2002 Jaguar S-TYPE

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2000 Jaguar S-TYPE

This 2000 review is representative of model years 2000 to 2004.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 8
Pros:
  • Low price for a Jaguar
  • Shorter in length than other Jaguars
  • Smooth, powerful V8
Cons:
  • Rear end styling
  • Does it measure up as a Jag?
  • Jaguar exclusivity being diluted

It was bound to happen. Now owned by Ford Motor Co., venerable British carmaker Jaguar wants to expand with a slightly smaller and less expensive model line, the S-TYPE. The sedan's striking front end is reminiscent of the Jaguar Mark 2 of the 1960s. But the chassis is shared with the Lincoln LS, the V6 is based on a Ford engine structure and wood on the dashboard isn't walnut, it's maple.

New, less-pricey Jag
Most everyone conjures up an image when the word Jaguar is mentioned. Mine is one of elegance, style, fashion, even a bit of snobbery. So I took that image with me as I tested Jaguar's new "baby sedan," the S-TYPE.

It's the British luxury automaker's new effort to reach more—and less affluent—car buyers. You know, folks whose households get by on $100,000-plus a year instead of the $200,000-plus that's characteristic of Jag's traditional customers.

Before the S-Type, the least expensive new Jaguar was the XJ Sedan, with a manufacturer's suggested retail price $55,200 in the 1999 model year. In contrast, the S-Type starts at just over $42,000 for a 2000 model with a 3.0-liter V6 and $48,000 for a V8-powered model. That pricing is more in line with the S-TYPE's main competitors: the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the BMW 5-Series.

One more thing: This S-TYPE venture isn't a little experiment. Jaguar hopes to sell 20,000 S-TYPEs annually in the United States. If it succeeds, the move will double the sales of the automaker here.

Is it a true Jag?
Still, it's not easy developing a new luxury car that has to carry the venerable Jaguar name while also clearly representing a lower-ranking, less-pricey Jag. The S-TYPE illustrates these disparate goals.

I love the front end of the car. The four separate headlights and distinctive grille exude a certain Jaguar personality, just as the Mark 2 of the 1960s did. In fact, designers said they styled the front to be reminiscent of the Mark 2 sedan, though the name—S-Type—refers to the original S-TYPE launched in 1963.

But I could care less for the rear of the new car. It reminds me of a Lincoln, with its high trunk lid. What happened to Jaguar's traditionally low, sloping trunk that added flair and formality? There is at least one explanation. According to a Jaguar designer, once the S-TYPE body began taking shape on a chassis that was jointly developed with Ford Motor Co.—which bought Jaguar in 1989—the car's aerodynamics required a taller lid to keep the rear end from lifting at high speed.

Ford, by the way, is using the same platform for Lincoln's new downsized sedan, the LS. Ah, the corporate sacrifices that have to be made.

Interior is up to date and high tech
Inside, the S-TYPE also has some mixed signals. Like other luxury cars, the interior seems commonplace, rather than idiosyncratic or distinctive, like Jaguars of old.

Don't get me wrong. The S-TYPE interior is all tastefully done and quite up to date. The leather seats are comfortable and supportive. There's good headroom in front and a respectable amount of rear-seat legroom. No, that legroom isn't on a par with the Vanden Plas, but it's more than what you'll find in the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series. And you'll be surprised how far forward the front passenger seat in the S-TYPEcan travel on its track to expand that minimum 37.7 inches of rear legroom.

This Jag is high tech, too, with an optional voice-activated control system—the first of its kind in the auto industry and developed with help from Ford's Visteon parts company. You push a button on the steering wheel and tell the system how to tune the radio, what the temperature setting should be or what telephone number to dial. General Motors Corp.'s OnStar system has voice-activation for telephone dialing, but not the other functions that this Jaguar has.

So, there I was, driving and telling the S-TYPE radio to change the radio station. The system responded with a man's voice repeating my command. Then, the system followed through, tuning the radio "up" to the next available station as I had requested.

When it didn't understand—because I didn't use the recognized commands that had been programmed into the system—the system was silent and a message in the instrument cluster alerted me to the problem.

There were some snafus, though. A couple times, I nonchalantly asked for a temperature setting and the voice responded by telling me a long, strange phone number that it thought I wanted dialed.

Another high tech option on the S-TYPE is a reverse-sensing system that alerts you to obstacles as you back up. Like the system already available on the Ford Windstar minivan, this reverse park control, as it's called, works via four infrared sensors in the rear bumper. As you close in on an obstacle behind you in reverse gear, intermittent beeps start going off inside the car. The beeps come faster as you close in until, at eight inches away, the system's beeps become one continuous tone.

The S-TYPE offers optional wipers that automatically turn on when rain begins wetting the windshield. The Jag also features a heat system that can warm the inside of the car for up to 20 minutes after the engine is turned off. It's a first for Jaguar.

Also new is a 6-disc CD changer that can be installed in the glove box. But on the test S-TYPE, the changer seemed jammed into its little space, and it was difficult to see and eject the CD tray from the changer when the CD player inexplicably stopped working.

The S-Type steering wheel is still lined with leather and wood. The dashboard—with wood accents that are now maple, not burled walnut—retains the full-width style, rather than cockpit orientation, that is familiar in Jaguars. And the automatic gearshift lever has Jaguar's characteristic shape and J-gate.

But does all this have the same unique appeal as a traditional Jaguar? It's debatable. I suspect folks with special, fond, opinionated thoughts of what a Jaguar is might find the updated S-TYPE interior a bit too much like a Lexus. But buyers who don't have many old images cluttering their buying decision could be quite pleased with the interior environment of this "affordable" Jag.

What a ride
Both groups of car shoppers are sure to enjoy the S-TYPE ride and driving experience. The 3.0-liter 240-horsepower V6 feels more than just zippy. Power comes on smoothly and strongly. Even in hilly terrain, the car doesn't seem to want for speed. It nearly makes you wonder why anyone would spend even more money to get an S-TYPE with a V8.

But as soon as you drive an S-TYPE with a 4.0-liter 281-horsepower V8, you know. This is the same engine that debuted in Jaguar's XK8 coupe and convertible. And while its horsepower is reduced a tad—from 290 in the larger, 2-door cars—its sense of power and refinement in the S-TYPE is still palpable.

The S-TYPE seems to roll effortlessly under V8 power. Passing is a breeze and the sounds from the engine—when you do hear them under hard acceleration—are deeper-toned and richer than those you get from the V6.

The car handles well, regardless of which model and which suspension you get. The base suspension with the V6 provides good cushioning while still giving the S-TYPE a performance, road-sticking sense. It's a car that will take the family to grandma's in a leisurely, comfortable way or get you home in good time from a long, hard-driving road trip.

The optional sport package, with 17-inch Z-rated tires, includes the first computer-controlled suspension in a Jaguar sold in North America. The system—called CATS for computer active technology suspension—makes the car feel as if it is riding a bit more closely to the road over the bumps, gathering itself and pulling itself back down quickly on rough roads. This adaptive damping ride and handling control system operates with shock absorbers that go from soft to hard, depending on road conditions and vehicle dynamics.

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BB05 - 9/17/2014 1:31:31 PM