As far as I’m concerned, Jaguar died the day the suits killed the F-Type. Jag’s prototype Boxster beater had it all: sexy looks, the promise of phenomenal performance and a decent chance of hitting the right price point. But oh no, the American owned company decided to spend its time and money building… diesels. And a badge engineered Ford Mondeo called the X-Type. And estates— sorry, “sportwagons.” So, seven years later, I found myself behind the wheel of Jaguar’s perfect storm: a diesel X-Type Sportwagon. Or, as the Brits say, the dog’s breakfast.
To its credit (however inadvertent), the Sportwagon loses most of the inherent silliness of the X-Type sedan’s XJ mini-me design. While the Sportwagon offers precisely nothing in the way of aesthetic originality, the larger pallet makes it a more convincing faux XJ, a model whose sheetmetal offered virtually nothing in the way of originality over the previous XJ, whose design was a giant leap backwards from its squared-off predecessor. In other words, grandfather clock carrying Jaguar badge snobs need apply.
Despite an elegant tail design (stolen from the previous gen BMW 5-Series wagon) and enormous rear taillights (pilfered from a school bus), the Sportwagon wants the world to think it’s a, um, sport wagon. Our UK-spec tester made a bit more of an effort to project performance than its American counterpart. And I do mean a bit: blacked-out window chrome and [optional] mucho macho Proteus 18” wheels flaunting gold brake calipers. Compared to the gold standard in this niche, Audi’s S and RS Avants, the XTSW looks like a small station wagon wearing oversized running shoes.
At least it’s a small station wagon. With the rear seats folded down, antique dealers and their empty nest clients will be well pleased with the Jag’s class-leading cargo hole, complete with large, properly positioned tie-down rings. With the rear seats in place, schleppers must pack their gear to the rafters. Unfortunately, without a cargo net, passengers risk death by Tumi. In compensation, Jaguar provides a Styrofoam-lined underfloor hole with a 12-volt power point– perfect for hiding your recharging laptop from nosey Narcs.
Forget utility. Our tester’s Sport Premium interior just wasn’t going to let the performance theme die a dignified death. The dash was afflicted with a carbon fiber veneer, a material that belongs in a Jaguar station wagon like Spandex shorts belong on an English footman. The Sportwagon’s thick, leather wrapped steering wheel, highly bolstered seats and six-speed gearbox underlined the model’s accelerative intent. The silver-rimmed white-on-black gauges are elegant in a Darth Vader kinda way, but they lack the large print legibility Jaguar’s target demographic requires.
Before we evaluate the Sportwagon’s sportiness, it’s important to note that Jaguar fits the US version with ye olde 3.0-liter Duratec V6, four wheel-drive and a price tag knocking on 40 large. Our English sacrilege special came with a 2.2-liter diesel, front wheel-drive and a $50k sticker.
OK, fire-up the oil burning Sportwagon. The ensuing clatter sounds like a Manhattan deli dishwasher heard through airplane earplugs. Never mind the noise, feel the G’s! Actually, the first G is “Gee, when is this thing going to get going?” The second is “Gee, why would anyone put this much torque into a front wheel-drive car?” But the third G stands for genuine grunt. Don’t be fooled by the Sportwagon’s distinctly unsportsmanlike 9.3 second zero to sixty sprint. At 2000rpm, the Sportwagon surges with genuine conviction. You’re all done at 4000rpm, but it’s a hoot while it lasts.
In terms of handling, the Sportwagon suffers from a bad case of luxosport bi-polar disorder. The power-assisted steering works wonderfully around town, but makes at speed positioning and mid-course corrections a distinctly dodgy business. The brakes feel pliable in the ‘burbs, seriously squidgy anywhere else. If you somehow master the art of speeding and nothingness, you face yet another dynamic challenge: the Sportwagon’s six speed box is as rubbery as Jim Carrey’s malleable mug.
But abyssmal ride quality is this car’s greatest sin. If the Sportwagon displayed sufficient grace over rough surfaces, you could simply dismiss its sporting pretensions as a bit of harmless, largely theoretical fun, kick back, savor the mileage and cruise. But the Sportwagon’s engineers were determined to make this beast stay flat and level in the corners—which it bloody well does— no matter how poor the resulting ride. Wrong answer.
Yes, well, God knows there’ve been a lot of those over at Jaguar since Ford assumed control of the storied English automaker. The diesel Jaguar Sportwagon embodies all the brand’s failed attempts at snatching some of BMW’s success (even the name sounds like a German translation). Hello? Jaguar didn’t make its bones building ultimate driving machines. They [poorly] crafted saloons and sports cars with pace and grace. Unless Jaguar returns to their founding formula, laughable distractions like the Sportwagon will be their undoing.