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|Recently Deceased: The Jaguar S-Type and Jaguar X-Type|
|Written by Jim Brennan|
|Wednesday, 27 May 2009 03:40|
Under Ford's 19-year stewardship, Jaguar made great progress improving build quality and reliability, but in the end it became known as the English Patient.
Under the ownership of the Ford Motor Company, Jaguar again created cars that people aspired to own. They were at least mostly reliable, retained their English good looks, and were truly becoming a threat to the German uber sedans. However, Ford seemed to lose the recipe to success, first with the S-Type which shared its global DEW platform with the Lincoln LS and retro Thunderbird, and then really jumped the shark with the introduction of the X-Type, which was really nothing more than a Ford Mondeo in drag. Now that they are departing the scene, we can take one last look at these two Fords in Jaguar clothing, the S-Type, and the X-Type.
The Jaguar S-Type was always a bit of a throwback. The S-Type's exterior design echoed the classic Jaguar saloons of the sixties, posh and comfortable. Its distinct styling differentiated it from its competitors which typically feature sharp edges and flame surfacing. Utilizing a common platform that underpinned both the Lincoln LS and the retro-future two-seat Thunderbird, the S-Type was the brand's first true competing model in the modern midsize luxury segment populated by the Audi A6, the BMW 5-Series, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. However, any sort of dynamic excellence that platform may have exhibited faded rather quickly as the S-Type lived long past its expiration date. Its retro styling eventually became synonymous with a brand that was perceived as stuck in the past.
The S-Type was a four-door sedan produced from 2000-2008. It was only produced for one generation, and most of the incremental changes were made under the skin. Originally, Jaguar rated the S-Type's 3.0-liter V6 at 240 horsepower, though there were two revisions that lowered the power rating over the years. The 4.0-liter V8 was initially rated at 281 horsepower but was de-rated to 277 horsepower for 2002. A five-speed automatic was at first standard, but for 2003, Jaguar replaced it with a six-speed and made a new five-speed manual transmission standard on the 3.0 trim. The manual was never popular with consumers in the US; it was quietly dropped two years later. For 2004, the optional V8 was up-rated to 4.2 liters with 293 horsepower and for 2006 it was raised to 300 horsepower.
Regardless of year, the V6 was found to be underpowered given the S-Type's considerable weight. Publications at that time recommended opting for the beefier V8. Despite the light steering and a soft suspension--two deliberate traits of Jaguars in general--the handling generally drew praise from reviewers.
An important addition to the Jaguar S-Type came in 2003, when a 390 horsepower supercharged R version was released. From 2004 to its final year, the S-Type R produced 400 horsepower. While it was capable of doing 0-60 in just 5.3 seconds, there was more to the R than mere muscle. It was an all-around performer, equipped with larger disc brakes, an adjustable sport-tuned suspension system, and 18-inch wheels which were upgraded to 19-inch for 2008. Still, the S-Type R could never stand toe-to-toe with the best high-performance sedans from Germany or even those from Japan.
At first, the S-Type's cabin was widely panned. Both the design and materials seemed down-market and indicative of the car's Ford roots. For 2003, the interior received a thorough overhaul, bringing it more in line with the Jaguar name in terms of design and luxury trappings. The interior was upgraded again in 2005, but changes were minor. Controls exuded a certain "Old English Pub" quality but the switchgear gave away the secret that they were inherited from the corporate Ford parts bin. Equipment levels were also increased as the years went by, from the optional CD changer when the S-Type was introduced to Bluetooth phone connectivity when it was slated to be discontinued. This being a British saloon, leather and wood trim were never in short supply.
In reviews of the Jaguar S-Type, consumers typically praise the car's styling and features. They've commented unfavorably about its small trunk and the poor shift quality in earlier cars. The Jaguar's overall reputation for reliability is also not as good as that of other midsize luxury sedans from either the German or Japanese automakers. So, was the Jaguar S-Type a bad automobile? Not necessarily. It was developed in tandem with the Lincoln LS, which itself was highly regarded at its introduction, winning Motor Trend's Car of the Year Award. It was a stately sedan that could never be mistaken for anything other than a Jaguar. Unfortunately, the design did not age all that well, and being a Jaguar, reliability couldn't measure up to the standards set by Lexus, or Infiniti. It couldn't compete with the reliability of Audi, BMW, or Mercedes Benz either, but that's missing the point about this car. The latest S-Type, in the R configuration, provided its owner with a 400-HP V-8, touring-car tuned suspension, and world-class British-styled interior furnishings all wrapped in a body that is distinctive and that will never be confused with a German or a Japanese luxury saloon. The residuals on an S-Type Jaguar can't compete with the Germans or the Japanese either, so this luxurious, fast, and capable cat can be had for quite a bargain.
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 increased 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.