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After years of producing only full-size luxury sedans, Jaguar has been enjoying increased sales with the new S-Type. While it contends worthily with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and other mid-size sport/luxury sedans, a gaping hole in the model line-up was still evident. A smaller car to raise havoc with the old guard - BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class - could attract a younger clientele to the Jaguar fold, plus bring healthy profits to a company richer in heritage than its bottom line.
With this in mind, the new X-Type is probably the most important Jaguar to ever roll off the assembly line. It has to be profitable while affordable, and still incorporate all of Jaguar's renowned richness. What is the result? The new car stays true to Jaguar tradition with an elegant design inside and out, chrome trim, rich wood accents and Connolly leather. Yet, due to cost cutting necessities, Jaguar adds a premium feature that makes it ironically more desirable - AWD.
Rather than engineer a new car from the ground up and incur excessive costs, the X-Type is based on Ford of Europe's Mondeo platform. Obviously a front-wheel drive Jaguar wouldn't do, so Jaguar compromised with 'Traction 4' AWD. Furthermore, power is biased 60% to the rear wheels allowing RWD feel in an all-weather traction package. The result is an extremely agile chassis with precise handling rain, snow or shine.
Still, the standard car feels very different than its German competitors at both low and high speeds. Its power steering is effortless when parking but a little vague when traveling around town. On the highway, speed sensitive steering contributes desirable 'weight' but lacks the rock-solid feel of the German cars. Is this bad? Not necessarily, it's just different. My wife Jennifer absolutely loves it. When I complained, she raved. Clearly, like so many things in life, the X-Type is about personal taste. That said the optional sport package (see below) literally transforms the car from lithe boulevardier to slalom superhero - much more to my liking.
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