2008 9-7X New Car Test Drive
Beauty may be the ultimate luxury. In an age when even entry-level automobiles are increasingly comfortable and refined, when even compact pickups come with power everything, what remains to distinguish a truly luxurious motorcar?
That's a question a Jaguar owner never has to ask.
A Jaguar is sculpture that moves. It is a finely engineered, but that's expected of a car north of 50 large. A Jaguar is far more than fine engineering: It is slinky, shapely, tastefully bejeweled and endlessly beguiling. And its beauty is more than skin deep, extending into its elegant, fine interior.
All this beauty is backed up by muscular powerplants and finely tuned suspension that provide a smooth, luxurious ride with surprising agility and Gibralter stability. Jaguar has introduced an all-new sedan for 2002 called the X-Type. Starting at $29,950, the X-Type is a major step downward in price for a Jaguar, and a big step upward in mass appeal. It's elegant, comfortable, and fun to drive.
A new competitor in the tough foyer of compact luxury sedans, the X-Type is designed to compete with the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, and, to some extent, the Lexus IS 300. The new Jaguar compares favorably to these highly competent cars in performance figures, while offering a distinct difference in feel and temperament. No question, the Jaguar X-Type is a serious player. After driving it, we feel it's a great alternative to these other superb sedans. Jeep's Grand Cherokee was one of the forerunners to the current SUV craze, and it's been around long enough--a decade now--that you might think of it as old news. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It got a complete redesign in 1999 that brought a roomier, more comfortable cabin and smoother engines, which helped it maintain healthy sales.
For 2002 a new top-line Overland model has been introduced, with a standard combination of formerly optional equipment that includes suede leather seat inserts and the full complement of hard-core off-road pieces such as skid plates, raised suspension and limited-slip axles.
The Grand Cherokee successfully rides on the thin ice of appealing to four-wheel-drive fashion while actually offering true off-road capability. This is the hard-core off-roader of the class, but it's trimmed to keep up with the boulevard-cruising pavement SUVs.
Jaguar's XJ Series includes six models. XJ8, XJ Sport, and Vanden Plas are powered by a 4.0-liter twin-cam V8 rated at 290 horsepower. XJR, XJR100, and Super V8 models get a supercharged version of the same engine rated at 370 horsepower.
XJ8 ($56,330) comes with nearly every luxury item known.
Vanden Plas ($68,330) rides on an extended wheelbase for increased rear-seat legroom. It trimmed in elegant Autolux leather and inlaid walnut burl. Heated mirrors, heated seats, traditional British picnic trays, and a six-disc CD changer contribute to interior ambiance.
XJR ($71,830) comes with a supercharged and intercooled version of Jaguar's AJ-V8. To support its increased performance, the XJR comes with a firmer version of Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) plus sticky P255/40ZR-18 Pirelli P-Zero tires, and special sport seats. For 2002, the DVD navigation system comes standard on the XJR.
Three variations are new for 2002.
The Super V8 ($79,330) is a supercharged Vanden Plas; it combines the long wheelbase and interior luxury of the Vanden Plas with the supercharged engine and tighter suspension of the XJR.
The XJ Sport ($59,330) shares its shorter wheelbase and naturally aspirated (i.e., non-supercharged) engine with the XJ8, but borrows the XJR's sport seats and more aggressive suspension and tire package.
The limited-edition XJR100 adds 19-inch BBS modular wheels and Brembo brakes with cross-drilled rotors to the standard XJR's qualifications. Special Anthracite paint lends a unique appearance, offset by charcoal leather with red stitching. The XJR100 is named for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons. Only 240 examples will be sold in all of North America. Jaguar offers two models: the X-Type 2.5-liter with a 194-horsepower V6 ($29,950) and the X-Type 3.0-liter with a 231-horsepower V6 ($35,950).
Both have as standard something that is expected of a Jaguar: bird's-eye walnut trim, Connolly leather-trimmed seating, and power windows, mirrors, door locks and driver's seat. And both have something unexpected: Traction 4, which is Jaguar's name for its viscous-coupling full-time all-wheel drive, the first four-wheel-drive system ever on a Jag.
The 2.5-liter model comes with a five-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is a $1275 option.
The 3.0-liter X-Type offers a no-cost choice of either manual or five-speed automatic transmission.
Both models offer more options than have been traditionally available for a Jaguar. Three packages are offered: Premium, Sport, and Weather.
The Premium package ($2500) includes one-touch electric tilt and slide glass moonroof, an eight-way power passenger seat, two-way power lumbar support for both front seats, 70/30 split folding rear seat, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dim electrochromic rearview mirror, automatic headlamps, Reverse Park Control, trip computer and message center, and Homelink-compatible garage door/gate opener.
The Sport package ($2000) includes gray-stained bird's-eye maple wood trim, special Connolly leather seating with sports seats (extra side bolstering), body-colored exterior trim, a rear spoiler, Dynamic Stability Control (yaw control), sport-tuned suspension, and 17-inch alloy wheels with high-performance tires. (You know what Babe Paley said: 'You can neither be too rich or have wheels that are too large.' Or something like that.) The Sport package requires the Premium package.
The Weather package ($1000) adds heated front seats, headlight washers, and Dynamic Stability Control (pricing is adjusted if ordered with the Sport package).
Other options that can be tagged on to the Premium group include a navigation system, an emergency messaging system with integrated digital cell phone, a premium sound system with 6-CD auto changer (alas, in the trunk), and high-intensity discharge headlights. Four models are available: Laredo ($25,500); Sport ($25,425); Limited ($30,345); Overland ($34,905).
Laredo comes with the standard 195-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine, and a popular variety of power amenities.
Sport foregoes some amenities for the standard 235-horsepower V8 engine and five-speed automatic transmission.
Limited gets loaded with luxury amenities and starts with the base six-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic.
Overland is loaded with luxury equipment, the strongest engine, and the most hard-core off-road features as standard, and comes only as a four-wheel-drive model.
As indicated, three engines are available: the 4.0-liter inline-6; the 4.7-liter V8 rated at 235 horsepower; and the high-output 4.7-liter V8 rated at 260 horsepower.
All Grand Cherokees except the Overland come standard with rear-wheel drive, but that seems like buying a Louisville Slugger just to hit rocks. Four-wheel drive is the soul of the Grand Cherokee and the two full-time systems are available on the Laredo, Sport and Limited models for about $2000 additional.