The contemporary Jaguar S-Type, a well-appointed mid-sized luxury car, made its debut in 1998 at the prestigious British International Motor Show in Birmingham. The model designation was a revival of the iconic S-Type produced in the mid 1960’s. The new model featured retro styling, with attractive lines worthy of the original, and was available the following spring. Production ran for ten years and was discontinued after the 2008 model year.
The second generation S-Type was designed by Geoff Lawson and utilised the formidable Jaguar/Ford DEW98 chassis. The platform was used for rear-wheel drive and mid-sized sport-luxury cars. The same platform was also used on the S-Type’s eventual replacement, the Jaguar XF.
1999-2002 model S-Types are easily recognisable by the unique U-shaped centre console. Available engines were a 3.0 Litre V6, rated at 210 horsepower, and a 4.0 Litre V8, rated at 285 horsepower. Both engines were petrol versions and available with either a 5 speed manual or automatic gearbox.
Hoping to compete with the BMW M5, Jaguar raised the ante in the luxury sports saloon market and introduced the S-Type R, or STR, in 2002. The STR featured an improved 4.2 Litre V8 petrol power plant supplemented by an Eaton supercharger. The combination resulted in an impressive output of 400 horsepower, allowing the 4,000 pound car to record admirable acceleration times of 0-60 MPH in 5.3 seconds. Later models received an improved supercharger drive system netting an additional 20 horsepower.
Beginning in 2003, the S-Type received an improved 3.0 Litre petrol V6 engine, combined with a 6 speed automatic gearbox, increasing power output and improving shifting performance. Other improvements included a redesigned dash and grille.
2003 and later models featured an optional satellite navigational system, complete with touch-screen interface. Later models are identifiable by a more traditional centre console, as well as the Jaguar emblem incorporated into the radiator grille.
2004 model S-Types received a few minor cosmetic improvements while the cabin was essentially unchanged. The big news was the introduction of a new engine and powertrain. The 2.7 Litre V6 diesel made its debut, along with a new 6 speed manual gearbox. The diesel could also be coupled with a 6 speed automatic.
For the rest of its production life, the S-Type received only minor changes and upgrades. Jaguar offered a few special editions before ending the line at the conclusion of the 2008 model year.
Used Jaguar S-Types, especially later models, can be found in excellent condition with fair prices. Most reviewers agree the addition of the 6 speed gearbox in 2003 and later cars remedied shifting problems found in earlier models. Further, owner surveys indicate most of the reliability issues were eliminated.
As for appearance, fans love the retro styling, lines and grille; modern automotive technology keeping the classics of yesterday alive. Although critics may call the S-Type’s interior design traditional, fans of English engineering appreciate the leather appointments and distinctive ornate style.
The powertrain configuration of choice for most used Jaguar S-Type buyers would appear to be the 2.7 Litre diesel. The diesel offers improved torque over the petrol engines, although at a slight cost in acceleration times. Regardless, the diesel version is more than adequate for a luxury sports sedan and offers much improved fuel economy and reduced operating and ownership costs.
The Jaguar S-Type is a fine example of a well-designed modern classic. The sport suspension provides predictable handling and steering. The powertrain combinations allow for a choice between practicality and spirited acceleration. The modernised lines and interior speak grandeur and tradition. While there are other options, the posh elegance, both inside and out, makes purchasing a used S-Type a decision of the heart, mind, and soul.
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