Jaguar Goes Front-Drive… Again

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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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2 of 21 comments
  • Mjz Mjz on Nov 09, 2011

    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.

  • Vracknal Vracknal on Nov 09, 2011

    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.

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that