Jaguar benchmarked its new executive saloon against the all-conquering E39-generation BMW 5 Series. It was a commendable effort but couldn’t quite match Munich’s finest.
Retro-modern styling referenced the 1959 Jaguar Mk2, while a Lincoln LS platform sat beneath. Power came from Jaguar’s familiar 32-valve AJV8, which was mated to a Ford five-speed automatic driving the rear wheels. Suspension was by all-round double wishbones, and adaptive damping was optional.
Aided by short lower gears, the S-Type was quicker to 60mph than all rivals save BMW’s 535i and emitted a charismatic engine note under load. Kickdown was rapid, too. The brakes were strong but suffered fade and juddering at the track.
Only big ruts upset chassis composure, while impressive body control and a planted stance allowed drivers to fully exploit the accurate and reasonably feelsome steering, but the S-Type still fell slightly short of the 5 Series for engagement and incisiveness.
Interior space, comfort and equipment impressed, but the lack of design flair and some poor finishes were less welcome.
For: Muscular performance, crisp handling, space
Against: Wind noise, fade-prone brakes, cabin
Price £37,610 Engine V8, 3996cc, petrol Power 281bhp at 6100rpm Torque 287lb ft at 4300rpm 0-60mph 7.2sec 0-100mph 18.2sec Standing quarter 15.5sec, 93mph Top speed 143mph Economy 19.8mpg
What happened next?
Over the S-Type’s eight-year career, other petrol engines included 2.5 and 3.0-litre V6s and a 4.2-litre V8 that was Eaton-supercharged to 400bhp in the hot R model. A 2004 facelift also introduced the only diesel option – a 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 that offered 206bhp. You can find S-Types for around £1000 today but there’s a far wider choice at £2000-£4000 – and the best exceed £10,000.