By on November 8, 2011

The last time Jaguar built an entry-level car based on front-drive architecture, it built the X-Type, a car that was nearly universally panned as “not quite a real Jaguar.” At thee time though, Ford was desperate to make a little money on its Premier Auto Group, and bringing Jaguar downmarket was the only way to do that relatively cheaply. And, all things considered, it could have been a lot worse: at least Ford was working from a good basis in the form of the Mondeo (Contour), which at the time was considered one of the better driving mass-market sedans. But if anything, the fact that the Jaguar brand was being used as Ford’s corporate pawn was a big part of why the X-Type flopped (the company’s overly-earnest insistence that the X-Type was in fact a ‘proper Jag” (see above) didn’t help either). And flop it did: sales topped out at 33k units in the US, and enjoyed only four years of rapidly-declining five-digit sales. While reviewers like Robert Farago used terms like “laughable distraction” to describe the baby Jag.

But those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it. Now owned by India’s Tata Motors, Jaguar is once again aiming at the entry-luxury market, and it’s planning… a front-drive sedan.

Of course, times have changed a bit since the go-go 90s, when Jag last dove into the volume market. Mercedes has a a front-drive CLS coming, Buick’s Verano is warming up the segment, and a new Audi A3 will continue to build interest in entry-compact luxury sedans. Besides, it’s not that Jaguar wants to build another X-Type… but American CAFE standards demand that Jag return to the scene of its greatest mis-step in recent history. According to Autocar

Despite the reputation of the unloved X-Type, Jaguar’s decision to build a range of front-drive cars is being partly forced on the company by the stringent new CAFE fuel economy regulations due in the US from 2016.

According to the CAFE rules, by the time the 2016 model year arrives, Jaguar needs to be selling significant numbers of petrol-engined vehicles capable of more than 50mpg, as a result of the US market’s lack of interest in diesel. These fuel economy demands will then become progressively more stringent by 2025.

Anyway, on to the car itself.

the new model is thought to be about 4.5 metres long and will be powered by Jaguar Land Rover’s all-new three-cylinder, 1.5-litre engine and four-cylinder, 1.8 and 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and diesels. Sophisticated new-generation eight and nine-speed automatic gearboxes are also thought to be on the menu.

Of course there’s far too little information out now to know how this car will turn out, or how it will impact the Jaguar brand (for example, it’s not clear if this car will be based on the Evoque’s platform, or a new “mixed-materials” architecture). But there’s no lack of awareness among the Jag boys about the fact that they’re treading on dangerous territory. Jag’s global brand director Adrian Hallmark admits

We’ve got to be careful, and not be too British and think that just because we didn’t hit the bull’s-eye first time [with the X-type], we can’t hit it a second time

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21 Comments on “Jaguar Goes Front-Drive… Again...”

  • avatar

    Mercedes has a a front-drive CLS coming, Buick’s Verano is warming up the segment, and a new Audi A3 will continue to build interest in entry-compact luxury sedans.

    The Verano? Really? Was anyone considering a Jag remotely thinking about a Buick? Anyone?

    Besides, it’s not that Jaguar wants to build another X-Type… but American CAFE standards demand that Jag return to the scene of its greatest mis-step in recent history

    CAFE isn’t the boogeyman, here. You can violate CAFE to your heart’s content as long as you’re willing to pay the fine, and it’s not like similar taxes and levvies aren’t applied in Europe and Asia—both larger markets—so there’s precedent.

    And yes, they could do diesel or hybrid as well. Or just make the cars abominably slow.

    The move to a front-drive based car has more to do with being able to make a car off a commodity platform and reap the benefits of selling a cheap car at a higher margin. CAFE has problems, sure, but in this case, crying about CAFE is letting the OEMs off the hook.

    Jag’s greatest mis-step isn’t the X-Type per se—Audi has done very well of the A4, as has Lexus and the ES—it’s that Jaguar totally failed to compete, failed to market, and failed to do anything with it’s brand.

    Part (lots?) of this was Ford’s pricing decisions that saw Jag play the value card (which is death in this market) as well as having it’s halo compromised to support Aston. There’s no reason, other than perhaps meagre materials, that the X-Type couldn’t have competed. After all, the first A4 to gain serious traction shared bones with the Passat; why cohldn’t the Mondeo-Jag do the same?

    • 0 avatar

      Strictly speaking the B5 Audi A4 came first, 1994 in Europe. The B5 Passat came 3-4 years later and was sort of a stopgap as the old model was not selling well. They reverted back to a different platform and a transverse engine in 2005.

      Europe needs a Jaguar X-type replacement,to compete with A4 and 3 series . Diesel powered FWD X types were fairly popular in Europe particularly the station wagons.

      Probably not much potential in the US.

    • 0 avatar

      “The Verano? Really? Was anyone considering a Jag remotely thinking about a Buick? Anyone?”

      Why not? They’re both old people brands.

  • avatar

    The X-Type’s problem wasn’t that it was front-drive; the X-Type’s problem was the X-Type. Poor performance, value, reliability, etc doomed it. Its beauty was barely skin deep. But honestly, a better car would have bucked Jaguar’s reputation, anyway. Personally, I think it fit right in with the rest of the Jaguar family.

    Condemning the X-Type because it was front drive is like saying a water-cooled front-engine car can’t be a Porsche.

    • 0 avatar

      “Poor performance, value, reliability, etc doomed it.”

      All of those traits are central to the Jaguar brand. Being front wheel drive is what made it different.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      The X-type was not really a Jaguar, it was a result of badge engineering at its worst.

      • 0 avatar

        It was as much a Jaguar as the S-type was. There were Lincoln and Ford versions of the S.

      • 0 avatar

        Definitely the Lincoln LS. The Lincoln LS and S-Type were more similar than the X-Type and Mondeo. What are you counting as the Ford, the Thunderbird? I guess that’s correct, it was based heavily on the LS, even the same dashboard. Even the Mustang is supposed to be on a heavily modified version of that platform (going from double-wishbones/multilink to struts/live axle – yet the best handling of anything that came out of that platform).

        This might mean that that the Mustang, for $22K, is a modern day E-Type. Or not.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    “at least Ford was working from a good basis in the form of the Mondeo (Contour), which at the time was considered one of the better driving mass-market sedans” Quote
    This was the main problem. The Mondeo is dynamically good, but built with cheap parts. Failures of dual-mass flywheels on Mondeos = failures of dual-mass flywheels on X-Types. Nobody wanted to pay Jaguar money for what everyone knew was a re-skinned Ford with nice interior.

  • avatar

    An interesting thing about the X-Type, at least in my area, is that the damn things will not depreciate.

    Because of the AWD + stick shift I look for one as a winter beater once and a while, but the prices are nuts, especially for something with the combined reliability of a Jaguar and a Ford Contour. Same with the 9-2x, although despite being a near orphan it at least has Subaru reliability.

  • avatar

    Why should Jag get to survive when SAAB doesn’t? Now, if TATA bought SAAB and tried to sell a FWD entry-lux car as a SAAB, that would make sense.
    And I always thought that BMW should have bought SAAB and sold FWD SAABs instead of Minis. This way BMW is not diluted by future FWD economy cars, and SAAB survives almost intact as FWD sporty AND practical cars. Stupid Mini….

  • avatar

    Having driven a few of them, the X-Type was actually a pleasant car to drive (especially in the 2.5 – 5 speed version), and I’ve always felt that it got one of the more undeserved slaggings of any car in the past decade or two. Unfortunately, anyone who wrote about it just could not pass up that the car was “nothing more than a rebadged Mondeo” – which was quite untrue. Same platform, yes. Badge-engineering, no. Contrary to too many uninformed writers, this was not a Jaguar Cimarron.

    I’d still love to have one. Like racer-esq. has noted, resale has stayed higher than expected. I could buy an S-Type for the same money, if I wanted one.

  • avatar

    I believe the X Type had All Wheel Drive as the only option for all years it sold.

    or is FWD “architecture” mean something

    • 0 avatar

      In the US, I believe all X-Types were AWD. There was a FWD diesel model in Europe though, the wagon version having some sort of satanically possessed cruise control issue.

  • avatar

    To the right side of the article itself is an ad for 2012 Genesis.

  • avatar

    Only auto journalists get hung up about FWD vs RWD and drone on about how FWD is inferior. Sorry to see that TTAC has fallen into the same hole. Being FWD hasn’t stopped Audi, Honda/Acura, Saab and Volvo from selling “aspirational” cars by the boatload. The average car buyer doesn’t care about RWD and most probably prefer FWD due to better traction in the winter. It wasn’t being FWD that affected the X-type. It was just a car that was too expensive for what it offered and didn’t inspire enough potential owners.

    • 0 avatar

      Being FWD hasn’t stopped Audi, Honda/Acura, Saab and Volvo from selling “aspirational” cars by the boatload

      Saab? Volvo? Boatload?!

      I agree with you on principle, but you need better examples. Even Acura is dicey.

  • avatar

    Maybe Cadillac’s upcoming XTS will break what seems like a “curse” with cars referred to as “X” when not denoting all-wheel drive. Remember GM’s deplorable “X” cars, the Citation, etc? The Jag X-Type was a great idea poorly executed by Ford. It was just plain frumpy looking, evoking a miniature version of the even frumpier XJ sedan.

  • avatar

    If they make it a good-looking, three and five-door hot hatch that can compete with the VW Golf, Ford Focus etcetera, then I say more power to Jaguar! If they dress another car up in Jag Drag like they did with the X-Type then I will be disappointed.

    Please don’t disappoint me Jaguar.

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