04/19/05 — Jaguar joins the station wagon crowd

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Jaguar joins the station wagon crowd

Jaguar X-Type Sportswagon (2005)

Station wagon-like vehicles are fashionable again, especially among the high-dollar crowd.

Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Saab, Volvo, Lexus and Audi all have some version of what was formerly known as a station wagon.

Jaguar X-Type Sportswagon, 2005

Many of these pricey contrivances now come with such monikers as Sportcross, Avant quattro and sport wagon.

Whatever you call them, these premium-brand vehicles have five doors including a rear hatch. They are all attractive and aerodynamic with slightly sloping roofs that look more tied together design-wise than their sedan siblings.

They hold more stuff. And many are set up to mimic the sports-sedan performance we’ve come to expect from European thoroughbreds BMW and Mercedes.

All that being said, it was still a shocker to see a Jaguar wagon parked in the lot a few weeks ago. Jaguar and station wagon are somehow incongruous.

But there it was, a Jaguar X-Type Sportwagon.

We should have figured that parent Ford would have eventually developed a wagon.

The X-Type is Jaguar’s entry-level car, which debuted in 2002 to much fanfare. It’s as sleek and good looking as the vaunted flagship XJ, albeit slightly scaled down. It has the rounded quad headlights, leaper hood ornament and the Jaguar-style grille.

The Sportwagon is as classy looking as the sedan.

Unfortunately good looks have not sold this car. And whether the addition of a wagon to the model lineup will bolster sales is problematic. Jaguar is in trouble and the declining sales of the X-Type is one of the reasons.

The X-Type was a hit in its first year with 33,000 copies sold. Sales should have gone up from there, but they have slumped to 27,534 in 2003 and 22,621 in 2004. Despite the addition of the wagon and other upgrades to the lineup, only 3,362 units were sold in the first three months of ’05. Multiply that out and X-Type sales won’t hit 14,000 this year.

We must say here that we like the X-Type. We liked it in 2002 and we like it in 2005.

But when you factor in direct competition from such popular nameplates as the BMW 330i, Acura TL, Lexus ES 330, Lexus IS 300, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4, we can perhaps see why the X-Type has failed to gain a foothold in the entry-level luxury market in the U.S.

Yet, the X-Type has such standard features as all-wheel drive, side-curtain airbags and antilock brakes with Brakeforce distribution. This is safety stuff that should sell cars.

For the sporty driver, both of the engine choices can be paired with a manual transmission. That should be good for a few more sales.

The interior is adorned in real wood trim, leather seats and one-touch windows. The center console is a replica of the horseshoe style made famous by the bigger and pricier Jag. And that should be an incentive to own a copy of the historic English nameplate at a bargain price.

The Sportwagon is more upscale than the base 2.5 sedan with a 3.0-liter V-6 pumping out 227 horsepower as standard equipment. Most people will opt for the 5-speed automatic. And with that will come adequate performance measured at 7.8 seconds from 0 to 60 and 16 seconds at 89 miles per hour in the quarter mile.

The ride is smooth, and the car has more of a family flavor than a sports sedan demeanor meaning that the small Jaguar is not particularly at home carving up the back road twisties.

The wagon offers 50 cubic feet of storage space with the 70/30 rear seatbacks folded forward. A relatively flat load floor is created without the need to remove the headrests.

While storage is a bit on the short side, it is considerably more than the sedan’s 16-cubic foot trunk. But incredibly it is a third smaller than the compact Focus wagon, also manufacturered by Ford, which has a capacity of 74 cubic feet.

A big bonus is the added 1.3-inches of rear-seat headroom created by the station wagon design.

But unchanged from the sedan are tight quarters for rear-seat passengers who must jockey with the front-seaters to gain adequate legroom.

The Jaguar has a handy rear tailgate that can be opened as one piece or by using the separately opening rear window. A pair of gas-filled struts makes for smooth operation. A retractable tonneau cover keeps items stored in back from prying eyes.

We found the switchgear fairly intuitive and easy to use. One upgrade for 2005 that we enjoyed was the rotary thumb wheel controls on the steering wheel for cruise control and audio settings. The cruise control speed can be adjusted simply by rolling the thumbwheel on the right side of the steering wheel. Neat idea.

The X-Type Sportwagon is not inexpensive. Base price, which does include a lot of good stuff, is $36,995 including destination charge. Our test vehicle, with a couple of extras including $595 worth of metallic paint, stickered for $39,450.

If you want to join the Jaguar family in a practical family way with a car that looks like a Jaguar both inside and out, the new 2005 X-Type wagon may be the car for you.

By Jim Meachen
Published in Car Reviews on April 19, 2005 4:11 PM