There was a time not long ago when Jaguars were stunningly beautiful, fantastic driving cars that were known to be fragile and unreliable. Jaguars were sexy but leaked oil. Jaguars were luxurious and emotional, but their windows often failed to go up or down. Jaguars were invigorating to drive but could leave you stranded on a cold morning.
This Jaguar, the X-Type, is the opposite of those great Jags of the past. This car trades those wonderful qualities that made Jaguars cars to lust after and has replaced them with the bland reliability that makes Toyotas cars to lust after.
After a full year and 19,000 miles, our Jag fails to excite from behind the wheel or from the curb, yet it has proven to be very reliable, impressively durable and surprisingly well built. Not once has the X-Type required an unscheduled trip back to the dealer for service. We're also impressed with the way the paint and interior have held up under the strain of multiple drivers, their many dogs and countless kids.
This newfound toughness is good. The old faulty electrics and other ailments were putting Jaguar out of business. But this car is proof that the pendulum can swing too far the other way. The X-Type is without any emotion. It lacks soul, character and personality, the very things that traditionally attracted people to Jaguars.
But there's more wrong with the X-Type than its missing heart. This car is awkward to drive, ergonomically wanting and saddled with drivetrain components unworthy of the Jaguar name or the $43,000 pricetag of our well-optioned loaner.
Our test car's five-speed manual transmission is the root of most of its evils. The manual trans, which we would normally desire, brings with it such baggage as a sloppy shifter, a lurching drivetrain and a numb clutch. Most people either stall this car or rev it to high heaven the first 20 times they drive it from a stop, and once underway the one-two shift is nearly impossible to execute smoothly.
I'm also convinced the car's odd high seating position and awkwardly angled throttle pedal have put several staffers' right knees out of wack. You can always tell who drove the Jag home last night, because he's limping down the hall the next morning. I suspect this same car is 10,000 times more enjoyable to drive when it's equipped with the five-speed automatic transmission.
Other problems are the too-small trunk, the too-small back seat, and the missing steering wheel controls for the radio, which is a joke at this price. It's also a shame that the brake pedal is mushy, the one and only cupholder is lame and the information screen is unreadable before nightfall.
The suspension tuning could also be better. It's lost somewhere between luxury car soft and sport sedan firm. Push the X-Type like you would a 3 Series, and its bumpstops are very easy to find. Body roll is also a problem, and the tires howl at anything over 5/10ths. All of which would be okay if the X-Type isolated you from the road like a real luxury car, but it doesn't do that, either.
I could go on about the limited headroom, the mailslot windshield and the cheap switchgear, but I won't. Instead I'll tell you what I like about the X-Type. The 3.0-liter could be a bit smoother, but it produces fine midrange torque and ample power. This car is not slow; drive it in anger and you're moving down the road. The all-wheel drive and Continental rubber make for a very stable foul-weather friend, which I was grateful for during a recent downpour. My long ride home was without anything close to an incident. The car kept up fine. I also find the wipers to be above average, and the seat heaters make me sweat.
Other compliments must be paid to the Jag's overall solid feel, its quiet interior and I happen to like its shade of green.
But none of that justifies the X-Type's shortcomings or its cost. From where I sit, Jaguar has made the ultimate mistake. It has built an average car, figuring the Jaguar name and the Leaper on the hood could carry it. They can't. Jaguar has forgotten that the car carries the name, not the other way around. Remember the Cadillac Cimarron or Catera? Apparently the executives at Jaguar don't.
The cold hard truth is that there are too many other great cars out there for less money than the X-Type--choices such as the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Infiniti G35; heck, even the Cadillac CTS offers more for the money. Throw in the wonderful Audi A4, and our $43,000 X-Type is a tough purchase to justify.
Maybe we'd like it better if it leaked.