In with the old and out with the new. Or is that the other way around? That little quandary perfectly summarizes the Jaguar S-Type from its debut in 2000 to its demise in 2008. Heavily leaning on tradition yet eager to make a distinguishing mark on modern times, this was a model of midsize luxury sedan that never really could decide where it belonged in the annals of automotive history.
When it was first introduced the S-Type made a name for itself with its distinct styling, borrowing unashamedly from the exterior design of the classic Jag saloons of the Sixties. While its competitors favored a boxier look the Jaguar S-Type offered smoothness and grace. And for awhile it worked. But never underestimate the shifting mood of the general public and before long what was once quaint had suddenly become antiquated.
The S-Type was the first product of the Jaguar-Ford partnership and as such it seemed to be stuck in the middle with no direction. Mistakes and indecision were common with the earlier models. Should it have a 3.0-liter V6 engine, or maybe a 4.0-liter V8? How about a five-speed automatic, or a six-speed? Should there be a manual version and maybe the V8 needs to have more horses, from 277 to 293 to eventually 300? Finally in 2003 the S-Type R was produced with a 400 horsepower engine capable of doing 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, an impressive load of machinery but still not quite up to par with the best that Germany and Japan had to offer. Reliability was also a factor when comparing the S-Type with its competitors.
Also in 2003 the interior was upgraded so that the final offering in this class was a fairly impressive luxury sedan. This final product handled well, had very good braking, and the classic styling of the Jag line seemed to please traditionalists. As always the traditionally quiet ride was available as well as a feeling that the driver was several rungs higher on the social ladder while driving this car.
Eventually replaced by the Jaguar XF, this vehicle was a solid European import that never quite lived up to the legacy set before it. Superlatives were few when reviews were released and with the ensuing years it is still hard to speak in glowing terms about a car that had so much potential but never quite lived up to that potential.