Steve Cropley is usually right. In Autocar this week he suggests it’s time we “allowed the X-Type Jaguar in from the cold.” It’s true. Autocar tests awarded a rare four stars to both saloon and estate X-Types but ever since its introduction in 2001 critics were sniffy about it not being a real Jaguar but only a Mondeo in fancy dress. It has been underrated ever since, a bit like the splendid Rover 75 of 1998-2005, which also got off to a bad start. You can now buy perfectly worthy examples of either for £1,000.
Codenamed X400, the X-type followed a precedent of 1922, using underpinnings from another car manufacturer. Then the SS as Jaguar was known at the time, was based on the Standard Motor Company’s Standard Sixteen. Now it was Jaguar’s owner Ford Motor Company, and the new model’s technical basis was the Ford Mondeo. However, although it followed the broad principles worked out for the Mondeo, with four wheel drive, Macpherson strut suspension and transverse engine it owed almost as much to world standards of medium-sized car design. It was just as much a car of its time as a collection of bits from the Ford parts inventory.
Halewood was barely 60 miles (96.56km) by road from Blackpool, where young William Lyons started and the X-type, in some senses, went back to its SS roots; stylish, well made and fast, with interior trim of good taste and quality. It completed Jaguar’s four-model range, designed to at least double production from 85,000, a target temptingly close but never in real terms achievable. Conceived, developed and paid for at the Whitley Engineering Centre in Coventry, X-type remained strongly Jaguar in style and detail.
Like the first unitary construction Jaguar, the 2.4 of 1955, the X-type was aimed at a new clientele of whom some had never had a Jaguar before. In 1955 there had been big Jaguars and sports Jaguars but the 2.4 was neither and at £1269 cost the same as a contemporary Rover 75. The analogy could be stretched to the X-type, once again about the same price, or a little more than, the Rover 75 yet with its novel transmission and emphasis on speed and precise handling smaller, sportier and more affordable. X-type remained unflinchingly refined, well-furnished and by no means down-market with a choice of 2.5 litre or 3.0 litre V6 engines and, Mike Cross, senior engineering specialist, promised, an exceptional chassis, “The X-type will perform exactly how the driver wants it to. Its balance of ride and handling complemented by all-wheel-drive means it will hug the road or cruise smoothly and quietly.”
Distributing 41 per cent of driving torque to the front wheels and 59 per cent to the rear gave the X-type a predominantly rear wheel drive feel with the security of four wheel drive. Differences in speed between the front and rear wheels were sensed by a viscous coupling in the epicyclic centre differential. In the event of one set of wheels spinning, the torque split adjusted automatically to provide the best traction and stability.