When it was introduced, the X-Type set new standards for rigidity of structure. A rigid structure translates into a car that can be tuned to ride smoothly and quietly while cornering like a cat. Our experience with the X-Type bears this out. We put the X-Type through its paces on winding rural roads near Dijon, France, and north of Atlanta, Georgia, and around the banked high-speed turns of Atlanta Motor Speedway. In all situations, the X-Type was the epitome of stability and confidence without resulting to a buckboard ride around town.
The narrow, high-crowned pavement in France follows the wandering ways of long-ago farm animals over varied terrain. When polished by rain, it becomes a driver's challenge. The dampness was simply erased by the all-wheel-drive system, which offered comforting security. On the French roads, the X-Type seemed to rise to every challenge. Whether on a major highway or winding back road, it always felt smooth and stable. The steering was sharp and precise, and the car feels nimble in corners yet secure at speed.
To further explore the handling, we took the X-Type onto a tight handling course near Atlanta. A corner flooded with water showed off the advantage of the Sport package; the high-performance Pirelli P Zero tires provided better grip in the wet than the standard, narrower Continental ContiSport Contact tires, greatly reducing understeer (the tendency of the car to push out toward the outside of a turn when the front tires lose grip). The Sport package also seemed to offer quicker response, though it wasn't a huge difference. In any case, ride quality doesn't seem to suffer with the Sport package and we liked the way the sports seats kept us in place when whipping through slaloms and chicanes.
That flooded curve also helped demonstrate the value of Jaguar's Traction 4 all-wheel-drive system. The system incorporates a center differential and viscous coupling to split the torque 40 percent to the front wheels, 60 percent to the rear. Slippage at either set of wheels will send more power to the opposite end of the car. The viscous coupling automatically and transparently transfers power away from slipping wheels to those with the best traction, helping to keep the X-Type moving forward and tracking true no matter the conditions underneath. In short, the X-Type performs well in the wet and we presume it handles well in the snow.
The Dynamic Stability Control system made it easier to drive the car most of the time. By applying brakes at selected wheels, it can help control a skid by tightening up the sliding corner of the car. DSC reduced the chance of losing control or spinning out and it reduced yawing when charging too fast through a slalom. In practical terms, DSC can help a driver maintain control in an emergency, to help avoid an accident or reduce its severity. The system can be switched off for those rare times when the driver feels it's too intrusive, as when we drove the S-Type on a closed course to test its limits. By default, the system switches back on every time the car is re-started.
The X-Type feels equally comfortable on the highway and in fast, sweeping turns. It was supremely stable at 120 mph on Atlanta Motor Speedway's back straight and felt confident turning in for the banked turns at that speed. It was easy to drive flat out through the facility's infield road racing circuit. The well-controlled suspension and the all-wheel drive add to the X-Type's confident feel when driving at the limit. The X-Type offer predictable handling when pushing its tires beyond their limits, something that can happen at much lower speeds when it's slippery. It felt comfortable when braking and turning at the same time, a move that ruffles many cars. The handling is quite neutral, understeering at times, yet willing to rotate according to the skilled driver's wishes in the middle of a turn through use of the throttle.
The brakes, particularly the high-performance Brembos in the Sport Package X-Type, were authoritative and reliable. We'd call them Autobahn brakes, able to slow the car quickly from high speeds. They worked well at Atlanta Motor Speedway, braking at the threshold at the end of a long straightaway in preparation for the slower turns in the infield road course. Using the brakes repeatedly revealed no problems.
Engine torque is spread over a power curve in the desirable mesa shape. The 3.0-liter V6 engine doesn't have the hard edge of BMW's inline-6, but the Jaguar's power is there early at launch and accessible over a wide range of speeds. A car like this somehow feels more powerful than it really is because there is never a questing need for more oomph at a critical moment, as when you're making a left turn onto a busy thoroughfare or passing a tractor-trailer rig on a narrow two-lane road. Moreover, the X-Type's 0-60 mph acceleration figures (6.6 seconds for the 3.0, 7.9 for the 2.5 with manual transmissions, according to Jaguar) are competitive among small luxury sedans.
The weight of the 2.5-liter and 3.0-liter X-Type models is the same. The 3.0-liter V6 delivers quicker acceleration performance, while the 2.5-liter provides better fuel economy. The 3.0-liter with manual transmission offers an optimum combination of power and fuel efficiency and is the enthusiast's choice.
Choosing between automatic and manual transmissions mostly comes down to personal preference, however, as both are good choices. Our preference for 2.5-liter model is for the manual. While the 2.5-liter V6 provides good power when paired with the five-speed manual transmission, it sometimes feels a bit underpowered when paired with the automatic. The power of the 3.0-liter makes it a better companion for the automatic.
The five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission works very well. Put it in Drive and it shifts smoothly and predictably up and down, keeping the X-Type's engine in the proper gear for smooth cruising or quick acceleration. Its shift points seem to be the result of some clever mind reading because the transmission selects shift patterns according to driving conditions. The driver can select a sport mode, which raises the shift points to make full use of available engine power. Jaguar's J-gate shifter allows the driver to shift semi-manually, keeping it in the selected gear until the lever is moved. The J-gate works fairly well, but it's more cumbersome than the plus-minus sequential pattern on other semi-manual transmissions. Most of the time, we prefer putting it in Drive and leaving it there.
The five-speed manual, standard on the 2.5-liter and available as a no-cost option with the 3.0 Sport package, has a short throw with sports-car feel. It can add to the fun. If only to nitpick, the clutch pedal is a little vague, and it takes practice to achieve smooth launches and elegant shifts, but a little time in the car solves this. The clutch/shifter package works great when driven with gusto in a high-performance setting.
Jaguar devoted much attention to making the X-Type engines sound right and they were successful. A driver might actually search for some stonewalls to motor between, touch the instant-down on the window and smile at the reverberation.