Car reviews - Jaguar - X-Type - 3.0 SE sedan
Strong engine performance, comfortable ride, capable handling, plush interior, great looks
Room for improvement
No driver's footrest, equipment omissions, instrument reflections, brake fade
10 Jan 2002
By TERRY MARTIN
WE WERE not expecting Jaguar to produce a flawless piece of work with the X-Type. A leopard, er, big cat cannot change its spots overnight.
No, what we had hoped for was a car that would make Jaguar enthusiasts proud and which proved its worth as a genuine alternative to the strong competition now gathered at the top end of the small sedan segment.
Ford underpinnings, a transverse engine driving wheels other than those at the rear end - unorthodox (and to some scholars, repugnant) aspects such as these are never far from the surface.
But what a surface this is.
From the outside and from within, the lineage is unmistakable. The bonnet sculpting, grille pattern, headlight cluster and shoulder line - there are handsome, familiar traits wherever one cares to turn, as well as a sense of cohesiveness which never quite eventuated with the larger S-Type sedan.
The interior, too, is elegant and refined, soaking in timber and leather in the top-of-the-range 3.0 SE and at first glance featuring equipment and performance befitting its $85,000 asking price.
True, a footrest for the front passenger is not as endearing as one offered in the opposing footwell and conspicuous by its absence is seat lumbar adjustment, a second zone for the climate control, front cup holders, rear side airbags, rear maplights, a split-fold rear seat and a full-size spare wheel.
Those inclined toward the 3.0 Sport grade, which adds such items as firmer suspension tuning, quicker-ratio steering, sports seats and an inch onto the (16-inch) wheel rim diameter, will also find basics such as cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and a trip computer are all off the standard list. At a starting price close to $80,000? Come on, Jaguar Australia.
Yet at the 3.0 SE level there are features which deserve our attention. Chrome highlights inside and out, full leather trim, six-disc CD stereo, auto-dipping rearview mirror and eight-way electric seat adjustment for the front seats do not go unnoticed, and help make a reasonable case for the affirmative when the safety and security gear fitted across the range are considered.
Among these is an alarm, automatic door lock from 10km/h, permanent four-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, adaptive dual front airbags linked to an occupant sensing system, front side airbags and curtain airbags which extend along the front and rear windows.
A five-speed automatic transmission is also standard on 3.0-litre models, with a five-speed manual available upon request.
For all its elegance and ambience, though, the 3.0 SE interior could serve to make the driving experience more difficult than need be for some drivers. Taller people, for example, will appreciate the steering wheel and seat height adjustment but crave more seat travel. And while leather seat trim is an added attraction of the SE, in our opinion the SE buckets offer less of both comfort and support than those used in the Sport model.
As we found in the 2.5-litre Sport, the (optional) touch-screen display on our test car became simple enough to use after a breaking-in period, however it is mounted too low for ideal operation and pushes significant switches such as radio on/off and fan speed off to the far left-hand side.
And we continue to marvel at how often reflections rendered the otherwise clear and functional instrument cluster useless during our test drive.
Rear seat room and facilities set no new benchmarks, though the full complement of head restraints and three-point seatbelts are provided and acceptable comfort can be found for two people. Cup holders also make an appearance here when the centre armrest is folded, however the hole left in the seatback does not reveal a thoroughfare through to the boot. A ski-port is another item relegated to the options list.
The boot itself is large for this class, offering a 1070mm cargo floor depth from rear sill to seatbacks and a maximum volume of 452 litres. The boot is comprehensively carpeted, has tie-down hooks, a token elastic band to hold a small item in the right-hand trim and a storage compartment on the opposing side for the CD changer and (optional) satellite navigation hardware.
A wide aperture helps for luggage loading, however the wide gutters either side tend to attract an inordinate amount of leaves and dirt. Owners will have to be vigilant to ensure rust doesn't materialise further down the track.
Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of the 3.0 comes through its engine performance.
Where the 2.5-litre engine struggles to come to terms with the 1550kg-plus kerb weight, the similarly weighted 3.0-litre version has excellent low-down and mid-range pulling power to make the driving experience an effortless and rewarding one.
Outright acceleration isn't overwhelming and wheelspin off the line not worth exploring, as is the wont of all-wheel drive. However, the engine's strength soon becomes evident as the tacho needle passes 3000rpm - the point where 284Nm of maximum torque becomes available - and a raucous note sounds right through to 6800rpm.
Significantly, fuel consumption figures were also better with the bigger-engined X-Type - we averaged 13.1L/100km in the 3.0 SE compared to 13.6L/100km with the 2.5 Sport over the same test loop.
Out on the open road, the 3.0 is in its element. Overtaking comes without problem and the automatic gearbox will drop down off its high perch in fifth with smoothness and without hesitation when required.
Manual shifting using the J-gate is available, though first gear isn't offered and third gear can be difficult to find when in a rush. There's no gear selection panel in the instrument cluster - another omission to add to the list. And back in drive, the transmission is prone to hunting when the terrain becomes more challenging.
It is here where the luxurious ride, which felt so comfortable on the smooth, open road, comes undone to a degree as directional changes prompt some bodyroll and broken bitumen can allow noise and vibration to enter the cabin. Mid-corner bumps are also felt through unwanted kickback from the steering wheel.
This is not to discount the work undertaken to make the X-Type an involving car to drive.
It might not have the same level of balance and poise found with the class ringleader, the 3-Series BMW, however the X is confident and surefooted tourer.
Sure, some front-end push can be found if one goes searching for it. But with the drive split 40/60 front to rear - and weight distribution the reverse at 60/40 - the chassis engineers have produced near-neutral, rear-flavoured handling characteristics that are entertaining to explore.
Not so good are the mediocre brake pedal feel and the fade we experienced after the same challenging stretch we put the 2.5 Sport through.
Jaguar cars have a habit of pleasing and disappointing, and this one is no exception. For elegance, refinement, ride comfort and performance, the 3.0 SE lives up to all expectations and has enough virtues to keep the faithful enthused and the competitors alert.
This purchase, though, would be one made from the heart. Not the head.
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