BABY CAT

2004 Jaguar X-Type least expensive all-wheel-drive sport luxury sedan
By Bruce W. Smith - Special to GCN

Jaguar is a brand that instantly brings elegance and richness to mind. The XJ, and XK8/XKR coupes are some of the most technically advanced luxury cars on the road, with prices that are targeted for the rich and famous.

But Jaguar also brings a level of high-class and high-technology to mid-size budgets in the form of the S-Type sedan that debuted in 1999, and the all-wheel-drive X-Type that hit the entry-level mid-luxury market in 2002. 

Jaguar’s 2004 X-Type 3.0, which is based on the Lincoln LS platform and is the least expensive Jaguar offered, competes against the Acura TL and Lexus ES300 in comfort and handling, and the Audi A4 in traction. Best of all, the 2004 model is priced at $34,395.

Here’s what the new model offers:

v     Only compact luxury sedan in class to offer all-wheel drive as standard.

v     Effective $5,000* price reduction on fully-equipped 2004 3.0 V6

v     Base price of 2004 2.5 V6 stays at under $30,000.

v     Optional 'Sport' package on 2004 3.0 V6 now features:

18-inch wheels - up from 17-inch.

Upgraded 320-Watt 10-speaker Premium Alpine audio most powerful in class.

v     New alloy wheel design for each 2004 X-TYPE model.

v     New exterior colors for 2004, along with new Sapele wood veneer and new shades of leather seating surfaces.

v     Two models available in North America; X-TYPE 2.5 with 192 bhp 2.5-liter AJ-V6, and X-TYPE 3.0 with a 227 bhp 3.0-liter AJ-V6

v     Five-speed manual standard on 2.5, with five-speed automatic as an option; 3.0 comes with five-speed automatic as standard. Five-speed manual is available as a no-cost option with the Sport package.

Jaguar says the reduced pricing makes the baby Jag even more attractive in a very competitive entry-level sport luxury market.

The reduction in MSRP from the '03 X-TYPE 3.0 price of $36,970 to $34,395 represents a saving of $2,675. The '04 X-TYPE 3.0 will be equipped as standard with a power moonroof and split folding rear seat (normally a $1,750 option); a wood/leather steering wheel (value $350) and auto headlamps (value $125) - equipment worth a total of $2,225.

FAMILIAR FEEL

"First and foremost, we set out to create a true Jaguar,” says Ian Callum, Director of Jaguar Design. “From whichever angle you view the X-Type, it has a strong, instantly recognizable Jaguar identity."

That’s true. From front, rear, or side, the X-Type evokes strong styling cues from the XJ-series, the XK sports car and S-Type sedan.

Introduced in August 2001, the X-Type was the first compact-sized Jaguar since the classic Mark II of the early 1960s. It’s seven inches shorter than the S-Type and has a subtle wedge shape, a first for Jaguar. (Callum says Previously the line was always linear, horizontal, so as to stretch the length of the car visually.)

"The wedge was important to ensure lots of trunk space," explains Wayne Burgess, principal designer on the new entry. "The tail-up, nose-down attitude was also key to giving the car a get-up-and-go stance. Without the wedge, the car would look very static."

As for the exterior styling, Callum points out that it was a deliberate move to pick-up styling cues from the previous XJ sedan. Particularly what he calls the XJ 'face'—the quad headlamps, the grille design and shape of the hood.

"Since Jaguar was entering into a sector of the market people didn't immediately identify us with - the compact luxury market - we had to enter with something people recognized."

There’s even more to the X-Type being familiar—even though it’s more esoteric than visual.

According to Simon Sproule, vice-president of public affairs for Jaguar Cars North America, the S shares 40 percent of its parts, including the chassis and engine block, with the Lincoln LS. Part of the suspension, the cylinder heads, intake, exhaust system, and the transmission engineering come straight from Jaguar.

POWER & TRACTION

Under the hood of this four-door sports sedan is a 227-horsepower 3.0L V6 (Ford Taurus block) that is smooth and quiet.

Acceleration is brisk, but not the fastest in its class. Both the throttle and the five-speed automatic could be tuned to be a bit quicker on the downshifts; even in the “sport” mode, the car is still a bit slow to respond unless you are aggressive with the gas pedal.

Fuel economy is very acceptable in this day when the cost of gasoline is well above $2 a gallon (the Jag uses Premium.) EPA numbers show 18/25.  Combined city and interstate driving is just under 20mpg, which is what we saw driving more than 300 miles.

Where the all-wheel-drive baby Jag really shines is on wet pavement and slippery roads. The AWD system keeps the tires planted and car under control in situations where front- or rear-wheel-drive competitors are searching for traction.

The Jag’s advanced all-wheel drive system makes it fun to drive regardless of weather. Traction-4 is the first all-wheel drive system in Jaguar's history, and an innovation that sets the X-Type apart from competitors like the Audi A4.

"Traction-4 is all about the way the car performs on the road and its inherent stability. The simple explanation is that it makes the X-TYPE feel bolted to the road surface. It doesn't matter whether road conditions are wet, dry, or snowy, the car feels stable," says Phil Hodgkinson, Director, Jaguar Product Development.

Traction-4 automatically senses the difference in speed between the front and rear wheels. Under normal driving conditions, 40 percent of the engine's power goes to the front wheels and 60 percent to the rear. However, if the rear wheels start to slip up to 60 percent of the engine's power is automatically, and seamlessly, directed to the front wheels—and vice-versa if the front wheels begin to spin.

"This is what gives the X-TYPE its sporty, agile handling," explains Hodgkinson. "It feels like a rear-wheel drive car and that will always appeal more to the enthusiastic driver."

We had the opportunity to test it in all those conditions when a late spring storm dropped snow and rain in the mountains ringing California’s high desert. The Jag never skipped a beat on the slippery roads —and neither did our hearts.

SAFETY FIRSTS

Occupant safety is a big deal with Jaguar, and the X-Type is not shy on the protection it offers.

According to Phil Hodgkinson, who directs some 300 engineers at Jaguar's engineering center at Whitley in the UK and scores of Jaguar component suppliers on both sides of the Atlantic, "The most impressive features on the X-Type are the ones you don't see. The so-called ‘passive’ safety features, the unseen systems and components that help protect those inside."

Hodgkinsons uses the brake pedal as a key example. He explains that real-world research shows that in the milliseconds after a major head-on collision, the driver's feet can flail around in the footwell, often smashing into the pedal causing serious injuries.

In the X-Type that isn’t going to happen because the rod that connects the pedal to the brake servo is designed to snap at its thinnest point. As soon as the pedal is hit the rod snaps, and the pedal sinks to the floor out of the way of vulnerable feet. This happens all in a fraction of a second.

Another area where the X-Type broke new ground when it debuted in 2001was in its use of side-curtain air bags.

“Picture an inflatable pool float dropping down to cover both front and rear side windows - in six milliseconds flat. As a passenger's head gets snapped towards the side window glass in a side impact, the curtain bag is there to protect and cushion,” explains Hodgkinson.

“Each curtain - there's one on each side of the car - is located above the doors between the headliner and the door seals. On impact, the bag deploys downwards and is tethered at both ends to ensure that it's held squarely in position across the window.”

This Jaguar “ring of safety” provides a lot of protection for the occupants and also includes  driver and front passenger air bags, as well as side air bags that deploy from the outer side bolsters of each front seat.

CLASS APPOINTMENTS

Inside the X-Type it’s leather-and-wood; the new model also sports a sunroof, split folding rear seat, and new four-spoke wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel.

"People buying this car are very selective. Much more so than someone buying, say, an XJ8 or XK. An X-Type is their primary vehicle,” says Callum.  It will have to do the grocery run. Take the kids to school. It'll be used for vacations. Packaging was key."

Callum explained that when an early pre-production model was shown to potential buyers, styling was not their first consideration. They went straight for the doors.

"The first thing they did was sit in the back, open the trunk, fold down the rear seat. Yes, they loved the shape, but they wanted to know what the headroom was like, and whether the trunk was big enough. Whether the car was practical."

That's why Callum's interior design team made it a priority to offer a rear seat back that splits 70/30 and folds flat to give even more luggage space - plus the ability to carry long objects like skis.

In addition, Mark Humphreys, the 30-year old principal ergonomist for X-Type.Jaguar, says there are no fewer than 29 separate storage areas in the cabin. "Count them; 29 separate, individual storage compartments Thirty if you include the trunk.

"We've included places to store phones, cassettes, CDs, mocha lattes, pens, maps, tissues. Even ice scrapers and an umbrella. There's even a retractable hook on the glove box release to hold a handbag, small shopping bag or Chinese take-out. It keeps the contents from spilling, or rolling around on the floor."

Humphries says they strived to make the baby Jag feel spacious. To do that they included stretch-out space for rear seat passengers by creating more space under the front seats and scooping out the backs of the front seats.

"We also raised the seat cushion in the rear to give those in the back a slightly better view over the shoulders of those in front," says Humphries. "It goes against the ergonomist's grain to steal headroom, but it makes all the difference."

Nothing is lost in visual appeal, either. The 2004 model’s standard features include Sapele rather than Bird's eye Maple veneers combined with soft, luxurious trim materials, and leather-covered seating surfaces.

The interior is very pleasant. The sound system is rich as are the appointments. The overall impression is the Jaguar heritage has been integrated quite well in the baby of the pack, positioning it nicely against some formidable competitors.

So, if you want an entry-level luxury sports sedan that accelerates like a Mercedes C320, sticks to the road like an A4 Audi, and corners like a BMW 330, you’d do well taking this cat for a spin around the country.

X-TYPE 2.5

Engine type: 24V 2495cc V6

Power: 192 bhp (SAE) @ 6,800rpm

Torque: 178 lb-ft @ 3,000rpm

Transmission: 5-sp manual (5-sp auto optional)

Performance: 0-60 mph: 7.9 sec (man), 8.5secs (auto)

EPA mileage:

Manual, city/highway: 19/28 for 2003 (2004 figures TBA)

Auto, city/highway: 19/26 for 2003 (2004 figures TBA)

 

X-TYPE 3.0

Engine type: 24V 2967cc V6

Power: 227 bhp (SAE) @ 6,800rpm

Torque: 206 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm

Transmission: 5-sp auto (5-sp manual no cost option w/Sport package)

Performance: 0-60 mph: 6.6 sec (man), 7.1 sec (auto)

EPA mileage:Manual, city/highway: 18/28 Auto, city/highway: 18/25 

GCN Observed: 19.6

 

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