Jag: we got it wrong

The X-Type will always have its supporters, but within Jaguar and former owners Ford the hapless 3 Series rival is being held up as an example of how not to do it. "A fake Jaguar" and "just a car" are two damning phrases we heard in recent chats to executives in Ford and Jaguar.

Both companies are paying close attention to the lessons learned as they separately take a crack at the 3 Series sector. Ford with the super-luxury 'Top Ghia' Vignale trim on the Mondeo and others. And Jaguar with a new saloon in 2015 sitting on a flexible rear-drive aluminium architecture previewed by the C-X17 crossover at Frankfurt this year.

This ugly duckling never grew into a swan
This ugly duckling never grew into a swan
We all know the story of the X-Type. New owners Ford wanted to massively expand the Jaguar brand and launched the small saloon in 2001 based on a modified Mondeo platform. Rearward looking but not rear-drive, the X-Type's styling just wasn't up to snuff, says Jaguar's current head of advanced design, Julian Thomson.

"The proportions were plainly wrong," he tells PistonHeads.

How so? "It was a front-wheel drive platform with a long front overhang and the cabin was in the wrong position," he says. "It didn't look mature or powerful or anything. It was just a car." Ouch.

Of course it also had the unhappily retro-styled front end with the quad headlamps. "There was a time when Jaguar was tremendously popular with very beautiful, classic cars, but it was plainly overplayed. It hung onto that too long," says Thomson.

Ford's trying the posh Mondeo thing again
Ford's trying the posh Mondeo thing again
This time Jaguar will get it right, he says, largely thanks to the new rear-drive (and four-wheel drive) architecture. Thomson says he and head designer Ian Callum were very specific on what they wanted from the new architecture to get the right look for the 3 Series rival.

"We wanted a sense of poise. The way the car sits on the wheels needs to be very authoritative [demonstrating] latent power. Big wheels right to the ends of the car, low bonnet, short overhangs, very low cabins. These are the sort of things we asked for," he tells us. And he says he got them too.

Ford meanwhile says it's much happier sprucing up the next version of the Mondeo for the top of the line Vignale trim than it was adapting the Mondeo to suit the demands of a more premium brand.

"Jaguar is the definition of a classical British car. I love it. But If you start to mix this up with a mass production brand you run the risk of losing such a brand," Ford of Europe head of quality, Gunnar Herrmann, tells us. "This is where people were getting concerned. They say, hey, this is a fake Jaguar, because every piece I touch is Ford."

Finally appealing as Shed opportunity knocks
Finally appealing as Shed opportunity knocks
The fact that the Mondeo wasn't a bad donor car doesn't matter to the majority of customers because it's all about perception. "A Jaguar chassis might not be as good as the Ford Mondeo, but it causes an immediate disconnect," Herrmann says.

Neither are saying outright the X-Type was a bad car overall (and it's temptingly close to Shed status now) but that it failed on two crucial areas: design and perception of what a Jaguar should be. The average PHer might not rank the perception part that high, but the fact remains X-Type sales stunk and both companies want to avoid that fate again.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (254) Join the discussion on the forum

  • GaryDVO 18 Sep 2013

    I was on Holiday in San Diego filling up with fuel and a untidy X type was filling up with a For sale sign of $6000.

    Shocked about £1500 back home.

  • nsa 18 Sep 2013

    Who knew the X-Type was not RWD?

  • GroundEffect 18 Sep 2013

    nsa said:
    Who knew the X-Type was not RWD?

  • the_hood 18 Sep 2013

    I was never a fan of 'the baby Jag'. A friend of mine had one and even though it was quite comfortable on the move, the styling seemed wrong.
    I remember the motoring press commenting at the time that the Rover 75 was more like a Jag than the X Type.

  • saaby93 18 Sep 2013

    The one jag you drive in the winter?

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