New models - Jaguar - S-Type
First drive: S-Type puts on a brave face
Jaguar attempts to slow S-Type’s sales slide with a fresh face and more value
15 Oct 2004
JAGUAR Australia has unleashed a dramatically simplified, better-value S-Type range in an effort to stem the alarming sales slide of its five-year-old mid-sized luxury class candidate, which receives its second facelift in two years.
Launched in 1999, Jaguar’s first new compact sedan in 30 years gained a small but significant foothold in a market dominated almost exclusively in Australia by the Mercedes-Benz E-class and BMW’s 5 Series.
A complete powertrain overhaul in 2002 - which brought the category’s first six-speed automatic transmission to the entire line-up along with a new 2.5-litre entry variant and a superb new 4.2-litre V8 – confirmed the distinctive S-Type’s status as the category’s unsung hero, but did little to improve on its lacklustre 50-a-month sales.
Since then, a new E-class (launched in August 2002) has reaffirmed Mercedes’ class leadership, BMW’s 5 Series replacement has proved almost as popular since its October 2003 release and Audi has just launched its most convincing category contender yet in a redesigned A6, complete with turbo-diesel grunt.
As a result, S-Type has experienced a downward spiral since its best of 725 sales in 2000, with 533 sold in 2001, 566 sold in 2002 and just 314 sold in 2003. While Jaguar has delivered just 177 S-Types to September this year, in the same period Mercedes sold more than 2000 E-class variants, BMW found almost 1600 homes for 5 Series and Audi shifted 232 examples of its aged A6.
Acquiescently, Jaguar Australia general manager David Blackhall says the only option available to him – to adjust specification upwards and simplify the updated model range – will, at best, achieve a 10 per cent lift in sales or, at worst, maintain S-Type’s traditional 25 per cent slice of Jaguar’s model mix.
Either way, it’s clear the delicately restyled, better equipped and fine tuned Jaguar represents the best value for customers yet afforded by S-Type. Most significantly, the rationalised Australian S-Type range, which now comprises four variants instead of seven, adopts what Mr Blackhall describes as a premium engine strategy.
That spells the discontinuation of the slow-selling $86,000 150kW 2.5-litre V6 entry level variant (leaving Jaguar without a rival for Audi’s $83,900 A6 2.4, BMW’s $92,600 525i and Mercedes’ E240 starting at $92,500), which effectively becomes the 3.0-litre V6 SE for under $4000 more at $89,900.
While it loses features like the outgoing 3.0 V6 SE’s parking sensors, Jaguar says its larger engine and features like memory seats, 17-inch wheels and a wood/leather steering wheel are unmatched by 525i or E240.
The previous $98,000 3.0 V6 SE becomes the 3.0 V6 Luxury which for $99,900 gains satellite navigation, TV, rain-sensing wipers, rear and (new) front parking sensors and metallic paint as standard, representing $10,575 of added value for an extra $1900.
Again, Jaguar points out features like these are not standard on the more expensive 530i ($110,200) and E320 ($122,500). The outgoing S-Type V6 and V8 Sport variants disappear.
Then comes the 4.2 V8 Luxury, which replaces the $112,500 4.2 V8 SE and Sport variants for a heftier $124,900 but gains the 3.0 V6’s Luxury’s extras plus larger 18 x 8.0-inch wheels.
It also means the S-Type V8 still undercuts E-class, 5 Series and A6’s V8 offerings by a solid margin, with E500 starting at $157,900, 545i starting at $157,900 (neither of which afford the likes of 18-inch wheels or a TV as standard) and the A6 4.2 quattro costing $151,900.
Finally, the flagship S-Type R increases in price from $165,000 to $169,950, with standard equipment now including Jaguar’s Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS).
While it offers bi-Xenon headlights with washers as standard, they are available on lesser S-Types, as is a telephone and sunroof, plus new options like adaptive cruise control and adjustable pedals. S-Type R will be pitched at potential buyers of E55 AMG ($225,600) and the forthcoming M5.
Jaguar Australia is still in the process of evaluating the 2.7-litre turbo-diesel S-Type released in European markets in June, but it’s likely the AJD-V6 engine will go on sale here in S-Type in the third quarter of next year. The common-rail direct-injection twin-turbo 24-valve V6 produces 153kW and a handy 435Nm of torque (more than S-Type’s 4.2-litre V8 yet it’s 47 per cent more economical), with 80 per cent available from 1500rpm.
Presenting a subtle new exterior look, all facelifted S-Types get a more heavily sculpted, 11kg-lighter aluminium bonnet a shorter and wider grille borrowed from Jag’s R-D6 concept a less droopy, 25mm higher bootlid simpler front and rear bumpers slimmer side skirts jewelled tail-lights a new valance garnish squared-off numberplate recess and revised badging.
Jaguar says the fresher look brings improved panel fit, weight distribution, high-speed stability (especially on the winged R) aerodynamics (from 0.32 to 0.31Cd). Redesigned alloy wheels of up to 18-inch diameter and a new colour palate complete the external titivations.
Interior alterations are fewer since the S-Type came under the scalpel here in mid-2002, but buyers will find new and more informative instrumentation, revised colours and trim, and the availability of an aluminium fascia finish instead of woodgrain.
An upgraded electronic handbrake is now standard across the range.
There are also improved safety features, such as Jaguar’s Volvo-inspired ARTS adaptive airbag/energy-absorbing anti-whiplash seats/pretensioner seatbelt systems and improved windscreen wiper functions.
Noise/vibration/harshness levels are also reduced, due to the freer overall airflow and the range-wide adoption of a heavy-duty bonnet liner developed for silencing the inevitable din in diesel variants.
On the drivetrain side there are few changes, with only mild changes to suspension calibrations. These include low friction ball joints and re-tuned dampers for a better ride/handling compromise. Jaguar’s trademark automatic J-Gate gearshifter has also been modified.
2005 S-Type pricing:
S-Type 3.0 V6 SE $89,900
S-Type 3.0 V6 Luxury $99,900
S-Type 4.2 V8 Luxury $124,900
S-Type R 4.2 V8 supercharged $169,950
DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:GENTLY massaged exterior styling and more equipment for the slimmer S-Type range was never going to make a big difference to its driving experience, and it hasn’t.
That’s not such a bad thing, because Jaguar’s 2000 drivetrain updates saw it gain the category’s first six-speed transmission and the new 4.2 V8 which, together, were a vast improvement on the previous 4.0 AJV8 and made S-Type a far more serious luxury mid-sizer.
And the interior that was comprehensively upgraded in 2002 is noticeably sharper thanks to the availability of aluminium rather than wood trim, plus carefully tweaked instrumentation. The S-Type cabin remains a supremely comfortable, quiet and luxurious place to be.
Handy features like the electronic handbrake – now standard across the S-Type range but not in its competitors – and memory seats even at base level add to the mid-Jaguar’s value proposition. In fact, with new standard items like sat-nav, TV, rain-sensor, parking sensors and metallic paint, the 3.0 V6 Luxury is probably the best-value sub-$100,000 luxury sedan going.
But in other areas S-Type cannot help but show its age. Back in 1999 S-Type’s superb ride quality, solid handling and luxury-feel steering fitted the bill nicely in a class that was dominated by the previous W210 E-class and E39 5 Series.
But the medium luxury competition has moved on considerably since then and, alongside formidable newcomers like Audi’s latest A6, suspension tweaks can only do so much to improve an outdated chassis.
S-Type still offers excellent low-speed ride quality, but on the fast, bumpy blacktop over the Tidbinbilla Range outside Canberra, where Jaguar launched the 2005 S-Type, it fell well short of the dynamic standards now realised by E-class, 5 Series and A6.
An abundance of bump steer over mid-corner holes and lumps took the shine off the drive, with an increasing level kickback evident as speeds rose. The tauter-steering S-Type R fared noticeably better than 3.0 V6 variants, but remained in another league to the likes of E55 and even the previous M5.
Even worse than this, however, was the disconcerting way all variants would hop and skip sideways over mid-corner irregularities at speed.
The better controlled R suspension showed the most composure in such situations, but the high-speed ride quality of all facelifted S-Types – especially in the noticeably more firmly-damped V8 Luxury – seems to have made S-Type more cumbersome and less confidence inspiring on deteriorated Australian road surfaces.
S-Type remains a superb open-road tourer and gobbles up country and city miles deceptively quickly, without fuss and while delivering a high level of comfort and refinement. The V8 Luxury variant, in particular, offers its driver a level of swiftness and sweetness that few European cars can match.
But it fails to match its German competitors’ ability to combine these qualities with involving dynamics. As the new variant names suggest, S-Type is more luxury than sport. And S-Type R, notwithstanding the responsiveness of its super-torquey supercharged V8, remains in another league to the likes of E55 and the new M5.
That said, Jaguar’s medium luxury entrant retains a solid point of difference to all three of its German rivals in terms of style, and S-Type’s slightly crisper, cleaner look continues the theme.
Moreover, the latest S-Type offers more value and more convenience than ever, and on this basis alone deserves serious consideration instead of opting automatically for the more expensive German giants.
For those that don’t value sportiness as highly as luxury, S-Type’s unbeatable value equation makes it Australia’s most underrated luxury sedan.
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