Last week I was lucky enough to escape the snows of New England (at least for a day) and try out Jaguar's latest additions to its compact-class X-Type family. Drives through the mountains surrounding Palm Springs, CA showed the Jaguar engineers and designers have done a fine job in producing three variants that should extend the breed's appeal to more drivers.
All models are powered by a new 3-liter V6, adapted from the larger S-Type sedan, that produces 227 hp and 206 ft-lb of torque. The previous 2.5-liter V6 is no longer available in the U.S. Interestingly, because of greater fuel economy, 70% of X-Types sold in the U.K. are diesels--a technology with minimal customer acceptance on this side of the pond. A 32-bit engine management system from DENSO ties together the new power train. Jeff Key, X-Type program manager, says this advanced management system provides more control resolution, data points, and quicker response. This architecture is vital to integrating systems, including full-authority throttle-by-wire and variable valve timing and intake manifold, along with providing emissions control, fuel economy, systems diagnostics, and other functions.
< align="left">Most significant of the vehicle trio is the Sportwagon. Engineers have tuned the handling, suspension, and body stiffness (which is 8% higher than baseline, but with a lighter structure) such that the best thing to report is nothing--both my driving partner and I would forget we were driving a wagon up and down the twisting grades. And the attention paid to sound proofing the larger interior volume results in a quiet car. Jeff Key, who's enthusiastic as a proud father talking about his newborn, says sound level is actually lower than in the sedan.
If you don't need the utility and extra room of the wagon, the Sport model could get your motor running. Highlights are improved aerodynamic treatment (including rear spoiler, side skirts, and front air dam), quicker steering and performance tuned suspension, and larger 18-inch wheels with more aggressive tires.
For those desiring more refinement (and any of these cars has the Jaguar 'elegance') there is the VDP model. Extra wood and leather abound in its cabin.
All in all, Jaguar designers have kept the faith of handling, performance, and style, while extending the line with useful, sporty, and good looking cars.