Photos: Jaguar. Click image to enlarge
by Richard Russell
Ford rescued Jaguar from imminent bankruptcy and through its expertise and expenditure has brought the company’s product and production methods into the current age. In the process, it has all but erased the well-deserved reputation for dismal quality shared by British car companies. In return Jaguar has failed to pay off this investment, consistently sliding down the sales charts while climbing to the very top of the quality ratings.
Jaguar has an uncanny ability to portray style and class. Over a price range spread from $60,000 to double that, the entire product range exudes grace and old-fashioned luxury from the exterior design to the leather and wood-lined interiors. But you need more than reputations to stay alive in today’s automotive jungle so Jaguar has equipped several of its products with some serious claws in the hopes of generating sales and interest among a new generation of luxury car buyers.
These products are identified visually by numerous upgrades to the wheel-tire package and some modified bodywork – but also by the appearance of the letter “R”. This very European method of denoting the performance range, has been perfected by the Germans where “AMG”, M” and “RS” nomenclature is recognized by automotive aficionados.
Photos: Jaguar. Click image to enlarge
In this case the “R” designation is applied to S-Type, the middle model in the Jaguar line-up between the X-Type and XJ sedans. The S-Type has come in for a freshening for the 2005 model year. The exterior benefits from a light makeover of its voluptuous curves that are so distinct and welcome in the current era of look-alikes. The overall look remains distinctly reminiscent of the original Mark 2 and S-Type sedans and there is no mistaking this car for anything but a Jaguar. Open the door and the gap between this and others grows even wider.
Click image to enlarge
There are minor changes to the instrumentation and trim for 2005 but the sumptuous, albeit somewhat cramped interior continues to boast an array of genuine wood and supple leather that could only come from a British company. One of the changes for 2005 is that S-Type R models now have an optional aluminum finish on the instrument panel – the first time an S-Type has been available with anything but wood trim. Grey-stained birds eye maple wood interior trim is standard.
A corporate kissing cousin to the Lincoln LS, which shares its basic architecture, the S-Type is marketed as a mid-size sports sedan. Motivation comes from a choice of two aluminum V6 engines displacing 2.5 and 3.0 litres or a pair of 4.2 litre V8s in normally aspirated and supercharged format with a twin inter-cooled Eaton blower. The latter powers the S-Type R – and power is the operative word as at 400 horsepower, this is the most powerful series production engine Jaguar has ever offered. The benefit of a supercharger over a turbocharger is that power is available instantly, no waiting for the exhaust boost. This instant delivery is especially noticeable from rest and low rpm. Paired with a six-speed ZF automatic transmission, this road rocket is capable of attaining 100 kilometres per four from rest in 5.3 seconds and a governed top speed of 250 km/hr effortlessly.
|Jaguar advances in J.D. Power surveys
It used to be that quality and British automobiles were mutually exclusive terms. In fact, the demise of the British auto industry is thought by most to have been caused by diabolically dismal quality. As the rest of the world passed it by, the British industry fell into decline and virtually all established volume producers were in dire financial straights. Their assets were purchased by Ford, Volkswagen and BMW in the hopes of benefiting from alignment with some pretty prestigious nameplates, marques like Jaguar, Land Rover, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin and Bentley. The new owners put their expertise and resources to work.
When Ford bought Jaguar there was hair-pulling and plenty of concern that the big new parent was going to interfere. Thank goodness it did. Thanks to Ford and its modern and proven manufacturing techniques – and to a considerable investment – Jaguar quality has not only improved, it has rocketed to the very top of the list. Only last month, Ford and Jaguar were able to announce that Jaguar advanced seven positions in the 2004 J.D. Power and Associates Sales Satisfaction Index, to tie Lexus for the Number One position in the entire industry.
The SSI study, based on responses from nearly 40,000 buyers and lessees of new vehicles, measures the new vehicle purchase experience. Last year Jaguar became the highest ranking European nameplate on the J. D. Power Initial Quality Survey for vehicle quality and dependability – a 20% improvement over the previous year.
Since this is a Jaguar, the results of depressing the right hand pedal for any period of time is a refined rush with no blaring exhaust note or unpleasant thrashing beneath the bonnet. But it certainly gets into illegal territory quickly, very quickly indeed. Passing generates a lovely whine from the supercharger, puts a smile on your lips and creates the need to stay very alert for not only the space to play with this much power, but the progress of the speedometer.
The brakes are up to the task of dealing with this amount of energy. Big Brembos, they feature both ABS and Emergency Brake Assist. As befits a vehicle at this price level, the S-Type R comes with Dynamic Stability Control and traction control as standard equipment. The S-Type pioneered the electronic parking brake concept when it ran out of room to put an emergency brake pedal or lever. This system automatically releases the parking brake when you select drive and touch the throttle.
Among the changes for 2005 is an aluminum hood, which takes weight off the front end, enhancing the weight distribution balance. Jaguar has a well-deserved reputation for developing suspension systems that combine ride quality and handling prowess at the top end of both scales. Even with its hunkered-down suspension with stiffer springs and shocks tuned for performance and massive 18-inch low-profile performance tires, the S-Type R boasts ride quality few all-out luxury cars attain. This cat also comes with Computer Active technology Suspension or CATS – the shock valving is electronically controlled.
For 2005 the S-Type is available with Park assist at both the front and rear to avoid scratching that beautiful paint – and that of other vehicles. This speed-sensitive system alerts the driver with an increasingly strident tone when in closed proximity to adjacent objects and vehicle. The sophisticated system has different sensitivities front and rear so as to not pick up vehicles in front during stop-and-go traffic situations, but shuts itself off above 15 km/hr. If you’re too close at that speed there’s nothing a buzzer can do to help. A radar sensor mounted behind the front bumper cover provides the information used for the adaptive cruise control as well.
The interior is a close-fit front and rear. If you are a large individual or looking for a big spacious sedan check out the XJ line, this one fits and feels like a glove. But unless you are doubling as a chauffeur, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You feel much more a part of the vehicle, closer to the action and more involved in not only the decisions but the results. Amidst this sea of leather and luxury you will find all the expected accoutrements.
Safety is a big deal for everyone these days and with input from Ford’s vast worldwide partners, like Volvo, the S-Type is loaded with significant life-preserving features. In addition to front, side and side-curtain airbags it has Jaguar’s Adaptive Restraint technology System that uses ultrasonic sensors and dual stage airbags to detect the presence, location and size of front seat occupants and deploy accordingly. The system also utilizes unique energy-absorbing seats with an anti-whiplash mechanism in the seat back and pre-tensioners in the belt take-up points.
This is not an inexpensive automobile at $84,995. But exclusivity costs and that figure is lower than the previous version and more than competitive with the competitive set.
The S-Type is a perfect example of the unique Jaguar character – a combination of style, dynamics, comfort and refinement that tugs at the emotions. In “R’ guise it is also an astounding performance car with go and grip to match the best the competition has to offer.
Technical Data: 2005 Jaguar S-Type R
|Price as tested||$86,090|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger mid-sized performance sedan|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive|
|Engine||4.2 litre V-8, supercharged, DOHC, 32 valves|
|Horsepower||390 @ 6100 rpm|
|Torque||408 @ 3500 rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic w/Mechatronic|
|Curb weight||1800 kg (3969 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2909 mm (114.5 in.)|
|Length||4877 mm (192.0 in.)|
|Width||2040 mm (80.3 in.) w/mirrors|
|1818 mm (71.6 in.) without mirrors|
|Height||1423 mm (56.0 in.)|
|Trunk space||400 litres (14.1 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 14.4 L/100 km (20 m.p.g.)|
|Hwy: 9.3 L/100 km (30 m.p.g.)|
|Warranty||4 yrs/80,000 km|