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First Oz drive: Jaguar improves S-Type

Graceful progress: The S-Type update makes the car feel more solid and planted on the road.

The big cat's mid-size luxury car gets a mid-life update

11 Jun 2002

JAGUAR has dramatically updated all bar the retro looks of its S-Type mid-size luxury sedan, and expanded the range to include a sub-$90,000 entry level 2.5-litre model and a hyper-performance flagship, the S-Type R.

As mid-life updates go, the work Jaguar has done on the S-Type is about as significant as it gets with the engines, transmission, suspensions and interior either all-new or substantially revised.

Jaguar Australia is officially predicting the expanded range will do no more than maintain S-Type sales at about 50 per month when it goes on sale on July 1.

Privately, company executives are hoping for far better results considering price rises have been kept low and the 2.5 opens up new entry level sales opportunities, worth up to 40-50 per cent of total segment volume, according to their own figures.

Where there were five S-Type models previously, there are now six. There is a choice of plush SE and more focussed Sport in 3.0 and 4.2-litre engine capacities, while you can no longer get a base spec 3.0. The 2.5 and the R bookend the range.

The 2.5's engine is actually drafted in from the X-Type and produces 150kW at 6800rpm and 250Nm at 4000rpm, with a combined fuel economy average of 9.5L/100km.

Above that is the existing 3.0, the 4.0-litre V8 punched out to 4.2-litres and the stonking supercharged version added at the top end.

The 3.0's figures are [email protected]/[email protected] and 9.0L/100km, while the normally-aspirated 4.2 registers [email protected]/420Nm at 4100rpm and 9.5L/100km.

But it is the supercharged engine that grabs the performance headlines with 298kW at 6000rpm, 553Nm at 3500rpm and a fuel economy average of 12.0L/100km. Jaguar claims it can accelerate to 100km/h from rest in 5.3 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h.

All these powerplants are mated to ZF's new six-speed automatic transmission - a first for a car in this category to have this many self-shifting ratios. Only on the 3.0 Sport is a five-speed manual transmission a no-cost option.

The front and rear double wishbone suspension is retained but in little more than layout compared to the old car. Forged aluminium control arms, stiffened cast aluminium front knuckles and a new subframe are incorporated up-front. At the rear there's a more rigidly attached subframe, new control arms and knuckles, and a new toe-link for improved rear wheel alignment.

The hardware is complemented by a 10 per cent more rigid body, new spring and damper rates and revised steering rack tuning. Completing the mechanical changes are larger brake discs.

Inside, the controversial, plasticky ovoid presentation has been replaced by the more traditional full-width bird's eye maple veneer panel and re-designed centre console which is familiar from the X-Type and XJ. There's also new seats, an electronic finger-operated park brake, redesigned switchgear and optional electronically adjustable foot pedals.

The baseline equipment level is set by the 2.5 with maple and leather trim, along with dual zone climate control, power front seating and steering column, six-disc CD audio system, front and side curtain airbags, alloy wheels and dynamic stability control.

Move up the range and more luxury items are added, while the SE and Sport are differentiated by styling touches and different suspension tune, with the Sports and V8s getting 17-inch alloys and the R imposing 18-inch wheels wrapped in 245/40 front and 275/35 rear tyres.

S-Type 2.5 V6 $85,500
S-Type 3.0 V6 SE $97,500
S-Type 3.0 V6 Sport $101,500
S-Type 4.2 V8 SE $112,000
S-Type 4.2 V8 Sport $112,000
S-Type R $162,000


A BRIEF sampling of each capacity in the new S-Type range at the Australian launch in south-east Queensland left us impressed by the improvements achieved.

There's a brief rundown of the four models we sampled below, but one theme common among all versions is that the interior redo has been a success, with clearer, cleaner and richer-feeling appointments. Bear in mind, however, this update cannot address S-Type issues like limited rear seat and boot space.

2.5: No doubting this is the tardiest car in the range, confirmed by its claimed 0-100km/h acceleration figure of just 9.9 seconds. With 1620kg to haul along, the willing engine has to be pushed to keep up that Jaguar-like cross-country cruising pace.

The six-speed auto proved a handsome ally for the cause. Also noticeable here was the improved shifting quality of the J-gate transmission lever.

While the suspension is the more luxurious SE set-up, surprisingly the car driven actually felt the harshest in the front-end with more noticeable bump-thump and noise transfer than even the R.

3.0 Sport: The extra solidity of the new S-Type was noticeable immediately, with a very planted feel on the road. There was some noticeable tyre roar on coarse chip but otherwise this car's more purposeful suspension tune impressed with its ability to communicate and yet provide comfort at the same time. The revised steering was also very good, with accuracy accompanied by a high level of feel.

Although it felt much livelier, and the 7.6 seconds 0-100km/h time testified to that, the 3.0 still seemed held back to some extent by its 1673kg kerb weight. Again, the ZF transmission was almost unnoticeable in its seamless ability to be in the right gear at the right time.

4.2 Sport: With a copious amount of power and torque mated to excellent transmission and the firm but beautifully compliant suspension, this S-Type truly evokes the Jaguar tradition of sporting saloons, capable of whisking its occupants long distances in comfort and style.

While the AJ-V8 is based on the old quad cam 4.0, there have been significant changes including a new crank, exhausts, cylinder heads, lubrication and engine management systems. That results in a potent 6.5 second 0-100km/h dash and no shortage of overtaking and hill-conquering ability.

It feels almost unburstable such is its stability and strength. On first impression, this is our pick of the range.

S-Type R: The big mutha is almost overwhelming in its power delivery, capable of rushing to highly illegal speeds in the blink of an eye. Yet it is also supremely versatile, equally at home in dawdling city traffic.

With the aid of Jaguar's CATS computer-aided suspension technology, the R is also surprisingly comfortable to ride in. There's no doubt this is the firmest of the S-Type family but it's never harsh.

Boy racers will also enjoy the aggressive looks, complete with mesh grille, small rear spoiler, tinted head and tail-lights and those massive Zeus wheels.

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