Jaguar engineer Kevin Stride gets upset when people refer to the X-Type as a glorified Mondeo.
The Coventry firm’s chief programme engineer claims the criticism was unjust because the premium saloon and estate range shares only a few bolts and a minor section of its floor pan with the volume model from former parent Ford.
According to Stride, who played a key role in bringing the smash-hit XF range to market, the link between the products has become even more tenuous in the latest versions of the car maker’s entry-level line-up.
After a substantial package of modifications, the baby Jaguar finally gets the luxury and mechanical refinement it needs to make it a viable showroom proposition as an alternative in the medium executive sector dominated by BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
Fresh bumpers, an XF-style grille and a bright ‘splitter’ in the lower air intakes give the X-Type a fresh new face and, more significantly, a squatter appearance while revised sill mouldings, re-profiled side mouldings and door mirrors with integrated turn signal repeaters add an upmarket air.
Aimed at lifting the perception of the car, the exterior upgrades are a success, and a series of detail changes to the instrument panel, new seat designs and revised trim packages also make a big improvement to the interior environment.
But the move that most underlines Jaguar’s ambitions for a bigger share in the sector comes with the long-overdue mating of automatic transmission and the 2.2-litre diesel motor.
With six ratios and a choice of auto or manual modes, the Asian-Warner box is a sterling performer.
Unlike automatic XF and XK models, there’s no paddle- shift arrangement.
However, a sports setting allows the rejuvenated model to offer a more involving drive without marring its newfound refinement and the calm, relaxing demeanour traditionally associated with Big Cat motoring.
#AM_ART_SPLIT# Behind the wheel
Diesel engines and automatic transmissions always go well together, but the arrangement in the X-type is a marriage made in heaven.
While the car’s body styling changes reflect a shift of direction in design, mating an excellent power unit with a high-grade auto box holds greater significance for the driver in terms of perceived quality.
Smooth is the word as the six-speed unit makes imperceptible changes between ratios, employs partial lock-up at lower speeds to benefit both transmission efficiency and fuel economy and has ‘smart’ electronic gadgetry to match shift points with varying load conditions such as hill climbing or towing.
Moving the lever to the left brings sport mode into action and nudging it forward or backward is all that’s needed for gear selection, although the standard drive position is more than adequate for most situations in a car that performs with aplomb, cruises in silence and displays all the qualities that set it apart from rivals.
Price: £22,500 - £30,400
Engine: 2.2-litre 143bhp
Transmission: Six-sp auto
Performance: 0-62: 9.1 sec; top speed: 134mph
Efficiency: 47.1mpg; 159g/km CO2
Strengths: Fresh poise, more assertive styling, competitive performance
Weakness: Paddle-change feature would reinforce sporty credentials.