Mention the words ''Jaguar'' and ''station wagon'' in the same breath, and most people will look at you as if they swallowed something foul.
Certainly, there isn't anything in Jaguar's heritage remotely resembling what Brits call an estate or shooting brake.
But the new 2006 Jaguar X-Type 3-liter Sportwagon should hit the sweet spot in the entry-level luxury market, starting right around $36,000.
That's similar to all-wheel-drive competitors such as Audi and Volvo, the latter a corporate cousin of Jaguar.
That said, you might wonder why this model hasn't been more popular. Certainly, there aren't many parked at the McMansions springing up on farm fields across the region.
Maybe it's because the X-Type is well-known for its origins as a European Ford, which diminishes the Jaguar pedigree no matter what engineering went on under the hood.
Maybe its the dismal marketing that has done little to let people know that this model exists.
Whatever the reason, this is a very pleasant little luxury wagon.
Initially, X-Types came with a choice of V6 engines, either a 2.5-liter or a 3-liter, mated to a 5-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic.
But sales of the model have been in a free-fall. So, for 2006, the 3-liter 262-horsepower V6 mated to a five-speed automatic that can be shifted manually is the sole powertrain.
It accelerates confidently and fluidly, the way a Jaguar should. The automatic seemed indecisive at times -- not the sort of behavior you would expect.
Traction was excellent, even in mucky weather. Cornering and braking were quite good.
The little Jag is fitted with disc brakes all around, as well as fully independent suspension, as a Jag should.
Maneuverability is good and the X-Type has a small turning radius, Certainly it behaves with all the ability of a Jaguar, and it feels like one, despite the practical shape.
Ah yes, the shape.
The lines of this shooting brake lend the car a gorgeous look that the X-Type sedan doesn't have.
It also allows you to carry quite a bit of cargo, with its 50 cubic feet with the seats folded. Up front, a wire mesh grille borrowed from the Jaguar's R-type performance line gives the diminutive grille a racy appearance.
While the interior has all the expected conveniences, look closer and you'll be surprised.
There were seat heaters, a GPS system and an AM/FM/CD audio system that played a single CD at a time. Amazingly, a CD changer is optional. The car is prewired for an integrated cell phone.
The seats are firm yet comfortable and do a good job of holding occupants in place during sporty maneuvers.
Front seat space is good. That said, the rear seat accommodations seem a bit short of legroom.
There's the expected Jaguar switchgear, as well as the requisite wood trim. However, there's quite a bit of hard plastic, more than there should be on a prestige make.
So far so good.
So why is this such an underwhelming experience?
It just feels gussied-up, like an aging matron trying for Britney-like youthful exuberance. You want to believe, but somehow it all fails to come together.
Jaguar has been more successful with its larger cars, with maintaining the marque's feel and heritage.
That said, the X-Type Sportwagon seems to be the best model in the X-Type lineup.
And while the X-Type is superior to lesser cars of the same size, such as the Subaru Legacy GT Wagon, it's just so-so when compared to its luxury competition.
While Jaguar makes some great cars, this one is just ordinary.
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