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Jaguar X-Type 2.2 Diesel S Auto

Click to view picture galleryJaguar has revised its X-Type
  but, despite 500 changes, you have
  to look hard to spot the difference.
  Chris Rees drives the 2009 model
 
year car to find out if the updated
  X-Type
has finally thrown off its
 
‘driven by mature men image...”

SOMETIMES IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO BREAK DOWN PERCEPTIONS once they've taken hold. Jaguar has, therefore, quite some hurdle to overcome with its revised 2009 model year X-Type. The original was launched back in 2001 as Jaguar's entry-level model and a direct rival for the BMW 3 Series.

Here's the received wisdom about Jaguar's X-Type. One, it hasn't been a commercial success. Two, it's basically a Ford Mondeo underneath. Three, it's old-fashioned and driven by 'mature' men.

Jaguar is determined that its revised X-Type should debunk these 'wisdoms'. It's made a claimed 500 changes to the 2009 X-Type, which it says make the car more "modern and dynamic". It's hoping that these changes will be enough to reverse a disappointing sales record.

First up, looks. It takes a while to spot 2009's changes because the new X-Type looks almost identical to the old one. By modern facelift standards, the Jag has hardly had a nip 'n' tuck, let alone a full face job. There's a new mesh grille, new Jaguar badging, a revised front bumper and a new lower grille bar. From the side, you might be able to spot the new mirrors and new side and sill mouldings. The rear bumper is lower, too, and the saloon gets a chrome rear trim bar — but that's about it. Squint and the profile of the X-Type is virtually the same as the original Jaguar XJ of 1968. Modern? Not in the way that Audi, BMW and Mercedes are.

Next, the interior. This is always an area where Jaguar has excelled. There's a genuine feeling of quality here, from the solid thunk of the doors as they close and the authentic wood trim, to the stitching on the leather.

So what are the cabin changes? Overall, there's a bolder look, one reinforced by some very adventurous trim patterns and colours. Jaguar describes some of these as "contemporary modern — even outlandish". The diamond-pattern, plum-coloured leather seats in the car I drove would certainly fit that description. There's a choice of wood veneer (for the 'old gent'-type buyer) or modern carbon-type trim (for the more contemporary chap). New tungsten and chrome detailing recalls the style of the big luxury Jaguar XJ. By and large, the X-Type's cabin feels classically classy and has loads more character than BMW or Mercedes. And for my money, this is the X-Type's greatest strength.

Jaguar hasn't changed the packaging, so the X-Type's strengths and weaknesses remain the same. That means decent room up front, rather restricted legroom in the rear but an enormous boot, even in saloon guise.

So how about the mechanical side? First, let's debunk the Mondeo myth. Yes, the original X-Type did share 20 per cent of its mechanicals with the Mondeo — but that means 80 per cent of it was pure Jaguar. In any case, the Mondeo was the best-handling car of its class, and I'd never cite that as a conceptual fault.

The original X-Type was launched exclusively on a four-wheel drive platform. That was mainly because Jaguar reasoned that the market wasn't ready for a front-wheel drive Jag. In fact, pure front-wheel drive did arrive in the small-engined versions of the X-Type and it made very little difference to the way the car drove — which was admirably. The mix of front- and all-wheel drive for 2009 hasn't changed.

I went straight for the newcomer in the X-Type range: the 2.2-litre diesel version with an automatic gearbox. Remarkably, this is the first time that automatic has been offered in the X-Type diesel range. The so-called Sequential Shift gearbox is in fact a pretty conventional automatic and not one of those DSG-type sequential shifts offered by Audi and BMW.

This is another area where the Jaguar feels less cutting-edge and more backward-looking. It's a smooth-shifting, six-speed unit that selects the right ratio most of the time, and it cleverly uses technology to prevent torque converter slippage. But the 'sports' setting is an optimistic label and the manual up-down changes bring virtually no benefits to driveability. It's best to view the auto as a supremely simple, effective fully-automatic system.

The 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel is decently torquey (266lb ft at 1,800rpm) but compared to similar-sized diesels from Renault, Toyota and Audi that are producing 175bhp, the Jaguar's 143bhp seems a bit feeble, especially in a prestige setting like this. It's not enough of a step up from Jaguar's 128bhp 2.0-litre diesel option, and that's reflected in the rather sluggish 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds. Top speed is 129mph. At least it's pretty economical: the diesel auto returns 41mpg on the combined cycle and keeps CO2 emissions down to 184g/km.

The good news is that the engine is very refined, and this sense of tranquillity is bolstered by suspension which keeps the ride composed in most conditions. There's certainly little to fault in the way the X-Type handles. Through a series of fast, flowing bends on my Northern Irish test route, the X-Type remained firmly planted, its steering feel was consistently accurate and full of feedback, and its levels of grip were always impressive. Yes, there is a little more body roll than I'd like but overall, this is an enjoyable and safe car to pilot at speed.

The X-Type range now starts at 21,500 for the 2.0 diesel S saloon (2,370 less than the entry-level BMW 318d). The 2.2 diesel automatic, as tested here, starts at 23,950. Equipment across the range includes Bluetooth 'phone connectivity, stability control, automatic wipers and headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel and cruise control. The lavish SE pack adds 4,000 to the price but includes items like a colour touch screen with SatNav (an excellent system to use) and a TV tuner. The top-spec Sport Premium adds a further 1,500 to the price, while estates carry a 1,400 premium.

In pure sales terms, the changes seem to have worked: sales are up 50 per cent compared to last year (although the baseline sales figures were never very impressive). But I think Jaguar should have been much bolder with its revisions. What the X-Type really needs is a complete overhaul — in fact, it needs a dose of XF magic.

The new big Jag XF has been very well received in the marketplace and is modern, forward-thinking and cutting-edge — for the first time since the 1968 XJ, in fact. It's about time that Jaguar realised its future lies with cars like the XF; not a 40-year-old design, however iconic it may be. Then it can finally debunk that last monkey on its
back — that it's 'a brand for old men' — and welcome a new generation to the Jaguar badge. — Chris Rees

Jaguar X-Type 2.2 Diesel S Auto
| 23,950
Maximum speed: 129mph | 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 41mpg | Power: 143bhp | Torque: 266lb ft
CO2 184g/km | VED Band E 170 | Insurance group 15