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10/01/2006

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After the Scorpio - Jaguar S-Type

 

If you believe Honest John, the British motoring guru, it was the Jaguar S-Type that killed the Ford Scorpio. He may well be right, for the Scorpio ended production in 1998, just as the S-Type was nearing introduction in 1999, they are of similar price and occupy the same niche - and Ford own Jaguar. One would have been competing with the other, and the largest Ford in the UK now is the Mondeo.

The 1999 Jaguar S-Type was the first 'medium' size Jaguar since  production of the old one ended in 1967. Until then, the Jaguar owner had the choice only of the full size saloon, or the XJS. On another page, I mentioned that I would have liked the latest XJ6, but until I went to see it I did not realise how gigantic the machine is. It is huge, and made of alloy or not, it would still need a large parking space and a bigger garage!

I'm retired now. Our grown sons have flown the nest, and my wife and I need something just to carry a bit of luggage and a retired racing greyhound. Did we need something so vast? Not really. But still I wanted a Jaguar. I have always hankered for one, for that special interior quality, for the legendary Jaguar ride, for the creamy smoothness of a Jaguar engine. I looked at Lexus again. but newer ones are just plain ugly, to my eye at least, and the interiors are, well - boring.

Then I noticed the S-Type. Its announcement was overshadowed by the introduction of the Rover 75 at about the same time, and amidst all the hype for that doomed machine the S-Type was somehow overlooked. There are some who dislike the styling of the car - but I love it. I am a child of the 50's, and I remember the XK120s and the old S-types when they were still being used as daily drivers - so for me the new S-Type rings a chord of recognition from childhood memory. With that distinctive grille betwixt the twin headlamp sets, the long flowing curves of the fantastically-shaped bonnet, the sweep of the roof line showing the heritage of the previous S; to my eyes it is a beautiful car and I don't care what others think - after all, I was a Scorpio owner for 8 years!

Jaguar Publicity photo - The old S-Type and MkII with the modern S-Type. IMO all three cars are just beautiful.

A 'medium' Jaguar it may be, but small it isn't. It's almost six feet wide (without the wing mirrors), and it is the same length as the Scorpio, though it does not look it. It seems to hide it's size inside the styling. Not a lightweight, either; it's kerb-weight almost identical to the Scorpio; but propelled by an all-new V6 engine developing 240bhp, or the legendary 4L Jaguar V8 developing 281bhp (now a 4.2L and 300bhp).

I decided to stay with the V6, for the lower insurance premiums and fuel costs - after all, I am a retired old fogey now!

The Jaguar AJV6 engine is their first V6. It was developed from the all-alloy Ford block by a joint Jaguar and Ford development team. It has two dual camshafts with variable timing, specially developed lightweight valves to aid breathing, a three-stage resonance inlet system controlled by two valves; all this technology has produced the most powerful engine in its class. Detractors like to scoff at the 'Ford' engine; but they merely show their ignorance - the only common thing is the engine block.

As well as being uncannily smooth, the AJV6 engine delivers its greater power in a different way. With the Cosworth 24V engine, there was slight pause before the revs came 'on cam' and delivered that satisfying surge of power; with the Jaguar 24V, the cams have variable timing, allowing the engine to develop power through the rev range without any flat spot.

Above, the power curve adapted from a Jaguar brochure. The blue line shows the Torque curve. Notice that 80% of the torque of the engine is developed at 1900 rpm, making for very relaxed cruising. As rpm rises, the variable cam timing shifts so that the 'dip' in torque so characteristic of the Cosworth engine (and which gives passengers white knuckles when they first experience it) is absent. The power delivery is seamless and the 'urge' is present throughout.

Having decided on the 3L rather than the V8, I then had to find one. Advice on the purchase of a used S-Type is usually to find a low mileage one from a franchised dealer - it would cost more but the vehicle would be kosher, have a proper service history, be properly checked out and would be covered by the Jaguar warranty if things went wrong. An SE gives the best equipment, while a Sport would provide the CATS adaptive suspension and 18" alloys, but harder seats. I decided on the SE because it should have cruise control and probably a CD stacker in the boot. I was not concerned about the Sat-Nav option, because I use my TomTom with  speed camera POIs.

I found my car at a local Jaguar dealer. It is a one-owner 2002 3.0L SE in Platinum with full service history and less than 30,000 miles on the clock. Just run-in for me, then.

Jaguar S-Type 3L V6 SE

 

The interior is classic Jaguar; high quality leather and real wood. This is the pre face-lift model; the later interior borrows the centre dash binnacle from the XJ  and is actually reminiscent of the centre of the last Granada fascia. I actually prefer this earlier dash treatment - one feels slightly less confined.

 

Publicity photo of front interior

 

Have you noticed how often manufacturers show their interiors with the most expensive trim option? This publicity shot shows the ivory interior with sable contrast - a 750 option when new. The lightest leather otherwise available is a very pleasant almond - a light beige colour, but this does not have the same impact as the ivory.

 

And mine? Yes - it has the ivory. Mine looks just like that - don't you wish your own photographs would look as well? (I think in the shot above they've used a black velvet backdrop and two bright spots from above through the windscreen and driver's window.)

 

Just sitting in the car is special. The steering wheel is a similar shape to the Scorpio but a bit smaller, the position of the window switches is the same - and the instrument panel is very similar, except that both RPM and MPH have full-size dials.  Instead of various warning lights, the Jaguar has a small LCD window called the 'Message Centre' at the bottom of instruments, in which warnings appear in text in place of the usual trip computer numbers. AT 50 miles range remaining, for example, instead of a 'bong' sound, a message appears on the LCD panel "LOW FUEL LEVEL" and keeps flashing at intervals, returning even after you acknowledge it until you fill up. All exterior bulbs are monitored, too, with a text message if one fails.

 

The trip computer switches are better, though, on a panel on top of the fascia to the left of the instruments; they have a quality click to them. The radio is built in, a double-din size very similar in operation to the 7000 unit in the Scorpio. The sound system is good, too, with four dual-cone speakers built into the doors.

 

Climate control is also very similar, with up/down temperature buttons for each front occupant, but the fan boost is now also a button. Rear seat passengers get their own vents at the rear of the centre console. I've noticed on a warm stuffy day that the vent temperatures are much lower than the Scorpio - I haven't measured them yet but the interior was very cold before I switched it back to Auto. The instruments have a light dimmer, a feature unaccountably missing on the Scorpio.

 

 

Because the engine is positioned further back to aid handling this makes the centre transmission tunnel wider and higher than we're used to in the Scorpio. The seats are slightly smaller, and firmer, but better for my back, I've already noticed - perhaps the firmer seats keep my back straighter on longer journeys. Both front seats have switches controlling positions in 12 planes, with driver's seat memory for two drivers. When the ignition key is removed from the lock, the drivers seat moves back and the steering wheel retracts and tilts upward, leaving plenty of room to get out - a neat touch. The steering wheel is electrically adjusted for rake and reach, remembers its last position and this too is memorised with the seat position.

 

Some minuses I've noticed are that the interior mirror is not auto-dimming - this was an extra cost for the first owner who didn't specify it. At least I won't have to worry about alien blood dripping onto the fascia. There is no dipping on the nearside door mirror when reverse gear is selected - I miss that.

 

But how about rear space? The Granada and the Scorpio were renowned for rear seat leg room, so I tried this first of all. I set the front passenger seat to fit me comfortably, then got out and sat in the rear seat behind. I am 6'2" tall, with very long legs, but I found that even with the front seat set for me, I could still sit comfortably in the rear seat, without my legs touching the rear of the seat. To aid this the rear seat backs are sculpted to allow that bit of extra room, but my knees were nowhere near the seat back.

 

Rear Seat, Jaguar S-Type - Jaguar Publicity photograph.

 

Above, the rear seat: the leg room can be seen here. None of the smooth high-quality leather is perforated on the Jaguar, making it much easier to clean. The leather is very soft and smooth, and the stitching is of very high standard.  The seats are cut away to allow room for the seat belt catches, and includes a shoulder belt for a centre-seat passenger, who also has a head rest available.  All of the interior, including the dash plastics, are of a very high quality - as you would expect.

 

 

 

Above - the mill. This advanced design V6 has been developed from the V6 Ford alloy engine. The silver 'octopus' is the triple variable-resonance inlet system, which hides the top of Bank 1 - the actuator valves are in the black cylindrical device on top of the intake. There is no accelerator cable to the throttle body: a motor turns the throttle to the angle determined by the engine management system, not by the driver's foot - this is the large cylinder projecting rearward from the throttle body. The odd-shaped black plastic projecting forward on the MAF trunking is the initial resonance chamber.  There is only one dipstick - for the engine oil - and I notice that Magnatec is specified for servicing. The autobox is 'fit and forget' - no dipstick and nothing for the owner to check.

 

The position of the top of the grille on the extreme left of the picture shows how far they have shifted the engine back towards the centre of the car, meaning a larger transmission tunnel inside, while the battery has been shifted to the boot floor. Jaguar have maintained the RWD configuration so the differential is where it should be, IMHO, between the rear wheels. Weight distribution is virtually 50:50 and handling is very good indeed.

 

Security is top spec - Thatcham Category 1, and this keeps the Insurance group to 15, despite the higher power.  The ignition key is coded, of course so that even a physically identical key wouldn't power up the ignition system, but the transmission is also locked in P until the correct key is put into the ignition lock, which is built into an armoured mounting in the fascia rather than the steering column, and the foot brake has to be pressed before the selector can be put into D. The selector has the J-gate - gears can be selected manually by moving the selector to the left and up. There is a Sport setting for the autobox, but no Ice setting; one uses the J-gate for gentler changes on ice.  There's also DSC - Dynamic Stability Control, in which a computer mounted on the centre line of the car determines if the car is yawing from the path chosen by the driver by comparing steering input with yaw detectors, and then uses the ABS to brake the appropriate wheel to bring the car back into the proper line. TBH, the car is so well balanced that one would have to be a maniac to need this - but it's there if I do.

 

 

Driving impressions

 

Have you ever driven a modern Jaguar? Well, the S-Type is like that. The cabin is very quiet and refined, without any bump-thumps on poor road surfaces, and the ride quality is amazing. In any other car one braces oneself for the crash when going over a pot-hole one can't avoid - but the Jaguar suspension just soaks it up. This makes for an excellent long distance tourer, relaxing and refined. It is so quiet that one hardly needs any AVC advance on the radio. With the perfect weight distribution handling is wonderfully taut and controlled with an inherent balance, so that taking bends 'feels' right at much higher speeds. Despite the suppleness of the suspension, there is no wallowing at all. You've got to hand it to them - Jaguar do know suspensions. Unfortunately, Jaguar specify specially-developed Pirelli P6000J tyres, and these are noisier than I would like on bad road surfaces. I will look to change them for Michelin when they wear.

 

Cruise controls are on the right of the steering wheel, and they are needed. So quiet is the interior that one is constantly checking for speed on motorways - at least I am at the moment - I suppose this will be easier when the car is more familiar to me. The lurking beast in the Cosworth is missing in the S-Type, but the power is more linear and greater lower down, so an OD button is not necessary. The five speed auto is exceptionally smooth, though, the only clue one has that the box has shifted is that the rev counter falls. Some pundits claim that the 5 speed constantly 'hunts' about, as if unable to decide what gear it should be in - but I felt no sign of that on mine and I know automatics, so perhaps the reviewer drove a faulty one.

 

Mid range acceleration does not feel quite as rampant as the Cosworth, and there is initial disappointment until you look at the speedo and see that the car is already travelling much faster than you thought. The sound deadening and the absence of the Cosworth roar, or any drama at all, gives a false impression; this car is very quick but doesn't scare the pants off your passenger!

 

Do I miss my Cosworth? Yes, of course  - but the Jaguar S-Type is another special car.

 

EricR

 

 

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