No British car since the Austin Allegro has sparked as many urban myths as the X-Type. We’ve heard them all and, if anything, they certainly prove to be a talking point more than a decade after it went out of production.
Read on to find out why.
Setting the X-Type record straight
The Jaguar X-Type was a long time coming. We’d been teased countless ‘baby Jag’ scoops in the press throughout the 1990s and, under Ford’s ownership, Project X400 finally kicked off in 1997. It was needed – Jaguar needed to grow to make enough money to justify Uncle Henry’s £1.6bn investment in the company in 1989. And for that growth to happen, it would need to introduce a driver-focused model to compete with the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Sales of these compact executives had skyrocketed throughout the 1990s – buyers were becoming increasingly aspirational, and this German trio was getting more affordable on the back of widespread easy car finance. Mondeo man was fast becoming BMW Barry, and the British were hoping that he would become Jaguar Jack instead.
Jaguar’s ownership profile was also ageing, and it was hoped that a more accessible Jaguar cast in the mould of the all-conquering 3 Series would attract younger buyers looking for something a little left field. When it appeared in 2001, it looked like the X-Type was just what the doctor ordered – sleek styling inspired by the Jaguar XJ, but less overtly retro than the S-Type, powered by a range of lusty V6s and driven via a rear-biased four-wheel-drive set-up. This was going to be the car to bring Jaguar the big bucks, and just the thing to beat the Germans at their own game.
Urban myth: It’s a rebodied Mondeo
Not true… The oldest and most widely-touted urban myth of them all – and, in fact, had this been the case, Jaguar might have made more money on the X-Type than it did. And let’s face it – there was nothing wrong with the Mondeo’s dynamics, despite being front-wheel drive.
Due to there being no suitable compact rear-wheel-drive underpinnings within the Ford portfolio, and there being no question of creating a new one, the upcoming Mondeo’s CD132 platform was used as a starting point for the X400 programme, but it would feature rear-biased four-wheel drive. The suspension was completely different upfront, and a variation of the Estate model’s Control Blade set-up was used in the rear.
No dimensions were shared between the X-Type and the Mondeo, either. This really was a very different beast – and, as one unnamed Jaguar Engineer commented recently, ‘the X400 was less closely related to the Mondeo than the A4 was to the Volkswagen Passat – and you never heard buyers moaning about that. But Audi didn’t make the same mistake we did by telling all and sundry that those models were related.’
Urban myth: It was a commercial failure
This very much depends on your point of view. Jaguar famously predicted that it would build 100,000 X-Types per year, which wasn’t a particularly bold sales target considering the sector’s biggest sellers, the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series were selling more than twice those numbers, year in, year out.
However, a total of 355,000 units were built during its ten-year production run, and that was only about a third of the number which had originally been envisaged. The biggest issue was resistance in the US market, where the X-Type faced strong opposition, and a much more ingrained attitude to what Jaguar’s core values were – and, as a consequence, its sales stateside were a big disappointment.
The X-Type did, though, introduce new buyers to the marque and generated showroom footfall for dealers in addition to paving the way for the new Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Freelander 2, which were based on similar underpinnings. It also handsomely outsold its successor, the under-performing Jaguar XE…
Urban myth: it used Ford engines
At launch, the X-Type used the company’s AJ-V6 engine, which would eventually be used in the S-Type and XJ saloons. Offered in 2.5- and 3.0-litre form, this powerplant was based on the Ford Duratec engine but, because of significant changes, it would share very few parts with that unit, aside from its block.
To become a Jaguar engine, it gained continuously variable valve timing and variable inlet tracts making it the most potent and efficient V6 engine to use the Duratec block, with power outputs of 194 and 231bhp.
‘We compared well with BMW, and the changes we engineered into the X-Type were worthwhile,’ our Jaguar man added – but not offering diesels until later seriously hampered the car’s chances in an increasingly DERV-dominated market. And when they did arrive, they weren’t different enough from the Ford they were based on, thus damaging the X-Type’s reputation.
Urban myth: it didn’t look like a proper Jaguar
The X-Type may have inherited a more cab-forward set of proportions than is usual for a Jaguar, but it was a nice piece of styling. By referencing the larger Jaguar XJ, it reflected the industry’s move towards retro-modern design at the time, slotting in neatly alongside cars such as the new-generation MINI and Volkswagen Beetle as well as the upcoming Fiat 500.
That said, some Jaguar stylists have latterly distanced themselves from the design, which is a shame. ‘It didn’t look mature or powerful or anything. It was just a car,’ said Jaguar Land Rover’s recently-departed design chief, Julian Thomson. He added that, basing the X-Type on a front-wheel-drive platform, resulted in proportions that, ‘were plainly wrong’.
Urban myth: it didn’t handle like a proper Jaguar
Although front-wheel-drive X-Types emerged later with the arrival of the 2.1-litre V6 and 2.0- and 2.2-litre diesels, it was launched with four-wheel drive with a rear-biased torque split for neutral handling. A great deal of attention was paid to steering feel, too – something that Jaguar often didn’t get right in the past.
‘Four-wheel drive resulted in brilliant dynamics and, with the transverse engine, great packaging,’ said Tony Cartwright, Jaguar’s then-Vehicle Engineering Manager. He added: ‘We always wanted to do four-wheel drive, and we had the chassis.’ He’s not wrong – the ill-fated XJ41/XJ42 F-Type, due to be launched in 1990 had four-wheel drive, so this was unfinished business.
Urban myth: it was built in a Ford factory
Jaguar chose to build the X-Type in Ford’s Halewood factory on Merseyside. Famously the home of the Ford Escort, this was a good decision, especially considering that several European factories were also considered. ‘We had to get rid of outmoded practices and persuade people to adopt more flexible working patterns, with the emphasis on quality,’ said David Hudson, the-then Director of Production Operations.
Production of the Escort was coming to an end and it made sense to use Halewood. Totally new production lines were installed for body construction and the assembly area. In the paint shop, 70% of the equipment was replaced and, most importantly, the workforce was thoroughly retrained to build Jaguars. The upshot was that those last Ford Escort vans that rolled off the Jaguar line in 2000 and 2001 were the best built of the lot…
Urban myth: it wasn’t built like a proper Jaguar
The X-Type was well-built in the UK by a workforce who were Jaguar through-and-through. The advanced body was the stiffest in class, by 30% no less, making it not only safe, but brilliant for suspension tuning. Also, 81% of the body shell was double sided, zinc coated steel and used higher strength steels in critical locations reducing additional weight to deliver strengths, and cheaper steels in low demand areas.
Unfortunately, just like a classic Jaguar, the X-Type can rust savagely. The inner sills on pre-2006 cars were not properly rustproofed, open to the elements, and conveniently hidden behind plastic covers. Corrosion can hit them hard and can render an otherwise nice car to a world of pain and expensive repairs.
Who says the X-Type isn’t a proper Jaguar?