Versus the competiton:
Ford bought Jaguar in 1989 — yes, it has been that long — but it wasn’t until 1999 that the company really put its brand on Jaguar, with the introduction of the 2000 S-Type sedan. The S-Type shared bits and pieces with the underrated Lincoln LS, and though both vehicles were better for the partnership, Jaguar loyalists doffed their tweed driving caps and lifted a snifter of brandy to what was Jaguar, and what was now a Jaguar built by Ford.
All that doffing and snifter-lifting may have been premature, because Ford, for all its problems, has been a pretty sensitive caretaker. Those of us who have been doing this for a while recall the grim pre-Ford period in which you were taking a chance if you depended on a Jaguar test car to get you home. One colleague still talks about climbing into a new Jaguar and closing the door, and having the inside door panel fall on him.
Those days are gone, and though Jaguar will likely never approach Lexus in build quality, the cars are, overall, pretty durable. The S-Type is now in its eighth model year, and though a replacement for the car is in the pipeline, this current version still works. The last update, in 2005, did not change the looks dramatically, which is fine since the S-Type design has attained moderate classic status.
The top-of-the-line S-Type model is the S-Type R, which has a 4.2-liter V-8 that has been supercharged to 400 horsepower, 100 more than a regular V-8-powered S-Type. If power isn’t that important to you, a base S-Type has a 3.0-liter, 235-horsepower V-6 that is, really, more than adequate for any situation, especially because it has the same intuitive six-speed automatic transmission as the V-8 versions.
Still, Jaguar built much of its reputation not just on design and luxury, but on performance. The S-Type R not only has the horsepower, but it has larger 18-inch tires and wheels — our test car actually had optional ($1,200) 19-inchers — as well as a rear spoiler, a different exhaust system and a sophisticated suspension Jaguar calls CATS, or Computer Active Technology Suspension. That contrived acronym means that the S-Type R’s suspension immediately adjusts itself, per computer input, to speed, road conditions and situation.
Suffice it to say the S-Type R is fast and corners very well, but those drivers looking for pure performance may be happier with a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz AMG model. The S-Type R in the past felt like a luxury car that was made to perform, rather than a genuine performance car. That still applies to the 2007 model but doesn’t take away from the lovely, comfortable interior that no one, BMW and Mercedes included, does better than Jaguar.