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2006 Jaguar S-Type VDP Edition Review

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2006 Jaguar S-Type VDP Edition

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Jaguar

If introduction of the Jaguar XK in 1996 showed that the venerable British automaker was truly alive and well after some turbulent years, it was the debut of the S-Type in model year 2000 that emphasized Jaguar's vitality. The XK, after all, was a premium-priced sports car. The S-Type was a sport-luxury sedan designed to compete with the best mid-luxury sedans from Germany and Japan, and did so very well, with sales numbers never before seen by Jaguar. To say that it saved Jaguar from extinction is not overstatement.

The S-Type formula was and is similar to that of its competitors, with 3.0-liter V6 and 4.2-liter V8-powered models. In building the S-Type, Jaguar, which had been bought by Ford in the late 1980s, utilized Ford parts to keep the cost on target. The chassis platform - meaning floor and other structural stampings, and the basic suspension architecture - was shared with the Lincoln LS, and the V6 engine was a version of the ``Duratec'' found in many Ford products. The V8 was Jaguar's own AJ-V8. The platform and engine sharing allowed the S-Type, particularly the V6, to be sold at a very attainable price, and so to sell in healthy numbers. But its strongest point isn't its mechanical heritage. The S-Type is an example of Jaguar doing what it has always done best, even before it was known as Jaguar: building a car that features beautiful and emotional styling, and sells for a reasonable, if not necessarily inexpensive, price.

The current S-Type is no longer new, but that does not mean that Jaguar has left it untouched. For 2006, the lineup stays the same, with the V6 powered 3.0, V8-powered 4.2 and VDP Edition, and supercharged V8 S-Type R. All models get a new mesh grille; the V8s have more power - 300 horsepower for the naturally-aspirated models, and 400 for the R. All now have a six-speed automatic transmission, and a new, improved antilock braking system. Sirius satellite radio and the Bluetooth wireless mobile phone connection system are also offered in all.

I've just spent a week with an S-Type VDP. The VDP package adds the interior ambience of one of Jaguar's premium XJ sedans to the S's more compact package. Add to that old-world elegance modern appurtenances like a navigation system pleasantly devoid of the gimmicky joystick control fancied by the Germans and Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones, not to mention Jaguar's fine blend of luxury comfort and sports performance, and there is no doubt as to reasons for the S-Type's popularity. In a world of generic automobiles with ``international'' looks, it's as English as afternoon tea.

APPEARANCE: A close look will show that the S-Type has been subtly freshened since its introduction. Last year the hood and front fascia were restyled for a simpler, more-toned look, with similar revisions to the rear. The overall character of the car has been left untouched, as it should be. Old meets new in the current S-Type. It's a contemporary update of the original S-Type sedan of the mid-1960s and that car's Mark 2 predecessor, both of which influenced the current car's overall shape and details including the grille shape and the way the headlights blend into the body. Unlike some other efforts to relive the past, though, the S-Type looks timeless, not trendily retro.

COMFORT: Burled walnut and fine leather is a long-time Jaguar interior tradition, and the VDP package upgrades both to the standards of Jaguar's flagship XJ sedans. Old meets new inside as well as out, and it works just as well. The S is quiet, comfortable, and coddling. As in the old days, the full width of the instrument panel is burled walnut veneer, with additional wood around the shift lever, on the doors, and on the steering wheel rim. The console/center stack assembly is bound in stitched leather, as in the big Jaguars. The door chime recalls an English emergency vehicle (``Calling Inspector Morse, calling Inspector Morse...'') The seats offer first-rate comfort, and are covered with supple leather, with both front buckets power-adjustable in many ways. Rear room is good, and passengers have storage space and a center console with cupholders, although the burled walnut tray tables found in the XJ are missing. The optional touch-screen navigation system is pricey at $2,800, but integrates not only the nav system but the audio and climate systems, and includes Bluetooth wireless mobile phone technology. Unlike in the S-Type's German competitors, control is by well-marked hard buttons around the edge of the screen, and touch commands on the screen. It's simple and intuitive to use, with no strange devices and sub-menus upon submenus. And it is definitely in a British car - the warning message states ``Most functions are inhibited whilst the vehicle is in motion,'' and there is a handy umbrella in the trunk. I do say....

SAFETY: Jaguar was one of the pioneers in use of disc brakes in cars, using them in racing cars in the early 1950s and in production cars later in that decade. The original S-Type had four-wheel discs at a time when few pure sports car did. Today's S-Type has vented discs all around, for maximum heat dissipation and reduced fade in hard use. Floating calipers are used all around, and the hydraulic lines are braided stainless steel for improved braking efficiency. A new Continental-Teves four-channel antilock system further improves brake efficiency and reduces stopping distances. Brake action is impressive, and is aided by Emergency Brake Assist. The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system can improve driver control in tricky situations. Passive safety features include front and side-impact airbags for front passengers and side curtain airbag protection for both front and outboard rear passengers.

RIDE AND HANDLING: A rigid unibody chassis with fully-independent suspension is a given for a modern luxury-sports sedan, and the S-Type has that specification. So did its namesake, in 1963. The old S-Type and the Mark 2 were among the top sports sedans of their day, and the new model carries that forward. Aluminum components reduce unsprung weight in the unequal-length double wishbone front suspension, for improved response, and double wishbones are also found at the rear. Springs and shocks are well-matched, for a supple and comfortable ride and good control. Steering effort is moderate, not too light. The S-Type offers a fine balance between sport and luxury, and a feel that is very different than its competitors.

PERFORMANCE: The S-Type 4.2 is not particularly light at nearly 3,900 lbs, but the dual overhead cam, 32-valve all-alloy AJ-V8 engine is particularly healthy at 300 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 310 lb-ft of torque (at 4100 rpm). Continuously-variable valve timing and a three-stage intake manifold help it not only to produce that impressive and smooth power, but also help give it a ULEV emissions rating. The broad but narrowly-stepped range of gear ratios allowed by the ZF 6HP26 six-speed automatic transmission help both acceleration - 0-60 is listed by Jaguar at 6.2 seconds - and fuel economy, which I found to be around 20 mpg overall. Not bad at all for a 300-horsepower sports sedan. And it's very smooth and civilized, quiet when tooling around town but producing a fine roar under heavy throttle. There is a reason that the snarling cat's head on the badge is called ``The Growler.''

CONCLUSIONS: Jaguar's S-Type has unique character.

2006 Jaguar S-Type VDP Edition

Base Price			$ 51,830
Price As Tested			$ 59,245
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 32-valve aluminum
				 alloy V8 with continuously-variable
				 valve timing and multi-stage
				 intake manifold
Engine Size			4.2 liters / 255 cu. in.
Horsepower			300 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 			310 @ 4100 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with manual
				 shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		114.5 in. / 193.1 in.
Curb Weight			3,868 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		12.9
Fuel Capacity			18.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P235/50 HR17 Michelin Pilot HX mxm4
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc,
				 antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent unequal-length
				 aluminum double wishbone /
				  independent double wishbone
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy  - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 26 / 20
0 to 60 mph				6.2  sec

Navigation and Bluetooth - includes:
  DVD-based navigation system with 7-inch touch screen,
  Bluetooth wireless technology			$2,800

VDP Edition - includes:
  17-inch Aurora alloy wheels, chrome door mirror caps,
  burl walnut wood veneer interior trim, premium
  leather interior trim, heated 16-way power driver's and
  12-way power front passenger seats, premium carpet
  footwell rugs, electric rear sunblind, auto-leveling
  xenon headlamps, front park control		$3,500

Satellite radio					$  450

Destination charge				$  665