Jaguar S-Type

For 28 years, Jaguar's business relied on only one large sedan model plus a coupe. From now on the situation will not be the same. The new S-Type is added to the range to target BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E class in this highly profitable sector. And later a Ford Mondeo-based baby Jag will complete the trilogy so to make Jaguar a complete marque against the German. 

The introduction of the S-Type must cause some embarrassment to the existing XJ8. Theoretically the XJ8 competes with the more luxurious Mercedes S-class / BMW 7 Series, but actually the S-Type has some 40mm longer wheelbase than the standard XJ8 and powered by nearly the same 4 litres V8. Of course it undercut a lot the XJ8 in price. So inevitably the sales of the bigger car will be influenced.  

Its styling gives me mixed impression : on the positive side, the nose section reminds me the golden days of Jaguar. The grille mirrors the 40's XK-120 and 50's Mk II sedan, both of which are the greatest classic cars in today. Twin circular headlights at each side is also the tradition of Jaguar, started by Mk II, then the original S-Type and then the long-serving XJ6. The bonnet is shaped to follow the curve of the grille and the headlights, making the car looks retro. Overall speaking, viewing from the front the S-Type is exactly a modern Mk II. If you have a good memory, you may remember the Mk II gave Jaguar a reputation as the expert of sports sedan, in then BMW was still producing boring cars. Can the new S-Type repeat its success ? 

However, looking from other angles, you may have very different feeling. At the rear, it looks like a Mondeo. Side view is no less disappointing. The curvy-looking window frames cannot hide the boxy shape of the body, simply because all hard points were already defined by Lincoln LS's chassis, on which the Jaguar base. It seems that the most beautiful part is still the front end. 

The cabin could be even more disappointing : there is no British ambience, no Jaguar's tradition at all. What you see is very similar to any low price American luxury cars, such as Lincoln or Cadillac. Not only the huge piece of wood looks tasteless, the dials look boring, the steering wheel looks ordinary, the hemi-circular centre console looks odd, but the fit and finish is also in question. Most plastics are of very poor grade that you can find in any mass production Ford. The glove box door doesn't fit very well, neither does every assembly gap.  

Nevertheless, its Lincoln root donate some modern elements. For example, the roof is much higher than XJ8, thus offer generous head room for the front occupants. Although the rear head room is tighter (due to the swoopy roof line at the rear), it is still roomier than its dearer sister. Leg room for both rows is benefited by the longer wheelbase. Higher driving position provides better visibility. 

For the first time, the Jaguar has a split rear seats which give access to the better-shaped boot. 

As already mentioned, the new Jag was developed in collaboration with the Lincoln LS sedan, of course under the instruction of parent company Ford. In its press release, Jaguar did not try to hide this, but it also spent a lot of words to persuade you to believe its engineers heavily involved the chassis, engines, suspension etc. from the design stage and brought Jaguar's character into its heart and bones. 

The 3-litre V6 engine is an example. Based on Ford Taurus's Duratec unit, it received a new cylinder head, lightweight camshafts, continuously variable valve timing at the inlet side, 3-stage variable induction pipe and drive-by-wire throttle. This makes an extremely remarkable output - 240hp and 221 lbft. In my memory, only Porsche 968 and Honda NSX have 3-litre engines to match these figures. 

Unlike the V6, the 4-litre V8 is based on the UK-designed AJ-V8. The V6's continuous VVT system replaces the original discrete design, so you and I must expect more power and torque. In fact, its output dropped from 290hp / 290lbft to the still respectable 281hp / 287lbft without any official explanation. Anyway, pushing the lighter body, Coventry claimed the manual version of V6 could sprint to 60mph from standstill in an unbelievable 6.8 seconds. Top speed is 146mph. The V8, which is available only in the form of 5-speed automatic, is claimed to be capable of reaching 150mph and complete 0-60mph in 6.6 sec.  

In reality, it is another story. Mated with manual transmission, Autocar timed the V6 took 8.3sec for 0-60, that is, one and a half seconds longer than claimed. Very slow indeed. Top speed barely reached 139mph, down 7mph. How to explain these figures ? the sub-standard 0.32 drag coefficient is one reason, the peaky engine is another, the tall gearing is the third and lastly, the 1645kg weight. Torque spread is biased towards high speed, one of the sign is peak torque appear at 4,500rpm. Real punch won't be available until 3,500rpm. This makes its power not easily accessible. What's wrong with the VVT ? 

Apart from slow response, the Taurus-based V6 does not rev as silky smooth as BMW or Lexus's straight six, does not sing as beautiful as Alfa V6 too. It couldn't be said as a world class engine. However, Jaguar expected it will take 88% of S-Type's sales in UK. 

The V8 is much more promising, perhaps because of its British root. It delivers power as strong and as creamy as the AJ-V8. Mated to it is a compulsory 5-speed auto, with Jaguar's traditional J-gate. Gear shift slicker than the optional 5-speed auto using in the V6. Because it weighs as much as 1732kg, again the performance has been recorded to be lower than claimed : 143mph, 0-60 took 7.2 sec. BMW 540i, Lexus GS400 and even Volvo S80 T6 could leave it in smoke. 

Handling and ride also deliver mixed impression. On one hand the double wishbones suspensions provide the remarkable suppleness we expect to a Jaguar, only slightly lag behind the 5-series which rides on aluminium suspension arms. Body control is also fine, no matter equipped with CATS or not. (CATS is an adaptive damping system, stands for "Computer Active Technology Suspensions") On the other hand, the throttle pedal is too light, so is the speed-sensitive variable assisted steering of the V6 version. (V8 is OK, probably due to the heavier nose) Obviously the Jaguar does not succeed in catching the class-leading BMW 5-series, which is the benchmark vehicle during the development of the S-Type. The brakes initially feels strong, but easy to fade. (the less professional AutoExpress did not notice this point) Overall speaking, S-Type has dynamic eclipsing the S80 T6 and Audi A6, but not yet reaching the level of Lexus GS and Alfa 166, let alone the mighty 5 Series. 

In terms of refinement, the quietness from engine is spoiled by wind noise coming from the A-pillar. Otherwise, it approaches very high standard, especially is the way the suspension soak up bumps. What a pity the build quality of the cabin let us down. 

As a whole, Jaguar has made a quite balanced car, at least for the V8 - decent performance, competitive handling, superb ride, good comfort and a distinctive design. If not sharing platform with Lincoln LS, it could be better in all these fields. Although I'd prefer a more characterful car like Volvo S80 or Alfa 166, most Mr. Average Businessman are likely to be in favour of the Jaguar, considering its overall balanced and famous brand name. The only risk is the Lincoln-like build quality. 

The sales target is rather conservative, Jaguar hopes to sell 55,000 S-Type annually, compared with the 200,000 units achieved by BMW and Mercedes. After all, this is enough to double the company's capacity from the current 47,000 per year. 

The above report was last updated on 18 Feb 99. All Rights Reserved.

S-Type 1st revision (late 2000)

The S-Type gave us this impression: good basis but lack of attention to details led to too many flaws. In other words, not in the league of BMW. PAG top man Wolfgang Reitzle knew this very well because he used to be the man behind every modern BMWs. Therefore he ordered a rework on the S-Type just 1 and a half year after its launch.  

The most criticized thing - V6’s version’s steering - has been sorted by employing ZF’s mechanism instead of Ford’s in-house stuff. It brings more feel, sharper response and improved speed sensistivity. Then a revised engine management gave the V6 more linear response at low rev, although overall speaking the Duratec-based unit is still unresponsive (partly due to severe flywheel effect) and non-linear by class standard.  

Not a radical makeover but undoubtedly a positive signal. I hope more improvement will be made in a couple year’s of time. A new dashboard is already in my wish list. 

The above report was last updated on 23 Mar 2001. All Rights Reserved.

S-Type 2nd revision (2002)

See above for my wish mentioned last year. Now Jaguar really gives the S-Type a new dashboard, and even a major revision to the whole car - from engine, gearbox, chassis, suspension to interior. Nearly all parts of the S-Type have been modified.  

We start from engine. Jaguar’s 4-litre V8 has been upgraded to 4.2 litres by increasing stroke, this lift output from 290hp / 290lbft to 300hp / 308lbft, matching that of Audi and Lexus. The larger V8 - to be used in XK coupe and new XJ saloon as well - improves torque delivery across the whole rev range, especially at low rev. Performance is also enhanced by using ZF’s famous 6-speed automatic (S-Type is the second car employing it, after BMW 7-Series, but expect many more rivals will follow), whose seamless shift and closer ratio lift both refinement and acceleration. Jaguar claims the S-Type V8 takes 6.2 second from 0-60mph, a second quicker than the old car. 

For V6 models, a Getrag 5-speed manual replaces that unsatisfying Ford unit. At the bottom of the range, a 2.5-litre V6 joins from X-Type, now rated 201hp. 

One of the success of this revision is that it does not bring any more weight into the car. The company even claims a reduction of 50kg in average, although from the kerb weight figure we found no such evidence. Anyway, the new S packs more equipment than before, such as electronic handbrake, touch-screen control panel and an improved version of CATS adaptive damping. Therefore spec-by-spec compare it may be really lighter. How did it save weight ? the control arms of front suspensions are made in aluminum, the seat frames are magnesium.  

Dynamic is another key area for improvement. The front suspension is an all-new design, although retains the double-wishbone layout. It has new geometry and the aforementioned aluminum control arms. Rear suspension is refined and mounted on stiffer subframe for better geometry control in hard cornering. Body shell is also stiffened by 10%. As a result, the new S-Type rides quieter and smoother, changes direction more eager and handles more agile. One well-known old journalist (guess who?) even described it as the most improved car he had seen in years. 

And there is new dashboard that we cried for since the debut of S-Type. Basically the same design as the X-Type’s, but with more wood around the shifter. You can still criticize the quality of plastic or fit & finish compare with those built in Munich or Ingolstadt, but it is already a huge improvement from the old car, no matter in design and materials. At least it feels like a real Jaguar rather than a Ford. 

Now S-Type becomes a credible challenger to the 5-series and new Mercedes E-class. But it still lack one important thing - rear seat accommodation - a thing unlikely to be improved in the current generation. 

Road Test Finding 

The S-Type has improved so much that it now actually beats BMW 5-series in most major area. Only rear accommodation and interior quality separate it from being the greatest.  

Let’s talk about drivetrain first. Like many other V8 from competitors, the new Jag V8 is smooth and powerful. It propels the S-Type to 60mph from rest in 6.0 seconds, levels with Mercedes E500 and beats others to be the fastest car in class fitted with auto transmission. The V8 satisfies the majority buyers by its quiet operation, while purposeful growl is also accessible by keen drivers once it is pushed. Best of all, the Jag’s 6-speed ZF gearbox is (until now) by far the best automatic transmission offered in this class. So smoothie, so responsive and so well match with the torque curve of the engine that the combination is truly world-beating, at least until the next generation 5-series is fitted with the same gearbox.  

The chassis is another revelation. Ride - helped by CATS - is far more supple than BMW 540i and Audi A6 4.2, just marginally beaten by the E500’s air suspensions. S-Type becomes a great companion for driving cross country. The only problem is too much suspension noise generated on rough roads. 

Jaguar’s tradition was to sacrifice body control for ride quality, but the new S-Type also display excellent body control. It has good grip and stability. It changes direction eagerly. It chassis is well balanced and entertaining to drive when electronic aids are switched off. Throttle oversteering is one of its strong cards, though not as spectacular as BMW. In most conditions it remains neutral to a little bit understeer, giving excellent directional stability, thus ease of driving, at high speed cruising.  

The best - better than even the new E-class - is steering. Heavier than the Mercedes’, being faster (2.6 turns versus 2.8), being equally accurate and communicative, this is the best steering rack in the class. It filters all unwanted kickback from the road and leave you what you want to know, hence giving you maximum feel at minimum fuss. 

In the end, the S-Type still loses to Mercedes E-class, our new champion. The E is as good to drive and overall more refined (it’s so quiet and rides even better), offering far more interior room and better quality. Anyway, the new Jag is still a great achievement. We have never seen a car improved so much in a mid-life makeover. Without Wolfgang Reitzle, this would have never happened. Unfortunately, this car is also his last product for Jaguar and the whole Ford group. 

The above report was last updated on 25 May 2002. All Rights Reserved.

S-Type R

BMW M5 has been dominating the big sport sedan segment for 4 years. However, the following months will be decisive for determining the next King of the segment for the next few years. Jaguar has just launched the 400hp S-Type R, Audi will put its 450hp RS6 into production soon, while Mercedes E55 AMG is ready to raise the game to 470hp. All cars employ V8 engines and drive through either rear or all wheels. Both Jaguar and Mercedes get their superpower by employing supercharger, while Audi uses twin-turbo. However, they must first beat the Bi-Vanos-equipped, naturally aspirated BMW before claiming the title. Now Jaguar is the first challenger. 

S-Type R is not the quickest among them. In fact, it is likely to be the slowest, although you can never describe a 4-door sedan capable of doing 0-60 in 5.3 seconds as slow. Anyway, it is definitely the easiest to access, thanks to a sticker price lower than M5 by 10%. It is also perhaps the easiest to live with, as Jaguar deliberately tuned its suspensions to deliver smoother ride than German rivals. From the beginning, the engineering team decided that they should do something different from the Germans and closer to the core values of Jaguar. After reading this report, you must agree with this. 

Thanks to a recent revision to the standard S-Type which actually unveiled on the same day, the R version requires surprisingly little modifications. The most obvious upgrade is a supercharged engine. It is not a direct development of the outgoing engine used by XJR and XKR, it is derived from the new 4.2-litre V8. Supercharged by an Eaton supercharger and cooled by a pair of intercoolers - one for each bank, the V8 pumps out 400 horsepower at an impressive 6100rpm and 399 lbft of torque at 3500rpm. The engine runs smoothly and delivers its power linearly. This match perfectly with the 6-speed ZF automatic to provide a seamless yet responsive operation. Mercedes’ own automatic transmission will need to be very good to beat it, but I doubt that. The only complaint - if it is really a complaint - for the Jaguar engine is that it is too quiet, lacking a pulse-raising roar.  

Undoubtedly, the S-Type R is very quick, especially mid-range surge. However, it is not M5-quick, blame to mainly the use of automatic and also a little more weight. It also loses to the current champion in terms of eagerness. Don’t get me wrong, the Jaguar V8 is by all means a superb engine in the supercharging world, but comparing to the best naturally-aspirated V8 - especially an engine as famous as the M5’s - it lacks an instantaneous throttle response. This will, perhaps, never be changed as long as it is supercharged. 

On the other hand, the lack of manual gearbox is less a regret. Hardcore driving enthusiasts might still insist a manual, but there is no reason to choose a big sports saloon instead of the like of M3 or Evo VII while calling themselves "hardcore". Moreover, Jaguar’s J-gate allows easy access to fixed ratio 5-4-3-2, simply saves the like of Tiptronic. On the positive side, having a strong yet linear torque curve and an automatic tranny guarantees the most effortless performance. 

Better still is the ride quality. Predictably, the R employs stiffer springs, dampers, thicker anti-roll bars and 18-inch low-profile tyres, and less predictably, a solid rear bulkhead to increase chassis rigidity (therefore no folding rear seats). CATS adaptive damping is tuned to stiffen the rear dampers a fraction before the fronts in hard cornering in order to sharpen turn-in. It does have superb body control and a firmness and planted feel that previous Jaguars did not have. However, on the top of that is a ride far more forgiving than the M5. It also generates little suspension and tyre noise.  

Concerning handling, despite of carrying 1800kg, it attacks corners with great confidence, thanks to grippy tyres (245mm width front, 275mm rear) and fine body control. There is little separating the hot Jaguar and M5 in handling, just that the M5 tends to enjoy power slide at the driver’s will. This is simply because the BMW has limited-slip differential while Jaguar’s not. Nevertheless, the Jaguar won back at steering - its rack-and-pinion system is considerably more communicative than the BMW’s recirculating-ball system. This is where the next M5 must and will improve. Concerning brakes, both are good, but the Jaguar’s Brembo brakes with larger front discs prove to be ultimately more powerful and resist fading better than the BMW’s. 

The rest of the package favours the Munich rival. Although S-Type R has added mesh grille, black window frames and tiny tail spoiler etc. to boost visual appeal, its round shape looks less purposeful than M5. Its new R-logo is also unknown to car lovers, unlike the famous M-logo. Inside, the cockpit is much the same as regular S-Type, hence too civilized to me. The M5’s instrument cluster and driver-oriented console are much more attractive, also trimmed with better leather and employed high quality plastics. Jaguar’s steering wheel is another dull-looker - a big fault considering it is what the driver faces and touches all day. The same goes for seats, whose leather is not really first class. However, the biggest deficit is at the back - S-Type’s rear seat has too little legroom and headroom to be called an executive car. It even fails to match the space of a Mercedes C-class. 

However, taking ride quality and effortless performance into account, S-Type R is still easily more comfortable than M5. The conclusion is: for comfort, go to Jaguar; for ultimate thrill and overall desirability, M5 still has an edge, although it no longer wins convincingly. 

The above report was last updated on 30 Mar 2002. All Rights Reserved.


S-Type 3.0
S-Type 4.2
S-Type R
Front-engined, Rwd.
Front-engined, Rwd.
Front-engined, Rwd.
Size (L / W / H / WB) mm
4877 / 1819 / 1423 / 2909
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl, VVT, 
variable induction manifold.
V8, dohc, 4v/cyl, VVT.
V8, dohc, 4v/cyl, VVT,
2967 c.c.
4196 c.c.
4196 c.c.
240 hp
300 hp
400 hp
221 lbft
308 lbft
399 lbft
F: double-wishbones; R: multi-link
F: 245/40ZR18
R: 275/35ZR18
1645 kg
1735 kg
1800 kg
Top speed
139 mph*
155 mph (limited)
155 mph (limited)
0-60 mph
8.2 sec*
6.0 sec*
5.5 sec*
0-100 mph
21.4 sec*
15.4 sec*
12.6 sec*
* Tested by Autocar

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