We're a rather spoiled lot here at european car Magazine. All the cars we drive/test/report on range from good to great cars, with great ones being among the majority. Alas, our long-term X-Type belongs at the other end of the spectrum; it is a good car, but at just over $43k as optioned, it doesn't come close to greatness.
Engineering editor Dan Barnes has already detailed out the baby Jag's failings (see european car 09/02), And while I'd love to be able to offer an equally compelling counterpoint to his rantings, I can't. The X-Type does have its good points, but, unfortunately, it doesn't have enough of them. The real problem is the price. For every positive attribute there is an equal and opposite one that begins with, "Yes but, for that price it really should be better."
The driver's seat is comfortable to sit in, the leather is of the expected high quality (although its cream color means it gets dirty very quickly), yet adjustability is an issue. Barnes thought the car must have been designed with women in mind, since he couldn't lower the seat enough to get adequate headroom. Well, I can't lower it enough either, and I'm only 5 ft 7 in. In addition, the side bolsters are angled out too widely, causing my right arm to bump against them every time I pull the shifter back. If the seats were designed for women, Jaguar must have been using short and wide models as the norm.
The Alpine stereo system produces decent sounds, yet I can't figure out why any new car, let alone one with a base price of $36k, has a cassette deck but no CD player. You can get a six-disc trunk-mounted player as an option, but that's an additional $1,200. Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo have realized that an in-dash CD changer is the way to go; Jaguar needs to do the same. The central touch-screen display, which controls the audio, climate and navigation systems, is relatively easy to use and read, but, as with other all-in-one display systems, you can only view/operate one system at a time. I find it highly annoying to have to repeatedly exit and enter the different systems in order to change a radio station, adjust the vent controls, view the navigation map, etc. Layering is best used for cakes and cold-weather apparel.
The 3.0-liter V6's loudness doesn't equal its output (a commonly heard lament when Jaguar first abandoned the inline for the V several years ago): 231 bhp and 209 lb-ft of torque are decent numbers, but with the X-Type weighing in at 3, 428 lb, power is slow to accumulate and doesn't really kick in until well past 5000 rpm. It cruises well at speed and a quick downshift ensures ample passing power, but short freeway onramps can cause the occasional loss of confidence. The five-speed manual shifter is adequate, not stellar, not bad, just adequate. The clutch, however, has to go. I've driven Kias with better pedal feel and more precise engagement points.
The X-Type's "Sport" designation means, among other things, that it has sport-tuned suspension and performance-sized (if not exactly actual performance) tires. The ContiTouringContacts are, as the name implies, better suited for touring than sport. This is an all-wheel-drive sedan, and, as such, should be quite the handler. Power turn-ins are a breeze, yet there is something about the overall handling that doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Perhaps it's the car's tendency to jounce its way over bumps and rough spots, or the ever-present acceleration squat and brake dive, but I find myself taking sweepers less aggressively than I would in say an Audi quattro or the Volvo S60 AWD. The sedan does not live up to its four-to-the-floor potential.
From a design standpoint, the X-Type doesn't have enough styling cues to call its own. It so closely resembles the previous S-Type that many non-car buffs can't tell them apart. It's not a bad-looking sedan; it just doesn't have any flair. One colleague said it was a more boring-looking Taurus, another simply calls it "The Potato."
Worried that I was being too critical, I gave several of my girlfriends (who wouldn't know a 911 from a 240Z) a ride in the car. They thought it was nice (two of them did mistake it for either a Ford or a Lincoln: "What are you doing in an American car?"). They appreciated the interior appointments and liked the navigation unit, but when told the price, they balked. I've ferried them around in much pricier cars that they've liked very much, so it wasn't that the car cost $43k but that it didn't seem worth the price. And that's the clincher. For an entry-level sedan, the Jaguar X-Type doesn't live up to its nameplate or its pricetag. An updated X-Type should fix that.