In 2001, the expectation surrounding the unveiling of the X-TYPE was unprecedented for Jaguar. This was a particularly frenetic time for the company, as it had embarked on a ‘product led transformation’ of epic proportions. The X-TYPE was the principal weapon in achieving the goal of volume sales.
At the time BMW was selling in the region of 400,000 3-Series models around the world, so the target of selling a quarter of that number of X-TYPEs did not seem wholly unreasonable. Some £300 million was invested in transforming the former Ford Escort plant at Halewood in Liverpool to produce the new model. One of the biggest launch exercises ever undertaken by Jaguar was executed, extrapolated over six months from the first official press shots being released in October 2000 and the first drive in April 2001. At launch, the X-TYPE was available with all-wheel drive only and two petrol engines: a 2.5-litre V6 and a 3.0-litre V6. The engines and manual gearbox were Ford derived, as was much of the suspension. A five-speed Jatco automatic gearbox was also available. The all-wheel drive route was adopted due to fears of alienating traditional rear-wheel drive Jaguar buyers with a front-wheel drive model, but late in 2001 a 157bhp 2.0-litre front-wheel drive variant was announced; with lower CO2 emissions and a £19,995 list price. But there was far more in the way of X-TYPE variety to come!
In 2003, a new FWD and five-speed manual gearbox only 2.0-litre turbo diesel X-TYPE was launched (its engine a slightly tweaked TDCi Mondeo powerplant that had been well received). Introduced in line with some subtle trim improvements, the X-TYPE finally had a range of engines that would enable it to compete head on with the opposition. In Europe as many as 80 per cent of C-Class sales are diesels, so the potential for the X-TYPE from this point on was clear. In fact, the diesel was so successful that the 2.0-litre petrol option was soon dropped from the range.
After the estate model was launched in 2004 and a high-performance 2.2-litre diesel engine (for both body styles and with a six-speed manual gearbox) in 2005, the X-TYPE range started looking seriously strong. There was plenty of spec choice too, from the traditional-type ‘Classic’ cars with chrome trim, and cream leather/wood interiors, to ‘Sports’ models with no chrome trim, darker exterior colours and leather/alcantara seats with carbon-fibre or aluminium dash inserts. However, after the new XK was introduced in 2006 and the XF followed in 2007, at which point it was well-known that a new XJ was on the way, the X-TYPE began to look increasingly incongruous.
Nevertheless, the model had one more leap of life left in it, this coming in 2008 with a facelift, despite ever-increasing rumours of the model’s impending end… In fact, the facelifted car was very well received. A new grille, deeper side sills and revised front/rear bumpers all lowered its stance, while door mirrors with integral indicators were tidier than those previously used. Inside, the changes were even more extensive, with new and horizontal/diamond stitched leather seats plus door facings to match – a combination that made the interior feel very classy indeed. Upgraded switchgear and dash materials completed what was a successful interior transformation. Under the bonnet, the 2.5-litre V6 petrol option disappeared, leaving the 3.0-litre V6 as the sole remaining petrol/all-wheel drive X-TYPE in facelift form, and even then this engine was only available in the estate body. All other estates, and all saloons, were front-wheel drive and diesel powered.
Here, while the 2.0-litre diesel was still only mated to a five-speed manual box, the 2.2-litre unit could, for the first time, be ordered with a six-speed auto alongside the six-speed manual option. The auto on the 2.2 was big news in the fleet market, and facelift X-TYPE sales were consequently boosted somewhat, but it wasn’t enough to save the model.
At the end of 2009, and with Jaguar no longer under Ford ownership, the final X-TYPE rolled off the Halewood production line. The model symbolises a failed attempt for Jaguar to hit a bigger, mass market. But through circumstances, some of which were beyond the marque’s control, it struggled to achieve its full potential. Initial projections of 200,000 global sales were revised after 2002, its first full year in production.
On the pre-owned market, the X-TYPE will continue for some time to be a car that’s appealing for its many qualities, and the newer you can go the better. The later, post 2004 versions in particular offer fantastic quality, a fine drive and a good choice of powertrains, with the final facelifted range undoubtedly being the best of the lot.