Hooniverse Parting Shot: The Jaguar X-Type; A Ford Mondeo in Drag.

A Ford Mondeo dressed as a Jaguar XJ. Lovely to look at, but still a Drag...

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?

Looking the part of a proper Jaguar, but fooling no one in the process.

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.
The Beautifully Finished but ultimately cramped 2008 X-Type interior.

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.
The most under appreciated member of the Jaguar Family, the X-Type Sportswagon.

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.

0 Comments

    1. Alright smarta**, It's fixed. Thanks for pointing that out, and I found out that I didn't add a tag either. Damn real job getting in the way of posting….. Grumble grumble grumble…..

      1. LOL, it's early, you're excused! I honestly thought I read it wrong the first couple of times. Then I wiped the sleep from my eyes, blinked a couple of times, and laughed. Need more caffeine!

  1. I see no problem with the X-Type. If we're talk badgeneering, there were some much, MUCH worse examples in automotive history. If we're talking Jaguar's heritage, the S-Type's styling was a bigger insult in my book.

  2. Learn from your mistakes. I would take a A4 Avant over the X-Type Sportwagon. I was never a fan of the X-Type, mostly because of the Mondeo influence on the car. At least Jaguar now has a lineup that is really comparable to ze Germans.

  3. In automotive circles, the failure of the X-Type in the US is usually linked to its blatant badgeneering of the Mondeo…except that we don't have the Mondeo here and most of the general public has no clue what a Mondeo is. So, I think it was something else…maybe the fact that the material quality wasn't really up there and the engine choices were a bit on the underpowered side compared to the competition.
    I never really cared for the X-Type. It was never a "true" Jag to me, because it was a badgeneered Mondeo. Which is strange, because I always thought a proper Mondeo in the US would be a good thing, not the decontented shitboxes called the Mystique and Contour. However, the X-Type Sportwagon is a tasty bit of kit that I would hoon with pride.

  4. I never liked the X-type, but I have to admit that its for no real reason other than having heard lots of other people bash them.
    Frankly, an AWD sedan about the size of the X would suit me. Perhaps I should try to find one one on the cheap.

  5. I'll never understand the X-Type haters. Badge engineering? There was nothing in common between the Mondeo/Contour and the X-Type that you could see or touch. That's called "platform sharing"… which you love when Toyota or VAG does it.

  6. How is it that the Mondeo is widely praised as a competent world-car chassis that we all wish we could get, but then when we do, it's labelled as a total failure?
    I'm thinking it's more to do with an aging, downward-trending brand reaching even further down-market when it really wasn't necessary.
    Probably could've had a better chance as a Lincoln or Mercury.

    1. In Europe Mondeo has always been considered best handling car in this group where's German VW Passat and Opel Vectra + some other cars like Peugeot 40X, Renault, base Saab 9-3, Accord, Avensis, Primera. Mondeo chassis is maybe even better than old nose-heavy Audi A4, at least in 2WD version which is mainly sold here.
      What went wrong? Don't know, in Europe this "Mondeo stigma" of course could be main reason, but also product felt sub-standard compared to competition (A4, 3-series, C-class).

    2. Exactly…except the Mercury Mystaque was…uh…a mistake. Had they brought over the fully contented, not craptacularized Mondeo as a Lincoln, they could have had a winner. I think the main problem with the X-Type was that it wasn't quite up to Jag standards.
      Now, if they had just had the X-Type in the US, and changed out the Ford parts bin switches and other indications of it's more plebian ancestry, it could have been a good seller. PMS is right in that this was more platform sharing than a blatant badgeneering (which is why I don't totally buy the auto critic explanation of its failure…since most Americans have no clue what a Mondeo is). It doesn't look bad, and was actually pretty nice by late '90s standards. Oh, wait, it was introduced in the early 2000s.

  7. You know, Audi's frequently pretty close to its VW roots, and it's certainly turned out pretty popular. Then again, I already have a 1:18 scale model of the X-Type, so I'm biased.

  8. I love Jaguars and I have '79 XJ6. I have a 2003 Mondeo. And I still think that X-type was a bad idea. Making a "premium" sedan on peasant platform may be good for Audi, but Jaguar needs more.
    Maybe if they hadn't build FWD version and that dreaded diesel, things would be ok. But NO Jaguar can be FWD. EVER.

  9. It's a fine car. There is nothing particularly offensive about it – in fact, it is quite pleasant.
    But it has no discernible advantage over the 3-series, A4, or even the C-series aside from standard AWD. Since the US was Jag's target with the X-Type, the fact that it was based on the Mondeo platform really didn't make much of a difference since most people have no idea what a Mondeo is. What was detrimental was that the switchgear was raided from Ford's parts bin and the plastic never felt like it had quality comparable to that of the Germans.
    On the other hand, I would gladly and proudly drive one, especially that wagon. Not the FWD version, though. That's just blasphemous.

  10. You know what I don't get? Acura's sedans are for the most part Accords, either European (pretty much untouched) or American (TL, as far as I can tell) So why aren't they bashed? That said, if I'm buying a Jaaaag it is gonna be RWD. It just is.

    1. Jaguar had a 60-year history of building luxurious and/or sporty cars that were more or less unique to Jaguar when the rebodied Fords that are the S- and X-type came out. The Japanese luxury brands don't have this heritage, as they were conceived in the 1980s for the express purpose of convincing people to buy fancier, more expensive versions of the same Hondas/Toyotas/Nissans they already knew and loved.

  11. My roommate has one and it's not a bad car really. He said it's been pretty reliable too. I kind of like it. Interior room isn't too bad either and I'm 6'4"!
    But what do I know. I do drive a 97 T-bird…

  12. We bought one of the first X-types in the area and certainly paid the price for exclusivity. I was on a first name basis w/the service manager for the first year or so to fix everything from dashboard vents popping out to headlights blanking out. Funny thing is, after working out the first year bugs, the car has turned out to be a reliable and fun to drive car. Had Jaguar put a little more development into the car, they'd be still selling the car here in the US.

  13. I have owned a 2.5 manual transmission X for two years. I am the third owner, and have put 45,000 miles on it. It is still going strong at 110,000. I cannot understand why the car drew such negative press, as it is absolutely wonderful to drive, and utterly reliable. The manual transmission is delightfully notchy, the steering has just the right feel, it has very little lean in corners, and responds beautifully to enthusiastic input. The AWD system is fabulous when things get dicey, and the power bias is just right; it feels firmly planted at all times. It is also exquisitely comfortable, practical (big trunk) and nicely equipped; even the entry level audio system is exemplary. What a SHAME that the car was not developed further, or that the development it had was in the wrong direction (toward the cushy instead of the sporty). One wonders if the “experts” who dissed it ever actually drove one. I do, every day, and I love it. The only thing I wish for is more power and better fuel economy. Adding a turbo (i.e. making it an “ecotec”) would have made it a class winner. Alas … now we’ll never know.

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