Jaguar is expanding into market segments it has ignored in the past, namely station wagons. But the 2005 Jaguar X-Type Sportwagon - the first production wagon ever for the British automaker - feels more appropriate for the country club than the school carpool, and it's got the price tag to boot.



Our test car, a five-passenger compact wagon with all-wheel drive, had a bottom line of $37,590. The sport model we drove, one of three available trim levels, had a body-colored grille, minimal chrome, larger wheels and low-profile tires.

Bottom line: The X-Type is one of the more elegant wagons on the market, but it may not be a real winner in terms of practicality.

SHE: I love that picture of you as a toddler standing next to your family's Ford woodie wagon. It speaks volumes about how the station wagon has been the center of so many family memories going back decades. And now, Jaguar, part of the Ford Motor Co. family, finally is offering a pretty ritzy wagon that some moms might think is almost too nice for hauling kids. I'd hate to see ketchup or Magic Marker on those buttery leather "champagne" colored seats in the X-Type Sportwagon we drove. And the Jag's shallow cup holders almost guarantee spills. But if you want something that's a cut above a conventional minivan or other dull ride, this might be an intriguing choice.

HE: We actually had a whole series of Ford station wagons when we were growing up, including a Falcon and a Fairlane. My mother would never have approved of the X-Type wagon, given the wild bunch of kids that she was raising. A Rambler was more appropriate for our neighborhood and income level. The Jaguar wagon would have been too small for us back then and probably for most families nowadays, too. It feels cramped in the front and the back, and there's not a tremendous amount of space in the rear cargo area. Dynamically, it's a fairly solid offering that's based on the European Ford Mondeo chassis, with nimble handling and a decent ride.

SHE: The X-Type's strongest selling point is its outstanding safety features. You don't have to pay extra for antilock brakes, front side air bags or the front and rear side curtain airbags that protect all outboard passengers. And making all-wheel drive standard can be considered a safety feature, too, especially in the snowy Midwest. But one of my overriding concerns is that the X-Type wagon is not consistent in its presentation. Sometimes, it felt like Jaguar was cutting corners, especially in places like the rear seats and the front passenger seat. I was also surprised by some of the female-unfriendly touches in such an expensive vehicle, such as a tailgate that's too heavy and the lack of dual climate controls.

HE: I had some more basic issues, particularly with the powertrain. That Ford V-6 is dreadfully anemic. It always felt like it was working overtime. Compared to the sweet Mazda6 wagon, from Ford's Japanese affiliate, the X-Type is a slug. And the fuel economy is not much better than average. The five-speed automatic transmission also would benefit from a Tiptronic arrangement that would permit sports fans to shift manually.

SHE: That would be the last thing I'd want. Give me a tonneau cover that doesn't already look cheap and rough around the edges with less than 3,000 miles on the car's odometer. Come to think of it, I'm not a fan of compact wagons in general. It seems like most of them are too impractical and too expensive for families. It makes absolutely no sense to give a high recommendation to a vehicle like this when a family could go out and buy a Dodge Magnum for about $10,000 less and get more room, more power and just as much sex appeal.

HE: You could probably fit the entire X-Type in the back of the Magnum, now that you mention it. But don't forget the magic of the Jaguar name, and that lovely classic styling. That must be worth some small premium. But it probably would have made more sense to start with the mid-range S-Type as the base for a wagon, rather than the smaller X-Type. We can only hope that Jaguar's attempt to do some kind of crossover utility vehicle will be more practical and useful for families.

Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, a Detroit-based automotive information services company.