WASHINGTON, D.C. - Jaguar's S-Type model line gets some major renovations for 2002 as well as the addition of the high-performance S-Type R model. The S-Type, launched in 1999, has softly rounded styling, four headlights and an oval grille that recalls the look of classic Jaguars without being a caricature. It is elegant yet modern, which has led it to become the fastest-selling Jaguar to date.

For 2002, changes across the model range include a redesigned interior, a V-8 enlarged to 4.2 liters, a bump in the horsepower of the 3.0-liter V-6 to 240 and the addition of a six-speed automatic transmission. Both the front and rear suspension have been redesigned and the body structure is 10 percent stiffer. Overall weight has been reduced by 100 pounds by using aluminum suspension pieces and magnesium for seat frames and the cross-car beam that undergirds the instrument panel.

All of the above changes enhance the S-Type, but the biggest news is the addition of the supercharged R model, which produces a whopping 400 horsepower vs. 300 for the normally aspirated version. The S-Type R is a natural competitor to BMW's M5 and the Audi S6. During Jaguar's introduction of the car to American journalists, I drove the new 4.2-liter V-8 as well as the S-Type R on Virginia's twisty two-lane roads just outside the nation's capital. The 4.2-liter V-8, with the optional sports suspension, was delightfully sure-footed without punishing its passengers, even on roads whose surface was pockmarked and rough. The additional displacement of the engine accounts for a wider midrange powerband. It steps lively when you want, pulls eagerly from slow speeds and goes about its business with barely a whisper. The six-speed automatic transmission has a ratio for every situation and it shifts so smoothly you donÕt even notice it.

The S-Type R looks different because it has a mesh grille, rear spoiler and 18-inch wheels. It sits just a little closer to the ground and has a larger air intake under the front bumper. Driven normally, it feels much like the regular S-Type with a little tighter suspension. Get frisky with the throttle, however, and it covers ground in great bounding leaps. The supercharger's whine is accompanied by a steady push in the back while the scenery begins to get blurry. Whereas BMW's M5 feels like a race car on the street, the S-Type R seems to be much less frenetic. Jaguar quotes zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.3 seconds with a top track speed that is electronically limited to 155 mph.

Much of the S-Type R's excellent ride quality can be attributed to Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension. CATS uses upgraded springs so there is less body roll, and the shock absorbers are two-stage, electronically controlled units that change settings while the car is in motion. This enables the ride to be relatively softer at slower speeds and firmer at higher speeds. CATS also switches the the settings of the rear shocks slightly after the front so the car turns into corners better at slow speeds. At high speeds, the opposite happens so the car feels more secure.

In practice, of course, these minutiae are undetectable, except to say that the car goes where it is pointed with accuracy and confidence. Even with 18-inch wheels, the ride is pliant enough to be comfortable.

Inside, a sweep of bird's-eye maple veneer decorates the instrument panel, which now has a redesigned center console and a 7-inch, LCD touch-screen display for the optional navigation system. The instruments have green dials and new needles. The seats are tailored to each model, with those of the S-Type R having the deepest contours and biggest side bolsters.

Front, side and side-curtain airbags are standard.

Other new items include an electronic parking brake that is activated by a button on the console near the shift lever and electrically adjustable pedals with a memory for two drivers. The electronic parking brake automatically acti ates when the car is put into Park and releases when it is taken out of gear.

The addition of the S-Type R gives Jaguar a high-performance sedan to compete with the best there is. It not only looks great, but it offers powerful performance in a relatively subtle package.

Prices start at $43,875 for the 3.0-liter V-6, $49,975 for the V-8 and $62,400 for the S-Type R.

Four years or 50,000 miles.

There is no At A Glance box because this is not a regular test drive of a production model.