Cordillera Spa & Lodge, Edwards, CO - Most of us wouldn't know this place, but Kobe Bryant has made it famous. The bigger slam-dunk this week is the 2004 Jaguar X-Type AWD.
Two years ago Jaguar brought out Jaguar's first compact sedan in more than three decades, equipped with Traction-4 all-wheel drive. The problem facing Jaguar designers, Geoff Lawson and Wayne Burgess, was to make a car that is seven inches shorter than the S-Type, look like the curvaceous feline that has made Jaguar famous. They did so by using horizontal lines with distinctive headlights, derived from the DeHavilland Comet. They also substituted a high tail for the traditional low tail, to create a menacing stance, ready to prance at the next prey.
An All-wheel drive in a Jaguar was a new venture and opened markets they didn't have before, snow country that is. Somehow, with all the cars coming out, the little X-Type that could didn't get the propers it should have. What Jaguar did notice was that 87% of the new X-Type buyers were new to the Jaguar brand. Jaguar listened to the wants and needs of these customers and this year they are bringing out a new and refined Jaguar. The 2004 X-Type has over 1,000 changes made since the inception two years ago, including two cup holders. These are not the stringy "what can I put it those?" cup holders Europe is known for, no, these are real American cup holders for the American market.
Jag's new X-Type displays a combination of great driving performance, fresh technical innovations and traditional English styling all in an extremely well priced package with two models; 2.5-liter ($29,950); 3.0-liter ($35,950). In an effort to capture more market share, Jaguar has cut the price of the X-Type 3.0, while adding such standard equipment as a power moonroof, split-fold rear seat, and wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Not only did Jaguar put its car through the paces, they decided to put the journalists through their paces as well. We arrived at Vail, and instantly asked for oxygen masks. As beautiful as Vail is, 11,700 elevation is hard on an unsuspecting body. Even more draining was the event we were about to experience.
I live in Northern California, above the fog and below the snow, "in the gold country". Driving in the snow is not my idea of fun. Okay, snow is not my idea of fun.
I've always been amazed at people that willingly drive in snow. Now, I practically hold you on a pedestal if you have bothered to take a winter driving course. I also have a better understanding of why it is so important for you in the snow country to have Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC).
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) makes life so much easier. Sylvain had me do about 30 circle laps on what was snow, that turned into ice over time. The DSC was not on, so I got to find out what it felt like to have to think about not only the steering, but the amount of gas you had to give or let off of. Having traction control makes it so much easier. One only has to think about steering, or counter-steering and watching the road. Using a variety of sensors, including steering angle, lateral-G and yaw, DSC can detect and minimize understeer and oversteer conditions that might result in a skid by controlling individual brakes and the electronic throttle. You still need to watch where you want to go on the road so that the car will follow. If you look at the sides of the road, the car will most likely end up there with your pride sitting inside it. You're in luck though, in 2004, DSC also comes with Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) to provide full braking power in an emergency stop.
Traction-4 automatically senses the difference in speed between the front and rear wheels. If the rear wheels start to slip, as they did when we accelerated on a patch of ice, up to 60 percent of the engine's power is automatically directed to the front wheels. It's just the opposite if the front wheels start slipping. Under normal conditions, 40 percent of the engine's power goes to the front wheels and 60 percent to the rear.
Riding the hood is the traditional bounding Jaguar ornament known as the "leaper." Europe gets the flat, full-faced Jag known as the growler, as Europe outlawed hood ornaments. And we thought America had some crazy laws!
Part of the reason I avoid, at almost any cost, driving in the snow is because it terrifies me. I have never had any training and skidding into snow banks and getting stuck isn't my idea of fun.
I had two instructors, Kurt Spitzner and Sylvain Champoux. They gave me some great tips on driving in snow. Some of them are simple, some I'm going to try to make simple.
The simplest thing one can do to keep your bearings is done before you even start your car. Make sure your tires are straight. Tape a piece of white electrical tape on the top of the steering wheel. If you're on a straightaway your white piece of tape should be at the top of your steering wheel. This is especially important if you have just gone around a corner and you are trying to straighten your wheels.
The instructors talked about "flat-light". This is when there is snow and it is overcast. Everything looks the same, there are no shadows to show depth or angles. They counter this by wearing amber lens sunglasses. Kurt had a pair made by Carreras, called Iridium multi-interchangeable lens. It's the amber lens that will make the difference in flat-light.
As most of you already know, the more people drive on the snow, the more it turns to ice. Obviously, the best time to drive is when the snow first falls. We did a track and a circle. Both were done in second gear (on a 4-speed automatic), not in drive. The track was where I used my Anti-lock braking system (ABS) the most. The best time to brake is when you are on a straightaway, before you turn. The grinding sound when I was braking gave me a scare at first, but I was assured that was normal. My biggest problem was giving the car too much gas. I also realized that I was worried about the guys in back of me. Not that they were necessarily going to run into me, but that they would be upset with me for going so slow. The instructors told me the people that go slower are more likely to stay out of accidents. I soon realized that is the reason people get in accidents. Brake on the straightaway, slowly apply gas on the turn and let your wheel go back up to the white tape. It worked every time.
Sylvain told me the one thing people need to practice is detecting quickly, reacting slowly. That takes practice. I could try to tell you how to do it, but when you're in the middle of it, you won't remember. Only practice makes the difference.
Because it's structurally related to the Ford Mondeo, many wondered whether the X-Type was truly a Jaguar or a Ford in cat's clothing. Ford may own Jaguar, but the X-Type is no Jaguar wannabe. It is a classic well-performing, competent-handling sedan that's able to carry on the company's illustrious heritage, in the snow.
2004 BMW 3-Series, 2004 Infiniti G35 AWD, Mercedes C-Class
2004 Audi A4, 2003 Lexus ES300.