2007’s X-Type facelift illustrated how one can do more with less.
Few cars are created with an unlimited budget – after all, such a bounteous situation is no guarantee of an inspired result. On the other hand, budgetary restrictions are rarely a recipe for a successful product either. Certainly, when Jaguar’s 2001 X-Type was being scoped during the latter part of the 1990s, the Ford-controlled British luxury carmaker wasn’t exactly awash with cash, even if by then they were at least making money rather than haemorrhaging it as they had been, only a few years earlier.
X400 (as the X-Type was termed at Jaguar) formed the core of the blue oval’s growth strategy for the leaping cat, aimed at catapulting the marque into the big league with annual sales in excess of 200,000 cars. A hugely ambitious programme, which also encompassed the refitting of the otherwise defunct Ford Halewood plant in Merseyside; this latter aspect ladling such costs upon the programme that anything less than total success would be viewed as failure.
With so much riding upon it, X400 had to be absolutely spot on. Styling sells, and when it comes to Jaguar, a marque which has built its legend upon the seductiveness of its designs, Jaguar’s styling team, under the direction of Geoff Lawson were faced with perhaps their toughest brief to date.
Certainly, it appears that innumerable proposals were examined, even once the basic theme had been established. Most of these centred upon the nose, with lead designer, Wayne Burgess trying schemes which alluded to E-Type, XK8, and XJS, before settling upon the more XJ-inflected nose treatment which was ultimately adopted – the former Jaguar designer telling Road and Track, “Senior Management at the time ultimately wanted something much more ‘instantly recognizable as a Jaguar’…“
Initially lauded as a well judged take on a highly difficult ask, the lustre soon came off the X-Type’s style, as customers decided they weren’t swayed by today’s Jag cloaked in yesterday. Hampered by an unflattering dash to axle ratio (a consequence of its transverse FWD-derived engine layout), bulbous roofline, awkward proportions, and fussy detailing, the X-Type, certainly from a styling perspective, failed to seduce, although as a whole, it was far less awkward looking than its larger X200 S-Type sibling, a car so stylistically ill-begotten that its gestational mysteries may never be truly unravelled.
By mid-decade, the programme’s commercial failure was palpable, and Jaguar’s parent had largely turned off the development taps, leaving the car to stagnate with the US importers pulling the model from the American market entirely. By then, senior executives at Dearborn were seriously contemplating offloading the limping cat at the earliest opportunity, but in order to do so, a little money would be required to spruce up Jaguar’s now tired looking offerings.
Carried out in conjunction with that of the X358 XJ revisions, it was very much a lick and a promise by facelift standards. But whereas the revisions to the XJ were of somewhat questionable taste, the changes to X-Type (perhaps a consequence of budget) were actually rather well-judged. The most obvious alterations were to the bumper covers, which were cleaner looking and less ornate, lending the visual impression of being pulled inwards towards the body in white. So while this removed some visual length, it lent the shape a tautness which had been lacking in its previous iteration.
The larger, more upright grille was of a similar design to the revised XJ, and was a notable improvement upon the inward-sloped, and rather tentative-looking original, while the lower air intake illustrated how its larger saloon sibling could have looked had Mr. Callum reined-in his impulses. Along the flanks, the side rubbing strips (sadly retained in this instance) became more flush-fitting than the chunkier originals, while new-design, corporate door mirror shrouds were fitted. At the rear, the chromed lightbar now ran the entire width of the bootlid.
Inside too, the changes, while modest, lent the cabin a more upmarket feel, with improved materials and less scratchy plastic in conspicuous places. Mechanically, a larger 2.2 diesel engine provided more power (but not much refinement), while the only petrol unit still offered was the 3-Litre V6.
The whole is generally equal to the sum of its parts, but in this instance, it proved to be a good deal more than that. For such a modest raft of changes, the transformation was striking, similar in effect to that carried out a far greater expense upon the S-Type three years previously. But it too arrived several years too late to salvage the model. Nevertheless, the revised X-Type did undergo a mild resurgence in 2008/9, buoyed by generous incentives and a post-financial crash environment which saw many customers downsizing to smaller, less ostentatious cars – for a time at least.
While it could never fully assuage the stylistic errors of judgement which marred the original X400 design, the 2007 facelift did make for the most resolved X-Type of all, from a purely visual standpoint at least, and is a testament to Ian Callum’s designers who made very little go rather a long way.
Not all budgetary restrictions are necessarily an impediment.