Home » Caveat Emptor: 2003 Jaguar X-Type vs 2000 Lexus GS300

Caveat Emptor: 2003 Jaguar X-Type vs 2000 Lexus GS300

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Baltasar Gracián once wrote: “It is better to be cheated by the price than the merchandise.” I fully agree. While it’s nice to get a good deal on something, after the deal is done, it’s far more important that the thing you purchased is satisfactory. But how can you tell? Is it better to look for a car with a checkered reliability record from a trustworthy source, or a known reliable car from a shady dealership? That is our question for this Friday edition of Shitbox Showdown.

First, however, let’s finish up with yesterday’s Dodges:

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Well. It looks like that Avenger is going to sit in the tow yard a while longer. Just make sure you check the paperwork carefully on that Canadian Neon before handing over any money, eh?

Now then: Today, we have a special treat. One of our cars today is being offered for sale by none other than our long-distance pen pal and fellow Autopian contributor S.W. Gossin, from his own private collection. S.W. legitimately loves fixing up and resurrecting old cars, so you know whatever he has had to do to this car was done right, even if the car itself has a somewhat spotty reputation for reliability. But what, I thought, is the antithesis of that? How about a known-reliable “runs forever” car being sold at a fly-by-night used car lot in a sketchy part of town? Let’s see how they compare.

2003 Jaguar X-Type – $3,750

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter V6, 5 speed automatic, AWD

Location: Wilmington, NC

Odometer reading: 151,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep!

Jaguar has had as many pronunciations as it has had owners: “Jag-you-were,” “Jag-war,” the insufferably annoying “Jag-wire,” and to a certain teddy-bear loving auto journalist, simply “Jaaaaaag.” From 1990 to 2008, the leaping cat was under the ownership of Ford. Despite backing from such an industry juggernaut, Jaguar didn’t turn a profit under Ford’s umbrella, and Ford sold the marque, along with Land Rover, to Indian automaker Tata Motors in 2008.

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The X-Type was introduced under Ford’s ownership, and shares a platform with the Ford Mondeo sedan. This similarity with a “common” Ford irritated some Jaguar fans, who claimed the X-Type was “not a real Jaguar.” But I’ve always thought that was silly; was the XJ6 of the 1970s “not a real Jaguar” because it shared a transmission with a Chevy truck?

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Despite the Ford parts, including a version of the Duratec V6, the inside of the X-Type is all Jag, with creamy leather seats and wood inserts on the dash. Luxury has come to mean technology, and in the early 2000s before touch-screens devoured everything, that meant buttons, and the X-Type has more of them than a marching band’s uniforms. This Jag looks pretty good inside, with some visible wear on the seats and steering wheel, but no obvious damage.

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Mechanically, S.W. says this car runs like a proverbial scalded cat, and has a host of new parts including a new fuel pump and filter, which apparently was quite an ordeal to replace. The X-Type has had a spotty reliability record, but with only 151,000 miles and a thorough going-over, I get the feeling you could get quite a few trouble-free miles out of this black kitty.


2000 Lexus GS300 – $4,975

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter inline 6, 4 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: 293,000 miles

Runs/drives? Sounds like it

There is a stretch of Southeast 82nd Avenue here in Portland that is lined on both sides by used car dealerships. Once in a while, a lot empties, a sign comes down, and a few weeks later a new sign goes up in its place and the lot fills back up, with Explorers and Altimas and Tahoes and whatnot. I am embarrassed to say that I have purchased a car or two from these fly-by-night shysters. It didn’t go well.

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Often, the cars sold at these lots look just fine, but have a bazillion miles or mechanical problems that are obvious the instant you drive them. These are the cast-offs from the used car divisions of new car dealerships, bought by these dealers at auction for peanuts and marked up to the moon. And yet, they sell. This Lexus GS300 sedan has nearly 300,000 miles on it, and while it looks all right, I’m certain the dealer has no history or records on it whatsoever, apart from whatever receipts may still be in the glovebox.

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The GS is quite a nice car, a sleek rear-wheel-drive sedan with Toyota’s beloved 2JZ inline six under the hood. It’s backed in this car by a four-speed automatic; the GS wasn’t available with a manual. It doesn’t have the Olde Worlde charm of the Jaguar, but its interior still looks like a nice place to be. It’s nice and clean inside, especially for the mileage, but nothing lasts forever; a potential buyer would do well to make sure everything still works before purchase.

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Outside, it looks quite nice as well, and it even seems to have escaped the “pink taillight syndrome” [Editor’s Note: This is a subject of active investigation, by the way, I hope to have a deep dive soon – JT] that plagues so many GSs, or the taillights have been replaced. White paint hides a lot of flaws, but from the looks of it, this car was cared for, and probably garaged. Five thousand is a big ask for a car with this many miles, but there is always some room for negotiation with these dealerships. You could probably knock as much as a grand off the price if you pay cash for it.

Buying a used car is always a gamble, of course, but it doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. But which is ultimately more important: a reuptable seller, or a reputable car?



(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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57 Responses

  1. I kinda had both of these back to back. The Jag was a ford xj6 and the GS was the 430 but pretty much the same.
    Kept the XJ6 for 6 months and had to put it back together a lot, mostly electrical problems.
    Had the GS as my daily for 3 years and it only had break pads, tyres and oil from me.
    Got rid as one of the rear silencers rusted off just before it’s test and I could be bother to fix it.
    Swapped it for the LS430 which has been my daily for the 2.5 years with nothing more then tyres, break pads and that steering wheel tilt and slide motor that always goes.
    Lexus all the way.

  2. Lexus (needs to be <$4k, though) because I absolutely love a straight six and the X-Type sedan's looks have never sat right with me. If it were an X-Type wagon I'd go for it any day, but the sedan looks like an awkward bubbly ('chibi') version of the XJ and the interior just has the wrong timbre; I'd personally go for a Rover 75 over an X-Type, just on the basis of interior and exterior aesthetics alone.

  3. My vote goes to the Lexus… pending an inspection and test drive by me. I know the Lexus is a much more sound basic design than the Jag. The only way for it to tip in the Jag’s behaviour is if the Lexus was some poorly rebuilt basket case or if it was a flood car.

  4. A Lexus not selling and ending up at a shady dealership in this market is a bad sign.

    I’ll go with the mechanical nightmare I know (Jag) rather than the one I don’t know.

    1. Also forgot to mention but I’d just outright love to have a Jaguar. How often will you find one properly fixed up? A good Lexus is a near daily occurrence and I could probably find a better one for that. The Jag however?

  5. I like Jags, but even with some fixes and maintenance applied to the Jag, I think it will give you more trouble than the Lexus.

    Also, pretty sure the transmission in the Lexus is a five speed, not a four speed.

  6. It really annoys me when people knock the x-type for being on the 2001-2007 Mondeo platform. I had a 2002 Mondeo and it was one of THE best cars I’ve owned. And I’ve quite a few. In fact I place it number two after my e81 BMW 135i. This list includes both a VZ & VE Holden Commodore, two far more modern Subaru Outback’s to name a few. The Mondeo rode so well and handled so sublimely, it was like a FWD BMW 3 series. At the same time I had my Mondeo, my boss had an X-Type and he loved it. The X-Type was good because it was on the Mondeo platform, imagine how awful it would have been had it been on a Jaguar platform…

  7. Jag for me and despite my better judgment I’m now contemplating asking my better half of I can buy it. Looks like it would be a nice commuter.

    Gossin is out there doing the Lords work on saving these cars.

  8. I voted for a Jag over a Lexus in a Shitbox Showdown? Am I high? Have I suffered a closed head injury that wiped out everything I know about cars?

    Nope, I simply trust the car coming from our buddy S. W. more than some random auction reject dealer. One of these cars recently had someone who actually cares about cars fix it up. The other is coming from a seller who probably hasn’t even bothered to top off the washer fluid. It also costs less, which makes my miserly kilt-wearing haggis-snarfing Scottish ancestors happy.

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