2002 Jaguar S-TYPE

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2003 Jaguar S-TYPE

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2000 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Latest version of sexy S-TYPE is significantly improved.
Pros:
  • Major revamp
  • New hot-rod trim
  • Stylish and posh
Cons:
  • Tight interior
  • Shallow trunk
  • Disconcerting navigation system

Don't try this at home, kids, but the 2003 Jaguar S-TYPE was a relaxed 100-mph cruiser on highways near the tiny resort town of S'Agaro in Spain, where the classy British automaker held a media preview of its revamped new S-TYPE sedan line.

Besides better performance, the latest S-TYPE has more luxury, safety and refinement.

Star of the Show
The star of the S-TYPE line, which goes on sale in May, is the 155-mph S-TYPE R. It has a supercharged 400-horsepower version of the regular S-TYPE's V8 that lets it hit 60 mph in 5.3 seconds—not bad for a heavy, posh sedan.

"We want the R to put a really broad smile on faces of S-TYPE buyers," Mike O'Driscoll, president of Jaguar's North American Operations, said at the preview.

Jaguar is introducing the R because competitors such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz have hot-rod versions of regular models.

Emphasis on Luxury
All S-TYPE trims have excellent steering, handling and braking. But, except for the R, they seem more designed for a luxury feel than their more-aggressive European rival sports sedans.

Seats are comfortable and gauges can be read at a glance. Four 6-footers fit, but occupants have little room to spare in the snug interior. And although the S-TYPE looks every inch a Jaguar, a high window line doesn't allow an airy interior.

The trunk is long, but not especially deep, and its lid has manual hinges that eat into cargo space. However, rear seatbacks flip forward to enlarge the cargo area.

Larger, More Powerful V8s
The regular S-TYPE V8 has been enlarged from 4.0 to 4.2 liters, with a horsepower boost from 281 to 300. It propels the car to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, while providing better fuel economy and lower emissions.

The S-TYPE V6 remains a 3.0-liter 240-horsepower unit, but has been revised for better responsiveness and refinement via improved 3-stage variable geometry induction and continuously Variable Cam Phasing systems.

The 130-mph S-TYPE V6 lacks the sizzle of its sister V8 models, but provides lively performance (0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds) for the heavy, equipment-loaded car and is expected to be purchased by 35 percent of S-TYPE buyers.

New Transmissions
The V6, which previously was offered only with an automatic transmission, can be hooked to a new Getrag 5-speed manual gearbox. The V8 trims come with a very responsive new 6-speed ZF automatic transmission, which is optional for the V6.

I'm still not crazy about the automatic transmission's rather awkward J-gate shifter, but a mode switch near it allows selection between normal and sport shift modes.

Americans get plusher versions of the S-TYPE than the ones sold in Europe, where the car is regarded as being sportier, said David Lewis, S-TYPE brand marketing manager.

Phil Hodgkinson, chief program engineer for the S-TYPE, said the car is slightly modified for nearly all the 70 world markets in which it's sold, and that American S-TYPE buyers want more engine torque at lower rpm levels to better suit typical U.S. driving.

Ford-owned Jaguar has made lots of other key changes to the 2003 S-TYPE, which has base prices ranging from $42,495 to $62,400. The car is a big deal for both Ford and Jaguar because it has significantly increased the British outfit's sales.

Sexy Styling Retained
All U.S. S-TYPE trims benefit from S-TYPE improvements for 2003. About 70 percent of the car has new content, although it keeps the alluring styling of its predecessor.

Among the few visual changes are a revised grille and new outside mirrors. There also are a new dashboard with new full-width bird's eye maple veneer panel and race-style gauges. The panel is grey-stained for the R.

Irksome Navigation System
Although redesigned, the center console still gobbles up front room. Also, the S-TYPE offers a $2,200 DVD navigation system that was virtually worthless after I made a few wrong turns and got lost during test drives of various S-TYPEs. For instance, the system wouldn't help you if you made a wrong turn. Thank goodness Jaguar put paper road maps in the cars.

But this isn't an unpleasant car to get lost in. New seats suit specific characteristics of each trim, and driver comfort now can be enhanced with optional, electronically adjustable foot pedals that can be programmed for two memory positions. The pedals are controlled by a small plastic switch on the steering column—unfortunately, the switch snapped off in one of the test cars.

Sexiest Ride
The R is the sexiest S-TYPE ride. Besides its oh-my-gosh engine, it has a sport suspension, race-style Brembo brakes and the latest Jaguar electronically controlled suspension to optimize handling and ride.

A special bright-finish mesh front grille helps visually distinguish the R from other S-TYPE trims, and its rear spoiler enhances high-speed stability. There also are special alloy wheels and the same red R logo used on the nose of the new Jaguar R3 Formula One race car. Inside are leather sports seats and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.

Powerful xenon HID headlights with electronic headlight leveling are standard on the R, optional for other S-TYPEs.

Sport Versions
If the R is out of financial range, Jaguar offers lower-priced Sport versions of the V6 and regular V8 trims. They have a color-keyed exterior, leather sport interior and up-rated sport suspension and brakes.

The redesigned interior has a more integrated look and enhanced occupant safety items, such as a new front energy absorbent seating system and new front and rear side-curtain airbags for head protection.

The new braking system has a four channel anti-lock setup with "panic assist" braking for emergency stops, along with electronic traction control and a standard Dynamic Stability Control system. An improved Computer Active Technology Suspension is standard on the S-TYPE Sport and R trims.

Improved Ride
The supple S-TYPE ride is even better with a new front suspension and an extensively revised rear suspension. A stiffer, stronger body with a 10 percent increase in torsional rigidity helps ride, general feel and handling.

A new electronic parking brake replaces Jaguar's traditional handbrake lever. The brake is applied automatically when the ignition key is removed.

While the R clearly is the top dog S-TYPE, all the 2003 trims have been improved enough to tempt current S-TYPE owners and those considering rival cars.

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BB05 - 8/21/2014 1:22:39 AM