Fifteen years after the model was launched, and 10 years since production ended, a Jaguar S-Type R still attracts covetous glances.
It looks naughty in that special Jaguar way, especially in black, a colour that stiffens its soft, curvy shape and sets off its 18in alloy wheels with green calipers and discreet red and green ‘R’ badges on boot panel and wings.
Prices for this 155mph, rear-wheeldrive V8 sports saloon, which cost £47,000 new, start at around £3500 for an early model with more than 100,000 miles on the clock and go all the way to £9000 for the last 2007 cars. In fact, we’ve seen one 2005 car with just 7000 miles for £22,500.
However, the sweet spot is between £5500 and £6995, a price band replete with a wide range of good quality Rs at a mix of ages and mileages, with full service histories and surprisingly few owners.
Standard cars wanted for very little. Under the bonnet was, of course, that V8 engine: an Eaton-supercharged 4.2-litre lump making 390bhp and 399lb ft, attached to a sixspeed ZF automatic gearbox to give for 0-62mph in 5.5sec. Externally, the R had those badges and alloys but also a sporty mesh grille, a discreet rear spoiler on the lip of the bootlid and a bodykit. Inside it had powered front sports seats trimmed in leather, cruise control and air conditioning. Options included parking sensors and a sat-nav (a state ofthe art system then, state ofthe ark now).
There was a facelift for the 2005 model yearthat brought an aluminium bonnet, new interior trim and restyled bumpers and tail-lights. In 2007, as termination loomed, the R gained 19in alloys and a generous £2000 price cut.
Today’s £5500 examples are unlikely to feel as taut and supple, and their engines may have a lost a few bhp along the way, but a good R will still surprise you with its refinement, communicative steering and outright grunt.
Its targets were the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG. It missed them, especially the M5, which beat it fair and square in most areas. However, neither rival had the R’s caddish charm – a quality the model still possesses to this day.
It needs careful buying, of course, and once you’ve done the deed, you should track down a specialist, befriend them and stick to them like glue. Not that the R is unreliable; experts we spoke to for this guide were full of praise on that front.
That whine you can hear from the Eaton supercharger is, by the way, normal. If it rattles, suspect the small nylon cog wheel and spring mounted at the front of the unit. The spring gives out, although, mercifully, boost pressure remains unaffected.
On the subject of gremlins, the experts agree that the torque converter can be troublesome, and the sills and wheelarches are susceptible to corrosion. There’s more, but really, it’s all wear and tear. So, covet no longer and instead bag yourself an R – now.
An expert’s view...
BARNY JONES, BARNY JONES LTD
“The R is a great car. It’s not just a faster version of the S-Type — it’s another car entirely. The R is focused and much better engineered. I’ve run one for five years with no issues worth mentioning. It’s now done 108,000 miles and has never let me down. The acceleration is — how shall I say — exciting. The ride is firm but the car is grippy. It looks mean, in the way only a performance Jag does. I get 16-18mpg but it’s a price I’m happy to pay.”
Jaguar S-Type R problems:
Scrutinise service history for 30,000- mile plug and 12,000-mile engine oil changes. A 50,000-mile gearbox oil change would be good to see, too. Coolant header tank can split. Engine warning light and fault code P2119 indicates dicky ECU software — it needs updating. Listen for supercharger rattle from front cog and spring.
Transmission warning light/fault code P1794 means transmission software needs updating. Torque converter is a weak spot, so feel for the ’box hunting.
Rear suspension lower and upper arms wear, as do front control arms. Get geometry checked to preserve tyre life and restore steering precision.
Brembo discs last well despite the car’s weight and performance. The electronic parking brake may need calibrating if parking brake light is on but brake doesn’t hold.
Water leaks in boot can disrupt the electrics (it comes in via the boot seal and tail-lights). Check seat motor and door locks work. Problems with numberplate lights with fault code B1342 could suggest a faulty diode bridge.
Check all controls work, in particular ventilation and electric windows. Expect some trim rattles.
On early cars especially, the bodykit traps water against the sills, causing corrosion here and at the wheelarches. Headlight lenses can dull with age but a polish might clear them. Check for post-spin rear-end repairs. Windscreen wiper mechanisms prone to failure. Headlights break inside as they age.
Also worth knowing...
Jag tuner Tom Lenthall Ltd can supply and fit a range of performance mods to wring extra grunt from your R. Its modified supercharger pulley (£360 supplied and fitted) will increase midrange power by around 20bhp, while an ECU remap (from £432) will yield further additional horses.
Jaguar S-Type R prices
The first Rs, including a private 2002 with 95k miles and FSH for £3800.
Sprinkling of 2003-07 Rs, including a black 2003 R with FSH and 112k miles for £5995, and a post-facelift 2005/55 car with 76k miles for £6995.
Some 2006 cars, but also a 2004 with 88k miles and FSH for £7995 and a one-owner 2002 for the same money.
The most expensive 2005-07 cars.