The Cat Came Back

It’s strange how things never seem to work out entirely as you anticipate. After my last tirade about the social inadequacy of the proletariat I was expecting to be the recipient of at least a smattering of bile and vitriol from the bus dwelling community, but it seems that in general the world agrees with me. Or at least it doesn’t find my viewpoint objectionable enough to justify a major counter-strike.

Instead the response from the select few of my acquaintances who happen to peruse my weekly ramblings was focussed on one specific sentence. The bit where I casually proclaimed my least favourite car of all time to be the Jaguar X-Type.

It turns out that along with Olympic whinging abilities and an inability to play expansive rugby; most Kiwis’ believe that a passionate devotion to all things Jag is a deep seated trait of those of us from the motherland. And they are absolutely correct.

Throughout its history, Jaguar has been about making truly great cars that have been accessible to the common man. Not too accessible of course, but not in the airy realms of fantasy that seem to be the reserve of other motoring exotica. If you worked hard in life and didn’t fritter too much of your life savings away on other frivolous wastes such as children, then at some point you would accrue enough coinage to join the big cat club of motoring pleasure.

But with the X-Type they took a sharp and unpleasant diversion from this tried and trusted theory and instead decided to make a truly great badge accessible to the common man. Although at this point I must point out that the X-Type was in no way a bad car. At its core was the Ford CD132 platform which was also used to produce the Mondeo; a dynamically excellent vehicle and one of my all time favourite rep-movers.

More X-factor than Simon Cowell

As you may expect, the Jag wasn’t much different. It was nicely balanced, came with a good range of engines and the choice of front and four wheel drive meant the handling was sure-footed and predictable. The interior was also really rather a pleasant place to be, adorned as it was with various bits of timber and peeled cow. In fact, if the X-type had come with a Ford or even a Toyota badge on the bonnet, I would have been exceedingly complimentary – but it didn’t. It had a Jaguar badge and that brings some responsibilities.

Jaguars of the past have not always been the most reliable cars. Not all of them have been blessed with the care of styling that their status necessarily deserved and some even haven’t been particularly flash to drive. But all of them came with that little bit of a spark which signalled them out from your average car – something that, whenever one drove by, made you take that second glance and think “Ooh, a Jag”.

The X-Type lacked that X-factor. It wasn’t really a Jaguar at all; it was just a good car with an angry cat on the bonnet. It was a car designed for – and one that found favour with – the kind of dull, middle management, golfer who wanted to show up at his local club and proclaim to all who were close enough to be in earshot that he’d just bought a car that could trace it’s lineage back to the E-Type. It was for people who lacked the charisma to pull off a XJ but still wanted a bit of the mystique. In short it cheapened the marque and for that reason alone it deserves its place in Dante’s innermost circle of The Inferno.

Rumour has it, that this was very much a car forced on Jaguar by their bean counting masters in Detroit so it came as no surprise in 2009 when the X-Type was hung out to dry and not replaced. But luckily it seems that the lessons have been learned, with the XF, XK and mighty new XJ re-establishing the marque as the pinnacle of everyday aspiration.

And the future looks even brighter, with last years’ technologically staggering and breathtakingly beautiful C-X75 concept – currently hovering somewhere between fantasy and very limited run reality – about to be joined by the C-X16 when it debuts in Frankfurt on 13th September.

Make no mistake, that magical glint looks to be very much back in the big cats eyes.

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