[Drive] Cat-Like Reflections | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Drive] Cat-Like Reflections

Does your car say something about you? It's a question I can't seem to get out of my head, even though, intellectually, I'd prefer not to worry about it. Unwittingly, I'll look around at people I know when I see them in a parking lot and make subtle judgments. A Camry? Interesting. A VW Jetta? A-ha. A Hummer? Oh…I see.

That just ain't right, is it? But I must say, "right" took a back seat to "inquisitive" for me when Jaguar first put out the X-Type. I like the lines, even though the reviews occasionally compare it (however favorable) to its distant cousin, the Ford Taurus. (Ford owns Jaguar.) And the fact is, it's a Jag—which you can tell because it's got the little Jag emblem on it. It's also reasonably affordable (at least you can get a good lease payment). It occurs to me that I might be the target demographic.

Ms. D and I got a chance to drive an X-Type a while back—on a trip that started in New York City and climbed up through the woods of Ulster County, N.Y., where Woodstock (the town, not the festival) is. Woodstock is a wonderful little town hidden away in the Catskills with great restaurants, laid-back shopping and more tie-dye T-shirt places than you'll ever need.

I really enjoyed that trip, and a huge part of it was the car. I've driven cars with more luxurious rides or more sumptuous surroundings, but the Jag gave me what's most important to me—plenty of buttons. Our test model was equipped with GPS guidance and a trip computer, so I had gizmos galore. The five-speed automatic transmission offers a semi-automatic mode, and I found myself picking gears through the hills and enjoying the responsiveness of the 2.5-liter engine, the smaller of the two engine options, which still generates a respectable 192 horsepower.

Ms D. enjoyed the trip, too, but that's because we went to a spa, went shopping, had delicious country-gourmet food and, when we were in the car, the seat was heated—nap time.

One thing that's interesting about the Jag is that all X-Type models are all-wheel drive, which should offer better stability and weather control. It also adds to the James Bond appeal, as you picture this elegant little sedan slicing through snow banks and sticking to the edge of a mountain road at high speed. In the real world, though, the four-wheeling seems to hurt fuel economy—the Jag gets only 25-27 mpg on the highway, which is decent, but not stellar.

I'm usually not a fan of beige leather interiors or wood-grain inserts and, of course, both of those things were present. However, they looked great in the X-Type we drove—with some exterior colors, a charcoal gray interior is an option. An eight-way power driver's seat, leather seating areas, and steering wheel-mounted controls for cruise control and the stereo are standard. And, yes, it has cup-holders.

If there's anything that the Jaguar isn't, it isn't really a sports sedan. It's plenty of fun to take on a twisty road, and it offers a silky smooth highway ride, but it doesn't have extraordinary power in either of its engines, and its electric-assist steering definitely doesn't handle like a German sports sedan—Audi, Mercedes and BMW all offer comparable sedans that are simply more taut and agile. For that matter, you can put 30 grand into a Japanese sports sedan that will seriously outpace the X-Type off the line and take it on the curves. And a Lincoln or Caddy would feel much more substantial.

But you don't buy the Jaguar because of the power off the line or the weight distribution or the amount of under-steer it has when you go into a hard corner. The point is, it's a Jaguar—that's why you buy it. (Or, if you're me, you would lease it on terms that are likely to bite you in the butt at the end of 36 months.) You get this car because it turns heads and at least seven out of 10 people think it costs twice what it does. It has what I call impressive valet-parkability.

With Ms. D, however, it left almost no impression at all. When I pressed her to say something about the car, she said, "It looks like a Taurus." When I asked her to say something nice about the car, she bristled, but when it was clear I wasn't going to back down, she thought for a moment.

"I like that cat on the hood," she said, pointing to the Jaguar symbol.

My point exactly.

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