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Future Classic Friday: Jaguar X-type

Published 17 February 2017

When Ford took over Jaguar in 1990, Blue Oval bosses had a masterplan for the iconic British car maker. Jaguar was to be reinvigorated, and its model range would replicate those of other premium rivals. Jaguar was going to take on the Germans and beat them at their own game.

First came the XJ6 X300, a traditional Jaguar designed to be less tweedy than its predecessor, then the equally retro-looking S-type - both cars that built on Jaguar's traditional styling and brand values and applied more modern driving characteristics. It would be over a decade, though, before Ford unleashed the secret weapon in its arsenal. A car that, it claimed, would do battle with the BMW 3-series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-class.

The Jaguar X-type was a concept back in the days that Ford took over. Codenamed X-400, two options were on the table. One was to build the car on a shortened S-type platform, maintaining the traditional Jaguar virtue of rear-wheel-drive. The second was to look elsewhere in the Ford stable for a platform that could also be developed.

Ultimately, that platform came from the new-for 2000 Ford Mondeo, the X-type chassis being derived from that of the Mondeo Estate, which was marginally longer than the Mondeo hatch and saloon. Jaguar dreamed of selling 100,000 X-types per year and the Mondeo platform lent itself well to such mass production. 

 Jaguar X-type (10)

The X-type was to take over from the Ford Escort on the production line at Halewood, Merseyside, offsetting the risk of job losses in an area that was already suffering from high unemployment and industrial unrest. The decision helped Jaguar secure some much needed government investment, but the decision to build the new Jaguar on a Ford platform, in a Ford factory, was something of a risk, not least because the American owners had been extremely careful to preserve the brand's 'Jaguarness' during the ten years it had been in charge.

Not only that, but Jaguar's heritage was a key message in the launch of the S-type just two years previously. Its retro-styling was a caricature of the Mk2, it was rear-drive, with a J-gate gear selector, plush trim, walnut veneer and V6 or V8 engines.  With the X-type, much was made of what the marketing team called ‘The New Jaguar Generation’. A Jaguar that would appeal to the under 40s, and would be marketed head-to-head against the 3-series. The core model would be the ‘Sport’, colour-coded, with dark interior themes and far less of a focus on luxury than Jaguars of old.

But Jaguar's top brass were paranoid that this was too much of a shift for the brand. The decision was taken, therefore, to launch the X-type in stages, giving Jaguar’s more traditional customers the chance to ‘get used’ to the model’s idiosyncrasy.

The Mondeo platform was a good one, but it wasn't rear-drive - a Jaguar hallmark. When the Ford was launched in 2000, it was universally praised for its ability, but Jaguar’s resistance to adopt front-wheel-drive from the outset meant that all launch models would have four-wheel-drive, with a bias towards the rear.

Jaguar X-type (11)

The decision was also taken to launch with V6 petrol engines only, which was great for setting a performance benchmark, but not ideal when competing with German rivals in fleet sales, where their modern diesels were streets ahead. The range-topper was the same 3.0-litre 231bhp unit as found in the S-type, while a smaller capacity 2.5-litre derivative of the engine was specifically developed for the model, offering 194bhp.

The combination of smooth power delivery, four-wheel-drive and an excellent chassis meant the X-type was a fine car to drive - quick, agile and extremely refined. But Jaguar's reticence to talk openly about its Ford-sourced components ended up backfiring. 

Ironically, had Jaguar been more bold about its intentions in the first place, the X-type may have enjoyed a more successful launch. Front-wheel-drive, diesel, estate and fleet-targeted cars came in over time, but the X-type was, by and large, a missed opportunity and never really capitalised on its potential.

Instead of focusing on its strengths (of which there were many), the motoring media instead zeroed in on the 'Mondeo Jag' angle, and it was hard to escape the X-type being mentioned in the same sentence as the family Ford.

Jaguar X-type (15)

What effect this had on sales is difficult to judge, but it's reasonable to suggest there was a fair deal of cynicism directed towards the car. And that's a crying shame, for the X-type is no more a Mondeo than an Audi A4 quattro is a Volkswagen Passat. 

For years, the X-type was a used car bargain, but now the tide may be about to turn. Could the first compact Jaguar since the 1960s go on to be considered a bona fide classic? There are certainly worse cars to have reached that status, and the cachet of the Jaguar brand means that there's a certain prestige in owning one, even if you can pick them up dirt cheap these days.

Which is exactly why I spent £500 of my own money on one. For that outlay, it's a terrific car to enjoy. Quick, responsive, easy to maintain (no, really) and the 2.5-litre V6 engine is getting better with age - chain driven and requiring little more than routine maintenance. There aren't many cars from the 2000s that can be maintianed at home, but this is one of them. And the fact it's a lovely car to drive adds to its appeal. Indeed, the only major flaw is undoubtedly also inherited from Ford, with sills that are prone to corrosion. Luckily, the plastic sill covers mean repairs are straightforward, as you don't need to hide the welds...

A future classic? Maybe. Maybe not. But the X-type is certainly a pleasant way of spending a grand, and is bound to have an enthusiastic following as it gets older.

Jaguar X-type (3)


Colin McDermott    on 17 February 2017

There is a dedicated following for this car as am one of many like minded enthusiasts who love the first "Baby Jag". On my third and planning a 4th in a few years when my present modified estate is passed to my wife. You only have to search on Facebook to see how many enthusiast groups there are for this little gem. People like me who will still be taking these cars to Jaguar shows to not let one part of jaguar history fall to the wayside.

Chris C    on 17 February 2017

I think its styling passes the test of time - far more integrated than the S type which IMO had its front and rear styled by a committee that never met. Compare and contrast with the Rover 75 which was seen as its main competitor at the time and seems to have achieved classic car status far quicker. Certainly the Jag's reliability let it down with owners.

andy pen    on 18 February 2017

I got my X type 4 years ago and it is the longest I have ever kept a car. It's a 2.0d se with sat nav and if looked after they are more reliable than most cars. I loved it that much I went and bought an XJR of similar age as a weekend "special". If I had not got my X I would nver have found that special Jaggness that no other manufacturer can do without spending 20 or 30 times the money. Who cares about the Ford connection they are fantastic cars.

   on 18 February 2017

I have an 2003 Xtype Sport..any thoughts on it? I always wanted to own a Jaguar but knew I probably never would until this one came along...dirt cheap...I love it!

Ian Tyack    on 18 February 2017

I'm considering my first X-type. My ideal would be the Sovereign, but it wasn't released in the US.

Bronan the Brobarian    on 21 February 2017

There's no difference between the Sovereign and SE other than a very small number of superficial trim differences (e.g. wood on steering wheel and coloured stripe on seats - that's honestly about it). Get an SE and then buy the Sovereign parts if you really care.

MANUEL LUCAS QUESADA    on 19 February 2017

Que decir, como propietario de una unidad de mitad del 2005. Con muchos temas resueltos ya en ese entonces. De color verde británico de competición y parrilla negra. Coche espectacular oigan. Una pieza única y sublime...

Edited by MANUEL LUCAS QUESADA on 19/02/2017 at 01:09

Bronan the Brobarian    on 21 February 2017

Funny how people only look honestly and objectively at years when it's years too late. I love my X Type, it's a fantastic car, gets admiring looks and is economical and easy to maintain (and cheap too). The 2.0d is torquey and gets 50mpg. The interior is miles ahead of the plastic offerings from contemporary 3 series, A4 and C-class models, and unlike those the design is timeless rather than dated. Sadly, the only model likely to be a "classic" is the Indianapolis in the last picture, not many of those made.

"the X-type is no more a Mondeo than an Audi A4 quattro is a Volkswagen Passat"

THIS. So many people simly don't understand how the car industry works. The X Type was just unlucky that the media (Honest John probably included) chose to focus on this one point, while ignoring it in other companies' cars. Most likely because Jag were so cagey and risk-averse (like a local council) from the outset, which is a criticism magnet. The fools. Funnily enough they still used Ford parts in early versions of the XE.

Edited by Bronan the Brobarian on 21/02/2017 at 17:11

Mel price    on 24 June 2017

I have an x type 2.5 sport Indianapolis awd in ultraviolet. Fantastic car.

Gary W    on 18 December 2017

My 2006 sovereign estate 2.2d has done over 180k on its clutch, gives 48mpg at motorway speeds, and can beat most things off the lights if I'm in the wrong lane. It's exquisitely luxurious inside, eg electric lumbar control - reliable, low cost parts and now appreciating in value. I had a 1 year old BMW 330d convertible before which was poorly built in comparison and dedepreciated like a rock. The X type is a future classic.

Matty-Boy    on 24 March 2018

Few months back I impulsively spent 3.7 k on 2006 2.5 se auto. Stupid price. 30000 miles. 1 owner. I've since bought a new Alternator, paint, New battery, rear parking sensor.

I've had many cars. I'm currently leasing a 2016 focus for work etc. I bought the jag 6 months ahead of early retirement. At 50 I might be the youngest x type driver in the UK however :)

I love my x type. It's brilliant and suspect it may stay with me for some time.

Anthony Whicker    on 14 October 2018

Yep I love hearing all the praise for x type jags I've had my 2008 20.d for 10 years & I love it!! What an excellent car it is with a beautiful clean running&very economical Diesel engine if only there could be a recognised system that could be fitted to the exhaust to reduce emissions further,it's only 149 g/ km now but with all this stupidity against good diesels a system like cgon or adblue could be fitted would reduce the emissions even further but no-one seems to be interested in studying this. So keep loving your xtype jags they really are an excellent car&will be a fantastic classic car.

Jagman Stoke Mandeville    on 15 November 2018

No-one has mentioned that the X-Types' 2.5 & 3.0L petrol V6's were designed by Porche, bought by Ford & Coswotth; Tweaked by Cosworth and Jaguar.
If all that doesn't add up to a 'Classic in the making' - I don't know what is!
If only Jaguar had taken the initiative an put a Cosworth badge on the bootlid (which I'm sure would've been justified), it would've fared much better than the 'Indianapolis' with its 'so-called' special reddish brickwork design on the fascia (signifying the Indy Brickyard circuit in the US of A - Why on earth did their marketing wallahs do that?); then fitting it with bigger wheels requiring ridiculously low profile tyres that just don't work on British roads these days. So many of those Indy's' have suffered destroyed wheels through either susceptibility to clobber kerbs, or suffering pot-hole damage (and broken front springs) on a frequent basis.
No-one has mentioned how totally sweet the X-Type's 5-speed manual gearbox is either - That's another gem to add to its potential 'future classic' credentials.

Boatshedmike    on 27 April 2019

My X type 2.5 awd auto was bought 3 years ago for under two grand, 60k miles and still drives great,
Used as a weekend runabout but my pride and joy, surely a future classic for little money.
Mike Scott Staffordshire.

   on 1 October 2020

I bought a 2003 X-type estate 15 years ago. Lovely car, have cruised all over europe in it and been very proud to drive it. Although it is a 2.5 petrol model I can still get over 30 to the gallon on a motorway run, not so good around town though. The auto gear box and 4 wheel drive are superb. The touch screen controls are simple to use and the sat nav can be easily updated. I want to hang on to it because it is the last of the classic 'Jag' styled bonnet, all of the modern Jags look like any other car on the road. Mechanically it has been extremely reliable, Oxygen sensors occasionally failing but this doesn't stop the car and the sills have had to be replaced but are cheap from ebay (£70 pair and rust resistant). We only do a couple of thousand miles in it annually now, I have a Mondeo estate for everyday use which I suppose could be considered the Jag's cousin.
Dave from Thanet

   3 days ago

I've had the fortune of finding a 2002 x type sport v6 today. Was highly sceptical for the price, milage didn't worry me too much 98k as had full service history, but after reading some reviews was dubious.
I love older cars they're more fun to drive and pleasing to look at in my opinion.
This hasn't disappointed, I've taken it for a drive this evening, was going to be a quick run, did 100 miles as the sound of that engine just puts a smile on your face, mpg isn't pleasant but for the sound and the feel of it, it's a sacrifice I'm willing to take.
Granted I've had it a day but what a seriously smooth, great sounding, excellent handling car.

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