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Jaguar X-Type

As late arrivals go, Jaguar's long-awaited entry into the estate car market leaves Britain's notoriously unpredictable railway system looking punctual!

Jaguar's first attempt to take on established rivals in the compact executive estate sector deserves warm applause. The X-Type is good to look at, great to drive and practical. On sale next month, it won't be long before the new Jag is a fam- iliar sight on British roads.

As late arrivals go, Jaguar's long-awaited entry into the estate car market leaves Britain's notoriously unpredictable railway system looking punctual!

Despite having been in business for 82 years, the Midlands firm has taken until now to build a practical, versatile load-lugger. On sale early next month, priced from £21,165, the Jaguar X-Type Estate is aimed at the BMW 3-Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant.

It's often said that good things come to those who wait and, on looks alone, the X-Type Estate is certainly a promising machine. Better proportioned than the saloon, thanks to a curving roof and slender waistline, the range includes two and four-wheel-drive models, with a choice of 2.0, 2.5 and 3.0-litre V6 petrol engines, plus a 2.0-litre diesel. Readers will remember that Auto Ex-press has already taken to the wheel of an early all-wheel-drive 3.0-litre version in Issue 777. However, this is our first opportunity to try the front-wheel-drive diesel and production 3.0 V6.

Initial impressions of the oil-burner are good. The car looks compact, but has a spacious interior, and when the split-fold rear seats are dropped, boot capacity increases from 445 to 1,415 litres. Sport models, such as the one driven here, also benefit from a new multi-function steering wheel and carbon fibre trim on the dashboard.

We're big fans of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel powerplant, which proves as impressive in the X-Type Estate as it does in the saloon. With 128bhp and 330Nm of torque, the free-revving yet refined unit offers punchy acceleration and combined economy of 48.7mpg.

However, a 0-60mph sprint time of 9.8 seconds means that, on paper, the diesel is the slowest car in the range. Fortunately, the smooth ride, accurate steering and reassuringly strong brakes go some way to compensating. The all-wheel-drive 3.0-litre is much racier. Kitted out in Sport trim, with 17-inch wheels and uprated suspension, the ride feels more taut than the diesel's.

Acceleration is better, too, with the 0-60mph dash taking only 6.9 seconds. Combined fuel economy of 27.1mpg is merely average for this sector of the market, though. As with the diesel, the steering is accurate and the brakes are powerful. The neutral chassis set-up means the car offers excellent stability, while the four-wheel drive system gives extra traction in slippery conditions.

In fact, our only complaint about the driving experience is that with only five gears, the manual box lacks the versatility of rivals' six-speeds. Turning to the interior, the finish of the boot area is a little rough compared to an Audi's or a BMW's. When, for example, the back seats are pushed down, you can clearly see the chairs' foam filling.

What's more, the folding seat and luggage cover arrangement is rather basic, and doesn't bring anything new to the estate class. However, we were impressed by the opening tailgate window, which increases the load-lugger's practicality and user-friendliness.

It's clear that the long wait for an estate to join Jaguar's model line-up has been worth it. We're expecting the X-Type to perform well when it meets its rivals in a group test next month.

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