The Jaguar X-Type was an effort to duplicate the success of the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, by creating an entry level luxury performance sedan that would boost overall production of the brand, and to bring in new buyers into Jaguar showrooms, both in the States and across Europe. By using the Ford Mondeo as the basis of an entry level Jaguar probably wasn’t the wisest choice, but was it all that bad?
The story for the Jaguar X-Type began at the turn of the millennium when Jaguar wanted to reach new buyers who always liked the look of a Jaguar, but felt that it was too expensive to acquire. Jaguar watched how successful BMW was with the 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz was with the C-Class, and tried to duplicate the formula. Unfortunately, the X-Type wasn’t their best effort either in capturing or retaining buyers. It shared its platform with Ford’s mass market, front-wheel-drive Mondeo, albeit with standard all-wheel-drive at launch, targeting Audi even more than BMW or Mercedes-Benz. The Jaguar X-Type was produced from 2002-2008. Available as a sedan and later, beginning in 2005, as a Sportswagon, the X-Type featured Jaguar’s classic exterior styling cues meant to recall the elegant XJ-series sedans. The subtle Jaguar styling included flowing lines, hooded headlamps, a rectangular grill, chrome features throughout, and a leaping Jaguar hood mascot.
Originally, Jaguar offered X-Type buyers the choice of a 194-horsepower 2.5-liter V6 or a 3.0-liter V6 first rated at 231 horsepower, later decreased to 227. A five-speed manual gearbox was offered only with the smaller V6. Most buyers still ordered the five-speed automatic transmission on the X-Type 2.5, however. Jaguar dropped the 2.5 model altogether after the 2005 model year. All-wheel drive, which helps to improve traction in wet or snowy conditions, was always standard. However, in 2003, in an effort to move more X-Types, a front-wheel-drive-only version was made available. That turned out to be the wrong move as it was too closely related to its cousin in Ford showrooms. In retrospect, this blunder on the part of Jaguar’s product planners probably ensured its failure on both sides of the Atlantic.
Like most small luxury cars, the Jaguar X-Type was comfortable for up to four passengers but cramped for five. Buyers should also note that the car’s dramatic roof line made for tighter headroom than in some other entry-luxury compacts. The X-Type’s interior had an unfortunate blend of traditional Jaguar elements (wood veneers, supple leather upholstery and a restrained use of chrome trim) and mundane plastic parts more appropriate for a Ford rental car picked up at the airport. There were also quality control problems on early models. The X-Type has been Jaguar’s bestselling model since its introduction, but it was largely a financial disaster for Jaguar. Despite the X-Type competing in the growing compact-executive sector, sales never met expectations of 100,000 annually, peaking at 50,000 in 2003. In the United States, the car’s primary market, sales dropped from 21,542 in 2004 to 10,941 in 2005. In the same year, Audi sold 48,922 A4s, Mercedes-Benz sold 60,658 C-Classes, and the class leader BMW moved 106,950 3-series variants.
Ford’s attempt to turn the Ford Mondeo front-drive compact car into an “all-wheel drive” Jaguar sports sedan by badge engineering clearly backfired. Many compared it to the Cadillac Cimarron, even though reviews were fairly positive. Its origins did little to appeal to the buyers of high-priced imports. Consumers thought it was absurd to pay considerably more for a rebadged Mondeo despite more standard equipment and felt that Ford should have developed a compact model specifically for Jaguar instead. Due to poor sales and reduced profit margins stemming partly from a weaker United States dollar, Jaguar ceased sales of the X-Type in North America in late 2007, but sales in Europe continue. Now that Jaguar is a part of the Tata Group based in India, there should be very little badge engineering unless they decide to produce a Jaguar version of the Nano.
The idea of producing an entry level Jaguar was a noble one. Taking the playbook from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz, a true entry-level executive car should have started with a brand-new platform, not a borrowed chassis from a mass-produced everyday vehicle. Unfortunately, even if Jaguar had met its initially projected sales target, it’s likely that it would not have turned a profit for either Jaguar or its corporate parent Ford. Today the buying public is so well-informed about the vehicles they purchase, the idea of paying an executive-car price tag for a reworked Mondeo was never going to be a recipe for success. Is the Jaguar X-Type really that bad? Well, no, they are nicely styled, and later versions actually held up quite well. The Sportwagon version in particularly appealing, but at the end of the day it’s still a Ford Mondeo in a Saville Row, three-piece suit.
The upside is that Jaguars in general, and the S-Type and X-Type in particular, depreciate faster than their German and Japanese competitors. Thus if you shop carefully, bargains are out there, especially on later model cars that qualify for certified pre-owned (CPO) programs. So if you prefer to not buy German, and eschew the reliable, vanilla, Japanese models, both Jaguars present interesting alternatives to the default choices in both categories. Read my Recently Deceased and Retrospective Features at Automotive Traveler.