(First Posted October 6, 2013) As usual I was looking for cars again after selling the Audis…What would it be this time? I was commuting across the Bay Bridge, so it needed to be comfortable and nice to drive and I was ready for an automatic again. I recall testing an Acura 3.5RL, a BMW X5, and several other cars but then at the Acura dealer as we were pulling away I saw a nice looking silver car in the front row…
A 2002 Jaguar X-Type. Ooh, purdy! One owner, Platinum over Charcoal leather, just over 20k miles. I loved the styling, especially the way the headlights looked with the hood kind of draping over them. The snob in me also really liked the leaper on the hood. Still, a Jag? Can’t be reliable. But worth a test drive which turned out to be very pleasant. The car had decent grunt, the engine was smooth, the handling capable. Still, we walked away that day.
Over the next couple of days I read everything I could find about the car and at that time it was still fairly positive. Everyone seemed to be lauding Jaguar’s new little car, liking the AWD, and while explaining the roots as being from the Ford Mondeo, not seeing much issue with that. So we looked at it again and I ended up buying it for about $21,000.
Let me tell you, it is a great feeling driving something you don’t see every five minutes. The car felt very solid, smelled better than any other car I have had before or since, and seemed to be very refined. Over time these cars ended up getting decontented a bit, but 2002 was the first year and even our 2.5 “base” model had a bevy of niceties.
An excellent and extremely aromatic leather interior, a huge swath of gorgeous wood fronting the dash, power everything of course, and a 5-speed automatic transmission with the standard AWD as well as airbags everywhere including side curtains ones that were not nearly as ubiquitous then as they are today were all included, the only option in the list above being the automatic; yes, a 5-speed manual was available and was actually standard equipment on these cars.
Sitting in the driver’s seat facing the dash, the gauges were extremely nice to look at. Finished in dark green on early models with thin white lines and a nice simple type face, they were very easy to read and attractive. The door panels felt solid and the doors closed with a nice thunk.
Moving to the back seat was more of the same. The seats felt great, it was relatively roomy back there and the baby seat fit just fine. We drove the car all over the place, rain or shine (or snow in the mountains) and it was very pleasant.
Commuting was good as well, the engine purred nicely, pulled well (but I could see how one would be attracted to the larger, more powerful 3-liter version, especially at higher altitudes) and the full time AWD with a 60/40 rear/front torque split lent the car a secure feeling without losing the rear-wheel drive feel that many other AWD cars seem to experience.
Allison and I ended up sharing the car probably about 50/50; she started working as a Realtor (like many other Californians in the early 2000’s) and this was a good car to show people around in the nicer neighborhoods of the Bay Area.
Looking back on the car it is funny how much negative press the car gets nowadays. Many people seem to deride it as being based on a Mondeo, in actuality most parts are distinct, but I never felt that being based on a mass-market car was the badge of shame it is made out to be. Frankly many people who don’t like it seem to have never driven one or even been in one. Many others wax rhapsodic about any European offering which we never got, including the Mondeo (Yes I know about the Contour/Mystique, not exactly the same car/generation). Go figure. The grass is always greener etc., I guess.
Jaguar’s goal was obviously to make some inroads with the A4/3-series/C-class crowd. Going by the numbers they failed, the car never sold in the numbers envisioned. They probably tarnished the marque a bit as well by running several $299/month lease specials as well. A few years after the car was launched, they even made a wagon version, which I personally find to be extremely attractive, in fact it is one of my favorite car shapes of the last 20 years. The mother of one of my son’s classmates currently has one and I always admire it when I see it.
The engine in our car was a 2.5 liter V6, apparently unique to the X-Type but derived from the Ford Duratec family of engines. It featured variable valve timing, 4 valves per cylinder, and produced 192hp at 6800 rpm with 180 ft-lbs of torque at 3000 rpm. The transmission was made by JATCO in Japan.
All X-Types were built in Halewood, England, which was originally a Ford plant, but given over to Jaguar when the X-Type began production. In later years, the Land Rover Freelander was built there as well.
Our car was extremely reliable. It was covered under a bumper to bumper warranty up to 4 years / 50,000 miles which we never had occasion to use. The servicing of the car was covered by Jaguar for the same period and my wife still to this day has fond memories of how well she was treated every time she took the car in, in fact she has asked for another Jaguar several times just based on the service experience! I took it to British Motorcars (the SF dealer closest to my work at the time) a couple of times myself and had to concur, it really was a great experience, leagues above anything else I had experienced before.
I’m not one of those people who is always washing their car, in fact I would probably fit in very well in Eugene, OR in that regard, but this car was one of those rare cars where it was a delightful experience. It’s hard not to sound like some sort of freak, but the curves of a Jaguar, especially over the headlights on this one, are simply fun to wash. As a result this car stayed cleaner than most of our others. My current ride is the only car that I’ve enjoyed washing more, but that story will have to wait a while longer…
Not that it was all tales of fun and frolicking, there were bad times as well, however none were the car’s fault or mechanical in nature. Once Allison was pulling into a parking spot with a bit of gusto and somehow got too close to the rear step bumper of a large pickup truck, heavily denting the right rear door and fender. A few days after that the front left corner picked up a heavy scrape from our rock wall. Our insurance company picked up the rear damage and we paid the body shop a discounted rate to fix the front at the same time. It looked good as new when it came back, thank goodness.
Our daughter, who I have mentioned was prone to carsickness, did not find this car to be a cure for that. I specifically recall an incident of projectile vomiting on the way back from Lake Tahoe in the curvy section coming down the hill. Not a fun thing to try to clean at the roadside several hours from home but I suppose it is one of those “essential parenting experiences”. All hail cave-like solid black European interiors for ease of cleaning! (My apologies if you are reading this over Sunday breakfast, and yes, I felt similar at the time to how you do right now).
Another time, while we still lived in Oakland, some neighborhood kids thought it might be fun to see what happened if they threw a rock at the car. Well, the window shattered. Getting it replaced was not difficult bit picking the hundreds of little pieces of glass out of the interior sucked.
Although the car was great, I did start to get nervous about the time the warranty was getting close to running out. That is what constantly reading internet forums dedicated to your car will do for you. In the end Allison’s parents were looking for another car and ended up buying it from us. They put another 50,000 miles on it before replacing it, however they never had any issues either, just a mechanic that frankly was taking them to the cleaners every time it needed servicing. There is nothing special about the technology on this car that should make it more expensive to repair or maintain than the average car.
I recall one weekend about two years after they bought it we met them in Las Vegas, we had flown and they had driven the car. I ended up driving it that weekend looking at condos and the temperature was a record 125 degrees Fahrenheit. The car did not break a sweat, but we sure did!
A week after they had agreed to buy it but before they had picked it up, we took it to a local mechanic for something minor, I do not recall what it was exactly. However when it was ready they asked my wife to back it out of their shop (which is weird in and of itself), as she did, somehow one of the mechanics let the rollup door slam down on top of the car and then quickly lifted it back up. She got out and since she is short could not really see the top but was assured it was fine.
When I got home I immediately noticed the large dent with two square edges across the roof of the car. She explained what happened and I called the owner of the repair shop who denied everything. I kind of lost my temper and suggested that my wife show the car to her entire mom’s group and explain what happened and why they should not take their cars to that mechanic. He then agreed to look at the car again, and after looking at the roof, measuring the bottom of his door and speaking with his mechanic agreed to pay for a paintless dent repair place to remove the headliner and fix the damage. After a day’s work it was perfect again and it went down to Orange County to the in-laws who were none the wiser.
Maybe I’m the only one, but our Jaguar never left us stranded, the electrical system was flawless, the car was a pleasure to drive and own, and overall I would not refuse to own another. (But it would definitely be the wagon next time)!