Overview

The Jaguar S-Type sedan was a great car when it was introduced and it's a much better car now. When it was launched in 1999, we praised its beautiful exterior and rich interior, and enthused over the sporty handling. Jaguar then re-engineered the S-Type for 2003, a major change that revised 70 percent of the car. The result was improved response, a smoother ride, and enhanced comfort and convenience. In short, the car had improved dramatically. For 2005, Jaguar has updated the styling, revised the interior, and retuned the suspension. And the wonderful ZF six-speed automatic is now standard on all models.

We like the improvements to the 2005 Jaguar S-Type. It's a comfortable car, it handles well, and it still makes a statement when it pulls up to a five-star hotel. We found the base 3.0-liter V6 delivers responsive performance, thanks partly to the superb six-speed automatic transmission. Opt for the 4.2 model and you get thrilling performance from its powerful V8 engine. If that isn't enough, you can spring for the high-performance S-Type R, which boasts a 400-horsepower supercharged engine, sports suspension, and big Brembo brakes.

Another more gradual but no less significant change: Jaguar's quality has been dramatically improved over the past few years and recent buyers report being very happy with their new S-Types.

Model Lineup

Three models comprise the S-Type range, distinguished primarily by their engines. Each comes with rich leather upholstery and all the other features associated with a premium luxury car.

The S-Type 3.0 ($44,230) is powered by a 235-horsepower 3.0-liter V6. The S-Type 4.2 ($51,330) comes with a powerful, 294-horsepower 4.2-liter V8. The high-performance S-Type R ($58,330) gets a supercharged version of the same 4.2-liter V8. All models come with the six-speed automatic transmission.

Depending on model, features include heated power seats with memory, a split-folding rear seat, automatic dual-zone climate control with air filtration, power adjustable steering column with tilt-away entry and exit action, twin-function trip computer, and cruise control. Options include satellite navigation, power adjustable foot pedals, self-leveling xenon headlights, and rain-sensing wipers. Front and rear Park Assist are available. Adaptive Cruise Control is available which, like normal cruise control, allows the driver to set and maintain a cruising speed, but is also able to detect slower-moving vehicles ahead and will slow the car as necessary. When the traffic ahead speeds up, Adaptive Cruise will return to the driver's chosen speed.

The 4.2 is available as a swanky new VDP edition featuring premium leather upholstery with contrast piping, rich California burl walnut veneer trim, deep-pile carpeting, heated seats, and an electronic rear sunblind.

Walkaround

Jaguar substantially redesigned the styling of the S-Type for 2005. Though subtle, the changes are extensive and give it a more athletic look.

A new aluminum hood (in place of the steel bonnet) takes 22 pounds off the front of the car for improved weight distribution, and features a more defined vee shape. The redesigned front bumper is simpler, cleaner. Redesigned chrome bumper inserts are less bulky, and the bumper has a deeper chin. The grille is re-proportioned and stands out more, subtly lower and broader and more upright. It looks simpler, more modern and more assertive.

The sides of the car have been redesigned to make it look longer and leaner and the rear fender line is raised for a more powerful, forward-pushing stance.

The distinctive round tail lamps look more technical than before, blending smoothly into the new curves of the tail, and have a jewel-like appearance. The wider rear trunk finisher (in chrome on the 3.0 and 4.2) is simplified, running the full width between the new rear lamps.

The wipers feature an improved washing system, with the washer jets incorporated into the wiper arms for better coverage. Lever-style door handles remain, which are aerodynamic but I find them harder to grab than the kind you slide your fingers through.

Body panels fit more closely together. Overall, quality has improved dramatically in recent years. In 1989, Jaguar ranked at the bottom of the list in the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, one rung above Yugo. Jaguar is now third from the top, according to the 2003 and 2004 surveys, just below Lexus and Cadillac. That's even more impressive given that the quality bar is moving up: The top of that list represents a much higher standard of quality than what was found at the top of the list a decade ago. Recent S-Type buyers appear to be happy with more than just the quality of their cars. The S-Type placed second in its class in J.D. Power's APEAL survey, which measures owners' delight with the design, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles, placing the Jag above the Mercedes E-Class and below the Lexus GS.

Interior Features

Based on customer feedback, Jaguar redesigned the S-Type's interior for 2005, adding or improving features while eliminating those not needed. All models come with rich leather upholstery, with stitching that gives it a high-quality appearance. Warm birds-eye maple veneer stained bronze is the standard trim, but a new aluminum trim option is available for a more technical-looking finish.

Material quality has been enhanced and there's a whole new palette of interior colors and trims. Trim choices now include classic leather, perforated leather, and R leather. There are four trim color options: Champagne, Charcoal, Dove and Ivory. And there are three new two-tone color combinations, depending on model: Granite and Dove on the aluminum Sport package, Charcoal and Light Sand, and Charcoal and Dove for the R. There are also three wood veneer choices depending on the model or package: Bronze Madrona (standard on all models except R), Grey Birds Eye Maple (R Only) and classic Burl Walnut (Highline package on 4.2-liter only). Topping the list is the High-line pack, with extensive use of classic walnut veneers (including a half-walnut, half-leather steering wheel), softgrain leather, premium floor mats, heated seats with subtle chrome highlights on the headrest bezels. Don't want wood? A sporty aluminum dash finish is available for the Sport and R, harking back to some of Jaguar's greatest sports cars.

Three seat styles are available. Comfort, Sport, and R respectively offer increasingly aggressive bolstering for spirited driving. The driver's seat is narrower in R models.

Sumptuous leather is used on the surfaces of all seats and door panels. The steering wheel looks and feels good. A well-designed toggle on the left side of the steering column quickly, easily and precisely controls the power tilt and telescopic adjustments for the steering wheel. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, with a nice firm seat bottom that minimizes fatigue on long trips.

There is a decent amount of space for rear-seat passengers. Rear legroom is on par with other similar sized cars.

For 2003, Jaguar added more storage to the S-Type interior. Two glove boxes are provided in addition to the center console storage. Sunglasses can be stashed in an overhead console case lined with soft rubber. Dual cupholders are provided, but are mounted far enough to the rear as to be a bit awkward to reach while driving.

Trunk space is only average at 14.1 cubic feet due to the curvy rear end; swan–neck hinges are used that intrude in the cargo space, but their advantage is that the trunk lid will conveniently pop up when opened. The rear seats can be folded down in a 60/40 split for 28.6 cubic feet of cargo space.

Climate controls and sound system buttons are big, easy to discern and easy to operate. The instrument pod contains just a fuel gauge and water temperature gauge besides the speedometer and tachometer. All told it is a pleasant design.

The electronically controlled parking brake has been refined for 2005. It is designed to work intuitively and will automatically release in certain circumstances: Switch on the parking brake with the car in Drive at an intersection and it switches off when you accelerate, handy when stopping for traffic lights on steep hills.

Driving Impressions

Driving the S-Type cars is satisfying. It imparts a feeling of class and sophistication to passengers.

The S-Type comes with a great transmission, perhaps the best available. The six-speed automatic ZF is the same transmission used in the new BMW 7 Series. This transmission is extremely responsive and silky smooth. With more gears to choose from, it offers excellent drivability around town. It delivers both better performance and improved fuel economy. A Sport mode allows the driver to shift manually. Select this mode and the transmission will not shift above the highest gear selected, though as needed it will shift down and back up below this gear. The transmission has two overdrive ratios. Sport mode stays in fifth unless the driver maintains a steady state for 30 seconds. But most of the time we preferred to simply leave it in Drive and let it do its thing, as it does it so well. It's a smart transmission: lift off the throttle for a corner and it senses the steering angle and holds it in gear. It also holds a gear on hills, eliminating hunting between gears.

The 3.0-liter V6 engine is smooth and delivers plenty of power for most drivers. We found it offers good power for passing. Floor it at 50 mph in fifth gear and in a heartbeat the six-speed automatic smoothly downshifted to second gear at 5500 rpm, surging without lurching. Jaguar says the S-Type 3.0 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. The V6 was smooth and civilized when cruising, and noise from the engine was isolated. Under hard acceleration, however, the sound it made reminded us that it's a Ford Duratec V6.

The 2005 S-Type 3.0-liter we drove did not have the Sport package with its firmer suspension, but we still found the cornering to be exceptional. It felt a little squishy when driven hard on a winding road, but cornering was relatively flat (the car didn't lean a lot), and grip was very good. Add in the Dynamic Stability Control, and it's hard to get into trouble.

The S-Type rides smoothly and is nicely damped. Jaguar revised the suspension for 2005 to make the ride a bit smoother, but it's still tuned more for handling than a soft ride. Driving through the Texas hill country outside Austin, I found it still jiggles a bit from side to side on bumpy rural roads, a little more than I would have liked. And you can hear the hiss of the tires. When asked about this, a spokesman said Jaguar does not build Buicks.

The 4.2-liter V8 engine delivers truly spirited performance with strong low-rpm torque for quicker acceleration. Jaguar says the S-Type 4.2 can accelerate form 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, which is quite quick. The 4.2 feels relaxed and responsive around town and cruising on the highway, but delivers spirited performance when driving quickly on back roads. The 4.2 V8 generates 86 percent of its maximum torque at just 1500 rpm for greater flexibility around town. This a very strong car by any measure.

The 4.2 offers a firm ride. There is some road vibration on badly rippled roads, but it smoothes out on smoother roads. The 4.2 is quiet, with some wind noise at high speeds. It's stable at high speeds with precise, linear steering that makes the driver feel part of the car. Handling is firm without being too harsh. Jaguar's S-Type is not as stiff as the BMW 5 Series. It is the type of car that inspires confidence for those who enjoy driving without being a chore for those who do not. It felt wonderful when driving hard on narrow, winding roads. In short, it's a wonderful automobile, very pleasant.

The S-Type R offers fantastic acceleration performance. Jaguar says it can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds with a top speed electronically limited to 155 mph. We could clearly hear the whine from supercharger when hard on the gas. Hot rodders love it, but we wonder whether it would become tiresome. Superchargers deliver better low-end torque and more linear response than turbochargers an

Summary

With its sensuous looks, Jaguar's S-Type makes a statement when it rolls onto the scene. It combines that with a luxurious, crafted interior in understated British fashion. The S-Type cars are effortless to drive with a relaxed, refined ride. They offer cutting-edge technology that's relevant and free of gadgetry.

The S-Type is a compelling alternative to the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class cars. The Jaguar is less expensive and more than holds its own in curb appeal, performance and features. We really like the 2005 S-Type 3.0 and love the 4.2 with its powerful V8. Pricing for the high-performance S-Type R has been dropped $4,125 to better compete with the BMW 545i Sport, Mercedes E500, Audi A6 and Lexus GS.

Model Line Overview
Base Price (MSRP)
$44,230
Model lineup:
Jaguar S-Type 3.0 ($44,230); S-Type 4.2 ($51,330); S-Type R ($58,330)
Engines:
235-hp 3.0-liter dohc 24-valve V6; 294-hp 4.2-liter dohc 32-valve V8; 390-hp 4.2-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Transmissions:
6-speed automatic
Safety equipment (Standard):
dynamic stability control (DSC), dual front airbags, front side-impact airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, ARTS (including energy-absorbent seating system), front seatbelt pretensioners, rear child seat tethers and anchors
Safety equipment (Optional):
N/A
Basic warranty:
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in:
Birmingham, England
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSRP):
Jaguar S-Type 3.0 liter ($44,230)
Standard equipment:
dual automatic climate control, leather-trimmed seats, madrona veneer trim, AM/FM/CD, power windows, power mirrors, power locks, cruise control, power tilt/telescopic steering, wood and leather steering wheel, aluminum alloy wheels, three-position memory system, split fold-down rear seat, HomeLink garage door opener, one-touch power moonroof, eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar support
Options as tested:
power moonroof ($1,100)
Destination charge:
665
Gas Guzzler Tax:
N/A
Price as tested (MSRP)
$45,995
Layout:
rear-wheel drive
Engine:
4.2-liter dohc 32v V8
Horsepower (hp @ rpm):
235 @ 6800
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm):
216 @ 4100
Transmission:
6-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:
18/26 mpg.
Wheelbase:
114.5 in.
Length/width/height:
192.0/71.6/56.0 in.
Track, f/r:
60.4/60.7 in.
Turning circle:
37.7 ft.
Seating capacity:
5
Head/hip/leg room, f:
40.5/NA/43.1 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:
36.9/NA/37.7 in.
Cargo volume:
14.1 cu. ft.
Payload:
N/A
Towing capacity:
N/A
Suspension F:
independent
Suspension R:
independent
Ground clearance:
N/A
Curb weight:
3771 lbs.
Tires:
235/50R17
Brakes, f/r:
disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist in.
Fuel capacity:
15.0 gal.
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