Drivers commented on the X-type's unacceptably high level of cabin noise: "A Hyundai Elantra puts the X-type to shame in this area. We had to totally crank the stereo to hear it, and even then the sound quality wasn't that good." A minor skirmish between past and present online editors erupted in our logbook's pages on the subject of interior finishes. Said current Web guru Matt Phenix, "I emphatically disagree with Greg Anderson's generous assessment of the quality of the X-type's plastics. Lay your hands on that rickety armrest, Mr. Anderson, or open and close that astonishingly flimsy glovebox door, and I suspect you'll reconsider. All the chrome-dipped typography and flashy plasti-wood in the world can't conceal the truth: The X-type is a mass-market Ford."
Phenix's comments may sound strident, but he was not alone in his thinking. Most of us felt that there was something artificial about this Jaguar, something a bit contrived. Maybe Jag reached down-market too fast, or maybe it didn't spend enough time honing the car's interior. Or maybe some brands don't have the elasticity to stretch so far down-market in the first place. Think about it: How convincing would a $40,000 Bentley be? Or a cut-price Vacheron Constantin? On the strength of their badges, such items might sell well at first (as the X-type has here), but ultimately they would unravel the brand's mystique. Like the luxury merchants above, Jaguar has worked for years to protect its noble aura and has been careful not to mix with the common folk: Jaguar's most mainstream car prior to the X-type was the Mark II, and that car's market position roughly corresponds to today's S-type. Indeed, since the 1970s, Jaguars have been expensive propositions over here, yet they have always represented good value. They were like affordable Rolls-Royces. Our X-type came across as just the opposite.
For almost $36,000, we expected more, including a high level of reliability. Our X-type suffered some major setbacks, but, to be fair, not all of them were the car's fault. We were rear-ended late in the test, which put the X-type out of commission for ten days and sucked $2161 out of our coffers. And because we decided that we could not possibly live for another instant without a CD player, we had a CD changer installed at our local stereo hut/adult bookstore/meth lab. As you might imagine, the installation wasn't exactly done to QS9002 standards. Somehow, while affixing the CD changer to the back of the rear seat, the installer knocked our navigation system's antenna out of whack. As a result, the navigation screen would place the car in all sorts of unlikely scenarios, such as driving across Lake Michigan. In an earlier Four Seasons Logbook report, we erroneously implied that this was somehow the fault of the nav system, which it most definitely was not. It was the consequence of a larger epidemic: inbreeding.
Problems not inflicted by us were more numerous. There was a stress crack in the windshield (back-ordered for six weeks), a nonfunctioning rear-seat release latch, a nonopening fuel-filler door, a dislodged thermostat hose (which caused the car to overheat, stranding us), and a grinding third gear. When a Jaguar technician heard our transmission whine, he checked the gearbox and found a worn third-gear synchro. To remedy it, he prescribed a new transmission, installed at 28,515 miles. A mere 174 miles later, this new transmission stopped working altogether. Since this event happened so close to the end of our test, the car was never fixed, and at 28,689 miles, Jaguar took the car away from us forever.
And so the tale of our X-type ends in disgrace, thus obscuring the space and pace. It was hauled off in chains, perp-walking out of the office where it had spent just a year. We'll miss it for its charisma and drive, but in the end, it was just another high-style executive with a great rsum and questionable integrity.