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A steady drizzle falls from leaden skies. On the narrow roads that snake through the farm country of Dijon, it would normally give good reason to ease off on the throttle. But not on this particular afternoon. On open stretches, we press the pedal to the floor, holding until the last moment to apply the brakes. As confidence builds, we enter each turn just a little faster. And yet the car seems to suggest we’re still far from its limits.
There’s a lot riding on the new Jaguar X-Type, a car with which the British automaker hopes to more than double its worldwide volume. With a base of $29,950, it will enter the U.S. market at less than half the price of the marque’s flagship XJ sedan. To get there, Jaguar depended heavily on the help of its parent, Ford Motor Co., borrowing both engineering assistance—as well as 20 percent of its components from the decidedly downmarket Ford Mondeo.
Would the X-Type be a breakthrough for Jaguar? Or just a rebadged Ford? When TheCarConnection.com was offered its first chance to drive the X-Type, we jumped at the opportunity to decide for ourselves.
Baby Jag is born
Sometimes called the “Baby Jag,” other times as X400, its internal codename, the new sedan becomes the fourth line in the fast-growing Jaguar model mix. Where the XJ sedan and XK coupe/convertible compete in the stratospheric side of the luxury line-up, and the S-Type goes after the mid-lux world of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Jaguar’s newest entry takes aim at the “affordable luxury” segment. It’s the fastest-growing niche in the premium market, having nearly doubled over the last five years. It’s also the most competitive segment, dominated by the benchmark BMW 3-Series.
2002 Jaguar X-TypeEnlarge Photo