New Car Review: 2004 Jaguar S-Type 3.0


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DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

Few names in the auto industry are as celebrated as Jaguar. It started business as the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922, making motorcycle sidecars, and, later, custom bodies for production cars. But these were affordable middle-class cars, not the bespoke, exclusive marques for which most custom bodies were built. Beautiful coachwork on an affordable car was a Jaguar hallmark before the company was known as Jaguar, a name first used in 1936. Jaguar's glory days were after World War II, and it became famous for a series of high-performance but (relatively) affordable two-seater sports car and sports luxury sedans.

Sadly, when the British auto industry went into decline from the late 1960s, Jaguar seemed destined to follow. Ownership changed several times, and by the early 1990s the company seemed to be doomed to extinction. There was too much heritage at stake, and Ford Motor Company, which was on a buying spree, stepped in. Ford invested huge sums of money in new production facilities, and gave Jaguar access to the Ford global parts bin.

Projects that were in the works at the time of the sale - most importantly the XK8 sports car - became reality, and a new, more affordable Jaguar sedan was planned. That sedan was the S-Type, introduced in the 2000 model year. To say that it saved Jaguar is not overstatement.

To moderate the cost, Ford-sourced parts were used. The chassis platform was shared with the Lincoln LS; the V6 engine was a cousin to that used in the Ford Taurus (the V8 is Jaguar's own). But a vehicle is more than the sum of its parts, and Jaguar modified the Ford parts to its own purposes anyway. The S-Type was wrapped in a gorgeous body that reflected Jaguar heritage, and sold at a realistic price.

The strategy that worked throughout early Jaguar history worked again. People who could only dream of a Jaguar could suddenly buy one, and sales very quickly rose. But 2000 was four years ago, and the mid-luxury class is ruthlessly competitive. With new models, including the supercharged R, expanding its market reach and constant improvements, it has kept pace with its competition.

I recently sampled a new S-Type 3.0, the ``entry level'' model. It's not ``entry level'' at all, it's a fully-equipped Jaguar, with luxury appointments done the way Jaguar does best and fine levels of refinement, comfort, and performance. It still bodes well for Jaguar's future.

APPEARANCE: Looks sell cars, and looks sell Jaguars, especially the S-Type. Even four years after its debut, it draws smiles and attention. In designing the S-Type, Jaguar utilized classic lines in a way that is not self-consciously retro, but certainly pays homage to its heritage. The main influence is the Mark II sedan built during the 1960s, which itself was influenced by the XK-series sports Jaguars of the 1950s. The curves of the fenders and roof, and the oval grille flanked by faired-in headlights give a more-than-passing nod to the Mk.II, but the S-Type's proportions are lower and wider in the modern manner. A cleanly-truncated tail replaces the Mk. II's rounded rear. But, for anyone who has ever seen an old Jaguar in a movie or in the sheetmetal, there is absolutely no doubt as to the manufacturer.

COMFORT: Jaguar utilized its heritage inside of the S-Type, too. The S-Type's interior will be familiar to anyone who has seen the inside of a Jaguar sedan in the past decade. If it's not as opulent as the XJ, it fits into the contemporary mid-luxury class well. As expected, leather adorns the seats and door panels, with genuine wood trim on the doors and instrument panel. A wood-and-leather steering wheel rim adds elegance and control. The 3.0's two-tone interior color scheme is international contemporary; the leather-trimmed horseshoe-shaped surround to the center stack is pure Jaguar. The front seats provide comfort and support for any length of journey; power-adjustable pedals and power tilt and reach adjustment of the steering wheel allow all drivers to find the perfect driving position. Despite the classic styling, there are some interesting modern features. Looking for the parking brake? Try the small lever at the rear of the console - it actuates the electronically-controlled parking brake. Rear seat room is average for the class, with good comfort for two outboard passengers of moderate stature. The trunk is long and flat, and inside is found a classic British accoutrement - an umbrella.

SAFETY: The 2004 Jaguar S-Type features the passenger-sensing ``Adaptive Restraint Technology System,'' front, side, and side curtain airbags, and emergency brake assist wrapped in a strong body structure that exceeds safety requirements worldwide.

ROADABILITY: In standard trim, the S-Type 3.0 is every bit a contemporary world-class luxury car. Yes, there are Ford-sourced parts under the skin, but the differences in design and tuning and the resulting feel between the Lincoln LS and the S-Type are considerable. The S-Type's chassis has been revised for increased rigidity, and aluminum front suspension components reduce unsprung weight for quicker handling response. In the European manner, the suspension tuning is comfortably compliant yet firm enough for good handling when the road gets interesting.

PERFORMANCE: Yes, the V6 found in the S-Type 3.0 is based on the ``Duratec'' dual overhead cam engine found in the Ford Taurus. But Jaguar used other manufacturer's engines earlier in its history, and, more importantly, without Ford there would very likely be no Jaguar today. It's been tuned by Jaguar for 235 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 216 lb-ft of torque at 4100 rpm. There is very good power at all engine speeds, and it's a good choice of power for a luxury-sports sedan. If more power is needed, there's always the 294 horsepower V8 or the 390-hp supercharged V8 in the ``R'' model. For 2004 the V6's original five-speed automatic has been replaced by the six-speed ZF unit found previously only in the V8 models. It's smooth and fast in operation, adding performance, fuel economy, and refinement. The five-speed manual is still available by special order, but is not really necessary in order to have full enjoyment of the S-Type's capabilities.

CONCLUSIONS: The Jaguar S-Type's mix of classic styling and modern specification revitalized the company when it debuted a few years ago. It's aging very well, and continues to provide style, substance, and value in the mid-luxury class.

SPECIFICATIONS
2004 Jaguar S-Type 3.0

Base Price $ 43,230
Price As Tested $ 48,170
Engine Type dual overhead cam V6 with continuously-variable valve timing
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 181 cu. in.
Horsepower 235 @ 6800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 216 @ 4100 rpm
Transmission 6-speed electronically-controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length 114.5 in. / 192.0 in.
Curb Weight 3,777 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 16.1
Fuel Capacity 18.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline recommended
Tires P225/50 HR16 Continental Conti Contact eco plus
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone / independent double wishbone
Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 18 / 26 / 21
0 to 60 mph 7.5 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Premium package - includes: adjustable pedals, power front lumbar adjustment, electrochromic mirrors, garage door opener, rain- sensing wipers, driver's seat, pedals, steering column, and external mirror memory $ 1,500
Heated front seats $ 500
Premium sound $ 1,600
Electric glass sunroof $ 675
Destination charge $ 665

Complete specifications on the 2004 Jaguar S-Type 3.0-Liter and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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