Car reviews - Jaguar - S-Type - V8 Luxury sedan
Fits like an old shoe, styling individuality, strong, smooth performance
Room for improvement
Lack of sequential transmission shifting, limited touring range, tightish rear seat
6 May 2005
By TIM BRITTEN
IT’S all very subtle, but Scottish designer Ian Callum’s work on the S-Type Jaguar does make a difference.
The S-Type’s styling has always been a polarizer of opinions. It’s not really possible to sit on the fence with the Mark II Jag-inspired mid-size luxury car. You either like it, or you don’t.
The Mark II-ish grille and general frontal demeanour are pleasing, and distinctive, but the falling-away rear-end has always been the hardest bit to swallow. In an age of aerodynamically pert, uplifted rumps, the S-Type’s droopy tail looks a little weird.
The revised version came in late 2004, and addressed the stylistic hiccups as much as possible without resorting to expensive panel changes.
The front-end, as well as getting an alloy bonnet in place of the first S-Type’s all-steel panelling, is a littler bolder with a more aggressive, more upright grille and the usual – and quite cheap to do - re-shaping of the entire bumper and lower air intakes.
The Jaguar’s sides have been cleaned up too, with cleaner, less pronounced doorsill panels, but it’s the rear-end that has been given the closest thing to a significant workover.
The Ford Falconesque tail has been sharpened up to give a less sad-sack appearance by siting the tail lights slightly higher and squaring-off the upper part of the number plate surround, while also taking some of the visual weight out of the lower bumper moulding.
Subtle, like we said, but about as effective as you can get without changing any of the basic profile of the car - although it would still have been a relatively expensive exercise because the shape of the bootlid opening around the tail-lights has been changed slightly.
Inside, there’s a new-look dash with a redesigned instrument cluster, as well as a general tidying up that, according to Jaguar, includes better quality materials and a lift in build quality. Which is welcome because the S-Type never seemed as well put together as the German opposition.
The basic Jaguar underlying this remains pretty much the same, apart from new, low-friction ball joints and new dampers (the S-Type got a new front suspension along with a revised rear suspension in 2002).
But the S-Type package, dynamically, has always held some appeal.
Compared with its almost callously high-tech German competition, the Jaguar has a nice, cosy feel that extends past the very British interior. The S-Type offers something quite different to what you’d expect to find in a competing BMW, Audi or Mercedes.
The car tends to be a little softer and less sporty in terms of ride quality – that’s what we really expect of a Jaguar sedan anyway – even though the S-Type acquits itself well enough when set head-to-head against the competition.
Electronic systems include the expected electronic stability control, ABS brakes and traction control, while six airbags sprout from steering wheel, passengers’ side dash, both front doors and from the roof rails above the doors.
In 4.2-litre V8 form as tested here, the S-Type has sufficient punch to lift itself swiftly from corner to corner (it rushes from zero to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds), while the substantial all-disc braking system, with ABS and brake assist, hauls it down securely and powerfully.
The long-stroke, 32-valve engine thumps out a decent and quite competitive 224kW. The maximum torque figure is a highly commendable 420Nm, delivered at a seemingly high 4200rpm although the ready availability of power at the bottom end the rpm range suggests a pretty flat curve starting somewhere just above 2000rpm. But you can feel the power building as the revs rise.
If there’s any inadequacy, the six-speed ZF automatic transmission takes care of it anyway by always finding a ratio where plenty of torque is available.
This is a lovely, smooth-changing, responsive auto that is really only restricted by the Jaguar J-gate shifter that might have been innovative when first seen in the 1980s but falls behind in the tip-shifting new millennium.
Separating the "manual" and full-auto modes by slotting the lever via the J-gate into a different plane is better than trying to manipulate an old-style, single-plane shifter, but nothing beats the simple snick-snick of a good sequential system.
The S-Type cruises silently and comfortably, but not for long because the combination of a relatively meagre, sub 70-litre fuel tank, a pretty heavy body (not noticeably helped by the new alloy bonnet) and a relatively big V8 mean the cruising range doesn’t comfortably extend much past 400km – pretty typical Ford stuff and all to do with the fact the S-Type is based on the Lincoln LS.
The Jag’s interior is nice and cosy, as it should be, and the driver controls are basically sound ergonomically with a nice, easy to comprehend touch-screen menu for the standard satellite navigation/TV/trip computer system.
The park brake switch on the centre console is seen elsewhere in the Jaguar range (although it was introduced on the S-Type) and proves to easy to live with. A slight surprise at this level is that the S-Type V8 only offers a single-disc CD player operating through just six speakers.
Space inside certainly isn’t class leading, with an encroaching rear roofline limiting headroom for back-seat passengers, who are also left slightly short of legroom despite the scalloped seatbacks.
The seats are set pretty low, as befits a Jaguar, and the V8 gets power operation for both front passengers, as well as memory settings on the driver’s side door.
The S-Type’s boot, like the back seat, is also a little restricted by the falling-away rear although its usefulness is extended by the provision of a (one piece) folding rear seat that leaves a reasonable load space through to the interior.
The S-Type V8 is a swift, quite decisive grand tourer rather than a muscular performer like the supercharged, 298kW "R" version. It’s a nice alternative to the German brands that has an unmistakable road presence and an artfully conceived interior ambience that shows little evidence that it springs from an American design.
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