2003 Jaguar S-Type R (3/17/2002)
While U.S. journalists were testing the new Jaguar S-Type in Spain, twenty or so other new press demonstrators were kept hidden from them. They were examples of the latest version of the small X-Type sedan, the car the British firm is counting on to double projected sales from 100,000 cars a year to 200,000. The Americans didn’t get to drive them because Jaguar's U.S. arm doesn’t want the latest X-Type models to make their way across the Atlantic.
The reason is that the new model is a 2.1-liter six-cylinder car with front-wheel drive. Jaguar has never had such a small engine in modern times, and every Jaguar in the company's history has been a rear-driver. Jaguar Cars Inc. feels that the small front-driver would dilute the brand’s carefully nurtured performance image.
The first X-Types, introduced last year, were all-wheel-drive. Company bosses felt that faithful customers would not accept a front-drive Jag, and the engineers had to come up with a system that would convert the front-drive Ford platform on which the car was based into something that would keep the traditionalists happy. They did a good job, but it was always a question of how long it would be before a front-drive model came into the X-Type range. The answer was sooner rather than later, and an X-Type with a new small (2.1-liter) engine driving the front wheels has just gone on sale in Britain, with the rest of Europe and Japan to follow.
European journalists like me, who did try the car, found the car was fine example of a current Eurosedan, with all the comfort and performance of its competitors from VW, GM and Ford combined with the luxurious interior that marks a Jag. It sells at good price too, with the base X-Type going for $28,000 in Britain, just $700 or so above the top-of-the-range Ford Mondeo on which it is based. Full Jaguar wood and leather luxury costs another $4300 on top of that, but the car still represents excellent value for money.
Is it right to deny the “small” car to the U.S.? Probably not. Historically, Jaguar has been marketed in the States on a macho theme, with racing and performance as key promotional points. It could be said that policy was ineffective, because 50 percent of Jaguar drivers in the US are women. The new car would be ideal for women, who want the comfort and cachet of a Jag, not outright speed. Jaguar bosses in Britain, who have a factory capable of producing 300,000 X-Types a year, are keen for Jaguar Cars Inc to take it. The question is how long the U.S. operation can withstand the pressure.