After Automobile Magazine's uneventful but unexciting, Four Seasons test of a 2002, 2.5-liter Jaguar X-type, I was prepared to be unimpressed by the slightly tweaked and re-priced , 2004 X-type. Knock five grand off the price of any car, however, and you're likely to get some attention. Such is the case with the 3.0-liter X-type, which is that much cheaper than a comparably equipped 2003 model in an attempt to shift the model mix from 70% 2.5-liter to 70% 3.0-liter. Compared with smaller-engined competition from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the 227-horsepower 3.0-liter X-type with standard all-wheel drive holds its own dynamically and trumps the German cars in value.
When I got behind the wheel of a snow-tire-equipped 3.0-liter at Jaguar's Steamboat Springs winter-driving school, I immediately realized that this Neiman Marcus parking-lot poseur is actually a well-sorted sport sedan. With the all-wheel-drive system devoting 61% of the power to the rear wheels ,the X-type will engage in lurid tail-wagging maneuvers that will put a smile on the face of even the most jaded enthusiasts (like me). The X-type feels most at home where there is no traction and that would be everywhere on this 1.2-mile, snow-covered course. With the stability control switched off, the X-type is completely predictable, while with stability control left on, it's downright idiot-proof, all the better to take the stress out of snowy-road commutes. The flip side is that, on dry roads, the X-type's all-wheel-drive system does not aid handling or acceleration and conspires to make the car feel heavier than it should. Suspension tuning is excellent, as is the lightly weighted yet communicative steering; the low-effort assist does mask some of the car's unnecessary heft and helps give the X-type a measure of daintiness.
Now in its third year, the X-type makes do with only a few subtle changes. New wheel designs, an extra cup holder, and an all-wheel-drive badge are the most obvious changes compared with last year's car . The major difference is that whopping and welcome price drop: Starting at $33,995, the 3.0-liter X-type is a stylish and economical choice for Jaguar fans, even if the more powerful, comparably priced Infiniti G35x is a more exciting car to drive.