Autos: Wagon Mastered
Jaguar’s cheeky X-Type compact was born four years ago in a desperate and hurried attempt to sustain profits by beating the best of the little ones from Mercedes, Audi, and BMW. It failed to do so because the X-Type was too under powered for the Americas, said the Americans, and included too many underpinnings plagiarized from the European Ford Mondeo, said the Europeans; it did not ride like a Jaguar, did not handle like a Jaguar, and did not have the driveway status of a Jaguar. And, the Europeans wondered, where was the diesel version?
Jaguar has since addressed all of these concerns. X-Type power has been increased to a respectable 227 hp from a 3.0-liter V-6, which gives it more muscle than the BMW 330i, Mercedes C320, or Audi A4. The X-Type Sport version offers a black mesh grille, spoilers, carbon fiber trim, and a crouching stance and hidden suspension tweaks demanded by younger and more mischievous drivers. For their parents, there is an X-Type VDP (Vanden Plas) with the burl walnut interior trim, chrome mirror caps, heated leather seats with color-contrast piping, and automotive decadence associated with that name. And two years ago, Europeans received their patiently awaited turbo diesel. Thanks to these adjustments, the X-Type—which is offered in eight combinations of body styles and power trains—has become Jaguar’s most popular vehicle, with worldwide sales of more than 200,000.
Now Jaguar has introduced the X-Type Sport wagon, an all-in-one sport-utility vehicle, shooting brake, estate car, station wagon, low and luxurious van, and soccer mom transport. It is the company’s first utility vehicle, and because of today’s market demands, it represents a necessary break from building cars that carry only bodies.
From the B-pillar forward, this nifty, thrifty ($37,000) five-door is a standard X-Type: same trim levels, power plant, all-wheel drive, ABS, leather seats, and side curtain airbags. From the B-pillar back, however, the Sport wagon clearly is intended to carry luggage and other loads. The roofline has been extended to cover 50 cubic feet of cargo space with the split rear seats folded flat—more room than is offered by station wagons from Germany’s Grosse Drei.
The rear entry is doubly functional, with a window that opens independently for the loading of dry cleaning and grocery bags, and a full tailgate for the manhandling of fire logs, bags of mulch, and other hernia-producing lading. For those light of biceps, opening and closing the tailgate is assisted by gas-filled struts. A cargo net, tie-down straps mated to floor-mounted D rings, roof rails, cargo lights, and a retractable cover for concealing valuable loads from larcenous eyes complete the Bekins package.
All of this utility might seem to challenge Jaguar’s reputation for smooth, luxury motoring, but once you are behind the wood-and-leather-covered wheel, nothing sets the Sport wagon apart from an X-Type sedan—except perhaps the odors of any garden supplies you might be transporting.