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New models - Jaguar - X-Type

First Oz drive: Jag pulls the other one

Nice mover: Chassis balance is a strong point of the new X-Type.

Rough Aussie roads prove the new front-wheel drive X-Type 2.1 is no joke for would-be Jaguar owners

7 Jun 2002

SHOULD we be shocked by a front-wheel drive Jaguar? Maybe a few years ago, but in a world where Mercedes-Benz sells a hatchback and Volvo is venturing off-road, the surprise factor is getting more difficult to conjure.

Sure, the new X-Type 2.1 V6 is not a Jaguar as your average crusty old millionaire would want to know it, but then septuagenarians and statesmen are not who Jaguar wants this car to talk to.

It is for 30 and 40-somethings who know little about Jaguar except that they want to own one, and now that the 2.1 is on sale in Australia, they can.

It's debatable most 2.1 buyers will even care this is the first Jaguar to be pulled rather than pushed. Or that under the skin around 20 per cent of the mechanicals are shared with Ford of Europe's fleet fodder model, the Mondeo.

What is far more important is pricing, which starts at $53,950. That means the 2.1 range kicks off right in the heart of the salary sacrifice zone. Add $2500 and you get the optional five-speed automatic, plonk down $59,750 and you're into the more highly specified SE.

That's thousands of dollars less than the existing X-Type compact luxury sedans launched in Australia last October. Which is understandable considering those cars have larger 2.5 and 3.0-litre engines and all-wheel drive.

In sales terms though, the 2.1 is the one with all the vital statistics as far as Jaguar is concerned. The Australian distributor is predicting a virtual doubling of sales for its fourth and newest model line from 50-60 per month to 100.

That's right, the 2.1 is expected to account for 50 per cent of all X-Type volume, and Jaguar concedes that could be a conservative estimate as entry level luxury models like the BMW 320i and Mercedes-Benz C200 account for about 70 per cent of total sales in the segment.

At the heart of this X-Type is a de-stroked version of the all-alloy, quad cam, 24-valve AJ-V6 seen in the other range members, now measuring 2099cc and producing 117kW at 6800rpm and 200Nm at 4100rpm.

Claimed performance is not breathtaking, perhaps because the engine is still trying to pull along at least 1450kg.

With the Getrag five-speed manual, the 2.1 accelerates to 100km/h in 9.8 seconds and then on to 210km/h. The five-speed Jatco J-gate auto records an unimpressive 10.8 seconds 0-100km/h dash and a top speed of 205km/h.

Swapping from all-wheel drive has required some re-engineering to avoid such front-wheel drive nasties as torque steer. This includes new equal length half shafts, new-design CV joints at the outboard end of those half-shafts, a modified steering rack, revised front suspension geometry and re-tuned suspension adapted to suit the car's lighter weight, which is down about 100kg.

Standard equipment levels are strong. The 2.1 features leather while bird's eye maple interior remains standard as well as alloy wheels. Then there's front, side and curtain airbags, a powered driver's seat, single CD audio system, front fog lights, anti-lock braking and traction control.

The SE adds cruise control, steering wheel audio controls, automatic climate control air-conditioning and a trip computer with a message centre.

There's also a lengthy options list including touch-screen multimedia, voice activation, sat-nav, Xenon headlights and dynamic stability control. But some of the stuff you have to cough up extra for seems cheap to us - like a rear centre armrest, first-aid kit and even floor mats.

X-Type 2.1 $53,950
X-Type 2.1 auto $56,450
X-Type 2.1 SE $59,750


IF you've read our first drive impression of the 2.1 from the international launch in Europe earlier this year, then you'll know we came away impressed with an excellent chassis, but less enamoured with the engine.

In Australia, on a 200km southern Queensland drive route that varied from freeway to broken bitumen with a little bit of everything else thrown in, those feelings were reinforced.

The SE suspension set-up works beautifully well, providing a lovely balance between poised handling and pliant ride. There's a little crashing over the bigger, more jagged bumps, but on the whole it is quite excellent.

The steering succeeded in avoiding front-drive traits like that maddening torque steer twitch and sudden changes in weighting. Instead, it is consistently too light but makes up for it with a high degree of directness.

But the steering's ability is not challenged significantly by the engine, which just does not feel strong enough to do the chassis justice. Certainly, it is keen and enthusiastic enough, only getting a touch raucous when the revs are piled on.

Unfortunately, that happens all too often as you shuffle back through both forms of the gearbox seeking mid-range and top-end punch for overtaking and conquering hills. The auto really seems to squeeze the life out of the engine, while the manual frees more go but provides no sweetness in the shift.

The clutch pedal location is also too high and too close to the transmission tunnel. Combine it with a late take-up and you will stall the engine, or get your left foot tangled behind the clutch pedal. And there's no dead pedal - again! Other aspects of the interior are more satisfying, with the plush seats, wood, leather and centre console reminiscent of larger and much more expensive Jaguars. There is plenty of cheap looking black plastic though, just to let you know which end of the family tree you are sitting in.

Like the rest of the X-Type range, the 2.1 looks big on the outside but feels cosy to sit in - and that truly is a trait it shares with the rest of the big cat family.

Should you be shocked by the 2.1? Only of you believe a travesty has been committed in terms of Jaguar's heritage.

Considered on its merits, the 2.1 is a thoroughly sensible and, in some aspects, outstanding car.

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