Only the "world situation" has sparked more debate around the office than our long-term Jaguar X-Type sedan. After a year in our fleet, the opinions of staff and other Primedia employees were spread wide across the love/hate spectrum.
Although no one was heard defending it as a great car, "really good" was heard a few times, including from one veteran driver who spent a week in it noodling around West L.A. Some thought it good enough for the "buyers of badges, not sport luxury cars," a shot at Jaguar's dive into the shallow end of the luxury pool. And a couple of the more ornery staffers accused the X-Type of displaying the most banal side of platform engineering and parts-bin sharing. That, in my opinion, is a bit too harsh-this is not a bad automobile-but it is indicative of the high standards by which such cars as Jaguar are judged.
The 2002 Jaguar X-Type 3.0 Sport came our way in March 2002, preceded (perhaps burdened) by expectations greater than any first-year car generally can satisfy. However, the X-Type wasn't some wild stab at a lukewarm market, thrown together by a tentative minor manufacturer. It was a boldly announced, aggressive thrust into new territory, accompanied by lots of hoorah and promises of huge growth.
For good reason: Vastly improved product and a bullish American market had helped Coventry escape the British car industry's overall malaise, its cars' quality ratings had radically improved, and glimpses of future Jags showed it was a company fully prepared to expand into new market segments. Furthermore, Jaguar had the heritage that promised a distinctive interpretation of the European sports sedan.
Kevin Clemens had driven it first for us, and his favorable impression had the staff clamoring for a long-termer. But, in maybe the most telling result of the car's 12 months with us, it was returned with the lowest mileage of any long-termer in memory.
In the car's defense, it displayed decent reliability. It broke down but once, when it just wouldn't start. A new fuel tank solved that problem, and the service was excellent, the dealer needing just 2 days for the fix. The only other part that broke was one jet of the headlamp washer system. And we never attended to an almost imperceptible yet still annoying rocking motion in the driver's seat, presumably from a mounting bolt that had lost its tension. These two items seemed too small to bother with, a mentality that could be interpreted as our lack of passion for the car.
A troublesome clutch and vague shifter were common complaints, as was a seating position ill suited for those long of torso, who said the low roofline and high-mounted seat meant a lot of crane-necking, especially at overhead stoplights. Also noted was the car's squat and dive during stop-and-go driving, turning freeway commuting into a prolonged teeter-totter session.
At the time of delivery, the car's suggested retail price was $35,950, which included a 4-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, scheduled maintenance at no extra cost, and 24-hour roadside assistance. That tariff doesn't sound all that bad, and then we added on over $7,000 of optional equipment. That made the bottom line $43,895, which made a few of us wince. The options were prolific, to be sure, but tolerance of the car's foibles became thinner as the price became thicker.
The common element that turned most people off was actually an element considered absent from the car. Call it panache or soul or character, a desired "presence" that would loudly proclaims Jaguar's heritage. Despite loads of grip from the standard all-wheel drive, especially in foul weather, it wasn't the kind of vehicle that invited us to an open road and a wide-open throttle. This growler turned out to be more pussycat than performer, but we suspect Jaguar knows it. The enthusiast press has been lukewarm, sales have been short of projections and production was cut back to compensate.
However, we also suspect that Jaguar will be doing all it can to splice proper Jag genetic material into the X-Type before its lifespan is up.