Jaguar has unveiled a 2,0-litre V6 version of its X-Type, costing nearly R100 000 less than the 3,0-litre.

Jaguar has unveiled a 2,0-litre V6 version of its X-Type, costing nearly R100 000 less than the three-litre, CARtoday.com's correspondent reports.

The company may have abandoned its Formula One ambitions but the cars it produces still retain a proud heritage of excitement based on the adage “grace, space and pace”.

Although early Jaguars were surprisingly affordable, considering the performance on offer, in later years the marqué became more exclusive and costly.

But with the introduction of the 2,0-litre X-Type, the doors may have opened a little wider. At launch prices of R265 000 for the manual and R275 000 for the automatic, these new cats are definitely worth a closer look. With the manual model a full R99 000 cheaper than the 3,0-litre model, one might expect a lot of cost cutting on the features, but the list is encouragingly short.

The biggest change is a switch from all-wheel drive to front-wheel drive only that should not deter too many enthusiasts. Next is the smaller engine, badged a 2,0-litre, but with a true capacity of 2,1 litres. The new mill is not a four cylinder unit lifted from parent company Ford’s Mondeo, but a quad cam 24 valve transverse V6.

Luckily, the designers chose not too cover the whole engine with a sheet of plastic, as it is a handsome sight with an array of aluminium inlet manifold plumbing that deserves to be on display. Variable length inlets and variable camshaft timing are used. Outputs for this engine are 117 kW at 6 800 r/min and 200 N.m of torque at 4 100 r/min.

Both gearboxes are five-speed units; the manual supplied by Getrag and the automatic by Jatco of Japan. Both proved satisfying in use with the smaller engine requiring a fair amount of downshifting for quick acceleration. The engine is happy to rev freely and smoothly up to the red line and the automatic has a sport mode to hold on to higher revs when needed. The engine was very quiet for a V6, a pity in a way, but the sound is heard in the background, and together with a body well insulated from road and wind noise, the package has an aura of refinement.

Also refined is the interior. No skimping is evident in the equipment levels, with plush leather seats, the front ones electrically adjustable including a tilt function and adjustable headrests too. The steering wheel is adjustable for both reach and rake.

Climate control, sound system, fuel consumption readout, six airbags, 17-inch alloy wheels, adjustable centre armrest with dual storage compartments and dual drinks holder between the seats – the list is extensive. Cruise control, however, is optional. A space saver spare is standard, but there is space for an optional full size wheel. The steering wheel sports very neat satellite controls for the sound system and cruise control.

The handling was not tested to the limit but felt neutral enough and the ride was firm but still took care of some serious Kwazulu Natal potholes with ease. Steering had good feedback, but seemed a bit over-assisted at speed. To complete the standard features list, a three-year/100 000 km warranty plus a five-year/100 000 drive plan, including all servicing costs, is included.

Jaguar will remain a very small and exclusive niche player in the South African market, and it will be interesting to keep track of sales volumes of this new model. It may convert more than just a few from the German marques.