly sculpted hood and quad headlights ensure no one mistakes this car for anything but a Jaguar. Out back the exhaust ends in dual chrome tips and the nicely styled license plate surround features the Jaguar growler, which cleverly doubles as the trunk release.
     Our 3.0 model test car featured attractive seven spoke 17″ alloy wheels wrapped in 225/45 Continental all-season tires. Disc brakes at all corners handle stopping duties and do a good job at it. The pedal is firm and modulation is linear and strong. Speed sensitive steering was also tuned to our liking. Firm and direct at speed but soft and easy in slow speed maneuvers like parking, we simply liked the little Jag’s steering.
     The 5-speed automatic in our test car didn’t garner many positive remarks. Left in the normal shift mode it was unacceptably slow to upshift. We have never driven a vehicle with such a painfully slow delay between disengagement and reengagement of the next gear. We drove with the transmission’s sport mode activated for the rest of our time with the car. It was so bad that even the sport mode would barely suffice as the normal operation. Until Jaguar injects this lazy autobox with a little promptness in its operation, we’ll regard this tranny as one of the worst out there. Hopefully this trait was specific to our test car but you can avoid the problem altogether and go with the manual.
     Aside from a transmission stuck in slow motion, we found the rest of the little Jag’s mechanicals to be more than adequate. The X-Type’s biggest selling point is its standard all-wheel drive. Traction 4, as Jaguar calls it, sends 40% of torque forward and 60% aft, although this can change depending on which end has traction. All-wheel drive alone might be enough to persuade snow-belt buyers to take an X-Type home.
     The torque flowing through that system comes from Jaguar’s 3.0 liter 24-valve DOHC V6. It’s an engine that always felt adequate and pulled strong, especially past 3,000rpm, though it does get a tad bit rough up there and it doesn’t sound very reassuring either. On paper the engine puts out 227hp and 206 lb-ft of torque-enough to make the run to 60 in about 7 seconds.
     As with the exterior, the X-Type’s interior is undoubtedly Jaguar. Our car featured power and heated front seats, a glass moonroof, and the Premium Package, which includes such extras as rain sensing wipers, auto headlamps and a trip computer among other things. High quality leather and an attractively finished steering wheel, in addition to wood trim as only Jaguar can do it, will make most people scratch their heads and wonder how all this goes for around 40 large.
     It is only upon closer inspection that you realize here and there are Ford components keeping this Jag’s bottom line at attainable heights. The turn signal and wiper stalks, for example, feel cheap and unfinished to the touch but to their credit they never failed to work. Jaguar has taken a lot of heat, most of it unjust, for borrowing from the Ford parts bin. Although the bottom line is this car wouldn’t exist without some corporate component sharing and then Jaguar wouldn’t have the increased profit to invest in other models like the beautiful new XJ.
     Our week with the X-Type made a couple of things clear to us. First, the car is a competitive player in the entry-level luxury arena. It stands out from the others with a compelling list of standards including all-wheel drive, V6 engine, that intangible “Jaguarness” and, barring a bad case of shakes filling out the options list, an attainable MSRP. And second, its time for us to round up the players in the $40k luxury sedan segment for a comparison test in grand Automotive Trends fashion. Stay tuned.


The Good:
Classic good looks, beautiful interior, all wheel drive traction.
The Bad:
Lazy transmission, a few cheap materials scattered around.
The Verdict:
A good start on a more affordable Jaguar.
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