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The Jaguar S 4.0, a new Breed of Cat

by Larry Weitzman

Sir William Lyon started in the transportation business in 1922. His company was the Swallow Sidecar Company, Limited that originally built motorcycle sidecars, automobile bodies for other people's chassis. It wasn't until 1932 when the Jaguar tradition started with the SS-1 (SS for Swallow Sidecar).

But it was the 1936 SS Jaguar 100 that put this company on the high performance auto map. The model was produced from 1936-1939 and eventually was powered by a 3.5L OHV engine that produced 125 hp. It looked somewhat like a classic MG, but larger, sleeker and smoother. 100 mph was the goal and a good running SS100 could hit 110 mph and do 0-60 in less than 11 eleven seconds. Incredible performance for its day. Only 309 were built and needless to say they are priceless works of automotive art.

From the SS 100 Jaguar built a reputation of building world class sedans and sports cars. The XK 120, XK 150, the E type and the XJ sedan. Heritage like this is hard to buy (except if your Ford) and the new Jaguar S is a direct descendent of that heritage.

The new S is designed almost as a retrocar taking its styling cues from the 2.4 Baby Jag sedans of the late 1950's and 1960's. The 2.4 eventually grew into the 3.4 and 3.8 which were pretty remarkable cars in their own right. Powerful, compact and beautiful, they were able to do well over 120 mph and 0-60 in 10 seconds or less with fuel economy averaging near 20 mpg.

The new S body is based on capturing the flavor and flair of the original Baby Jag. Not only does it succeed, but the folks at Coventry have created one of the most beautiful sedan bodies ever. The small heart shaped grille with vertical slats separates the four round head lamps. The lamps have a nacelle effect into the hood which is more pronounced on the inner lamps. These head lamps nacelles contribute to the retro look. It is simply elegant and beautiful.

The rest of the lines are curvaceous with the rear window roundness or hump if you will that was so traditional in older Jags. The rear is a cut off style that is very similar to the Maxima style for 2000. But it works and this car draws more attention than Wolfgang Puck eating dinner at Denney's. In Mistral Blue, nothing in the automotive world is more beautiful.

On the inside there was some disappointment. Although equipped with just about every luxury feature that one could conceive, including a color GPS, the seats were somewhat flat in design with pleats that have no relief and leather that felt hard. The door panelling was also hard with little cushioning. There was plenty of wood and the dash was made of a nice dense material, but the center console was hard and not fitting for a car that is this beautiful. I was expecting more.

My test vehicle had the communications package with would take voice commands such as "tune 1530" or "temperature 68" or even "disc one". The system would simply do as it was told. Pretty amazing stuff.

On the plus side are accommodations that are quite comfortable. They sit a lot better than they look. The dash has a binnacle which contain the medium size tach and speedo with the temp and fuel gauges flanking left and right. In the center is a semicircular panel that contains the electronic controls for the sound system (a six pack CD in located in the glove box and is part of the $1,500 premium sound system) with the dual control AC below. The GPS is to the right of the sound system.

The set up is unorthodox and the shape doesn't fit with the rest of the interior. On the console is the gear shift which is again unorthodox. It forms a "U" pattern starting with park on the upper right and drive at the bottom right. To shift into fourth, the lever is moved to the left and to reach third or second of the five speed tranny, the lever is moved UP the left side of the "U". Go figure the English.

The rear seats are comfortable with more than adequate leg and head room. The trunk is on the smaller side at 11.7 cubic feet, but the seats are of the 60/40 fold down variety which greatly expands the Jags cargo ability. Part of the reason for the rear seat size is the very long 114.5 inch wheelbase in comparison to its 191.3 inch overall length. Don't get me wrong, this is a beautiful and comfortable automobile, there are some things that could use some improvement and it wouldn't take much.

For a driver, this Jag was very surprising. Performance was substantially more than expected. The engine is a 4.0L DOHC 32 valve V-8. It is butter smooth and make sounds fitting a Jaguar. It develops 281 hp at 6,100 rpm and 287 lbs ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. There is a 3.0L DOHC V-6 engine that is derived from the Ford Duratec that develops 240 hp at a screaming 6,800 rpm. Take a pass on that motor, this Jag is only a V-8 type of car.

Straight line performance, this Jag is simply very quick. It will knock off 0-60 in 6.38 seconds. One run was as quick as 5.93 backed up with a 6.04. Passing performance from 50-70 mph is also lightning quick 3.75 seconds with only third gear. Using 2nd and 3rd gear (2nd is good to about 65) lowers that time to 3.43 seconds. Going up a steep grade will only slow that time to 4.84 seconds. Using third gear will extend that time to 5.11. This is world class performance.

It would even be faster, but the five speed automatic shifts out of first at 5,900 rpm. If the driver were able to hold it in first to redline of 6,800 rpm, the 0-60 times would drop by about .2 of a second.

The five speed automatic performs flawlessly otherwise. I love the way after shifting out of first, the close ratio of second keeps the engine at a boil (5,200 rpm) and it shifts into third at 65 mph with the engine dropping to only 4,800 rpm. The sounds are wonderful as the Jag does its imitation of a Formula car. The shifts are nearly imperceptible and down shift are a cushioned crisp.

Fuel economy is rated at 17/23 mpg. In El Dorado County with a reasonable resistance to burying the go pedal into the especially deep carpet, the Jag should return 20 plus miles per gallon although my test car averaged about 18 mph. On the highway 23-25 should be the norm. At a steady 65, however, the Jag fuel computer indicated about 30 mpg.

Fast is accompanied by a ride that is one of the best combinations of ride and handling I have encountered. Although the Jag weighs in at about 3,900 pounds as equipped, it rides like a much heavier vehicle. It is solid, absorbing bumps with aplomb. It just eats up any road irregularities. On Ponderosa Road, it was a magic carpet ride with no rattles or squeaks. In the bumpy right and left handers, the state of the art, fully independent double wishbone front and rear suspension is a sponge holding the rear end in place as power is fed to the rear wheels.

On roads that offer twisties of decreasing radius and undulations, the Jag is at its very best. It almost has a hunkered down feeling with handling so benign, that it feels that it has no limits on what it can do. Power is put to the pavement by standard 225/55X16 inch H rated tires. The optional 17 inch wheels come with 235/50X17 Z rated tires. I recommend the option which come with computer active suspension. It lists for $1,100.

The brakes are four wheel ventilated discs with full ABS. Nearly 12 inches in size they are powerful with excellent pedal feel.

On the highway the engine turns a slow 2,200 rpm at 70 for a anechoic chamber ride. This car is quiet. The sound system to superb and the highway ride is just about perfect. Smooth and very well controlled. There are absolutely no disturbances to the lucky passengers from any minor road irregularities.

The price of admission is not cheap. The Jaguar S lists for $48,000 plus $580 for destination. There are only 6 options, the communications package for $4,300, the Sport Package with the 17 inch wheels and tires for $1,100, the Weather package which includes heated seats and moisture sensing windshield wipers and dynamic stability control lists for $1,200, the navigation system can be bought separately from the communications system for $2,000, reverse park control (proximity warning system) lists for $400 and the premium sound with a six pack CD player in the glove box will set you back another $1,500. A fully loaded Jaguar S will set you back $57,000.

Jaguar has produced an elegant, stylish and very powerful automobile. There are some things that could improve its overall appeal and Jaguar should listen carefully to its market. But the look and feel of the car is world class. Sacramento Jaguar has a good selection of this fine automobile


Price                               $48,580 to about $57,000

4.0L DOHC 32 valve V-8  281 hp @ 6,100 rpm
287 lbs-ft of torque @ 4,300 rpm

3.0L DOHC 24 valve V-6  240 hp @ 6,800 rpm
221 lbs ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm

5 speed electronically controlled automatic

Longitudinal front engine rear wheel drive

Wheelbase                            114.5  inches
Length                               191.3  inches
Width                                71.6   inches
Height                               55.7   inches
Track (front/rear)               60.5/60.8  inches
Weight                              3,900   pounds
Turning Circle                        37.7    feet
Fuel Capacity                      18.4    gallons
Trunk Capacity                  11.7    cubic feet

0-60   6.38
50-70  3.43
50-70 uphill 4.84
Top Speed At double the legal limit, I would suggest trying this only at 
a race track, so as not the test the top speed of a CHP cruiser 
equipped with tire strips which will ruin your tires, never mind your day
Fuel Economy 
EPA 17/23 mpg city/highway,           
But my estimate is 20 mpg in El Dorado County and 23-26 on the highway at legal speeds.