Externally, the X-type looks like a Jaguar--well, it looks like lots of Jaguars. Every Jag styling cue you can think of has been added to this car, just to make sure you know what it is. The X-type looks better in Sport trim, with its color-keyed grille, dearth of chrome trim, and bigger wheels, but an opportunity was missed with this car. The very essence of what made Jaguars so cool in the 1950s and '60s has been lost. Then, they were modern and very stylish, their qualities neatly encapsulated by the company's advertising catch line: "Grace . . . Space . . . Pace." Now, however, there seems to be a faction within Jaguar and its corporate boss, Ford, that confuses Englishness and Jaguarness with old--a sort of tourist's view of Britain as an olde worlde land of royalty, cream teas, green fields, and rooms furnished with wood panels and leather sofas. It's not like that anymore. Time to move on.
Dynamically, at least, this car has moved on. Jaguars were always fast for their price and had a trademark combination of good handling and a supple ride. The X-type lives up to that heritage with a supple ride, supreme bump absorption, low road noise, and a really chuckable chassis, especially with the Sport suspension. Over an unfamiliar road, in the rain, or piling on the miles down a freeway, the X-type is mighty fine. Unlike a German car, in which you're always aware of the wheel impacts, the Jaguar cushions them beautifully, although the wind-noise suppression at speed is only average.
The biggest revelation is the car's steering. In the past, Jaguar steering has been too light and suffered from poor on-center feel, but the X-type's helm is communicative and nicely weighted: The Sport models' extra heft makes them even more pleasing down a twisty road. Handling is pretty neutral, with a hint of initial understeer and a tendency to tighten its line when you lift off the throttle. The brakes feel good at first, with a nicely progressive pedal and plenty of bite, but they're prone to fade in repeated heavy applications.
The X-type's only real letdown is its two V-6 engines. Although the numbers look fine on paper, the X-type is hampered by its bulk, which ranges from 3428 to 3792 pounds, depending on transmission and trim. Refinement at higher revs is only average, and there's a seeming lack of midrange torque, despite the 3000-rpm peaks for both engines. Both V-6s make a suggestive growl under hard throttle, but the 3.0-liter unit feels dead below 4000 rpm, and the 2.5 requires serious caning. Rev them hard, though, and they provide good performance. According to Jaguar, the manual-equipped 2.5 takes 7.9 seconds for the 0-to-60-mph sprint, and the 3.0 automatic needs 6.6 seconds. Top speeds for the manual 2.5 and 3.0 are 140 and 146 mph, respectively. The manual gearbox has short throws and a pleasing action, although the clutch pedal is a bit dead. The automatic, which retains Jaguar's J-gate for manual shifts, is pretty good but not as smooth as the manu-matics from Lexus and Acura.
At first, the X-type looks like a good value in this arena. A base 2.5 costs $29,950, and a base 3.0 runs to $35,950. Add in the options, however, and the Jag becomes quite pricey. A 3.0 Sport starts at $40,450, which is more than a leather-trimmed, sport-suspended BMW 330i. (The all-wheel-drive 330xi is $1000 more than the Jag.) A fully loaded X-type 3.0 is $41,850, and a similarly equipped Sport is nearly $44,000. Ouch. Still, as a first effort in this area of the market, the X-type is a fine achievement. Now that Jaguar has the pace and the space, perhaps it can work on rediscovering the grace.