A supercharged V-8 with 400 horsepower is only the jumping-off point for this appealing member of Ford's British luxury-car stable.
We tested a 2006 S-Type R with only two options and a bottom line of $66,645.
SHE: Normally, I dread testing these expensive performance cars. Nine times out of ten, I feel like they're controlling me, not vice versa. But despite all the scary numbers on the Jag -- the 400 horses, the 413 pounds-feet of torque, 0-60 acceleration in 5.3 seconds -- I felt completely at home and at ease in the S-Type R. It's easy to drive, it's gorgeous and, I dare say, is more geared toward women than competitors from Audi and BMW.
HE: I probably shouldn't admit this publicly, but I've always liked the exterior lines of the S-Type. The mesh grille in the R edition fits nicely, too, without giving the car an overly macho look. Probably my biggest issue with the S-Type is that the cabin has always felt a little snug on my six-foot, 225-pound torso, and that goes for both the front and the rear seats. But dynamically, the car is terrific -- suspension, brakes, steering are all top-drawer. Hard to believe that Lincoln never did have much success with the S-Type's mechanical twin, the LS.
SHE: Talk about scary numbers -- I had no idea you weighed that much. Sounds like you could use some of the same aerodynamic sculpting that Jaguar applied to the S-Type R. There are a few things I disliked about the car. The front doors are too large, incredibly heavy and difficult to reach to close. I found it annoying that the $450 Sirius satellite radio was not incorporated into the main audio panel. The cabin is a little too black and monochromatic for my taste, too. I like the gray birds'-eye maple wood trim, but it seemed a bit much when paired with the charcoal-gray leather. Still, I would rather see wood than carbon-fiber trim, especially if I'm paying luxury-car prices.
HE: The R edition is all about the engine, and it is simply sensational. The supercharged 4.2-liter V-8 is hair-trigger responsive, and the six-speed automatic gearbox seems well-suited to handle its power and torque. It would be fun to see Jaguar do an all-wheel-drive version of this car, but be forewarned that the rear-drive S-Type R will likely be a real handful in wet weather and on icy winter roads.
SHE: The fuel economy is also pretty mediocre. We got 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway. And, like most performance cars, the Jag only takes premium fuel, which was well over $3 a gallon when I refueled it in late August. On the plus side, the S-Type R has outstanding safety features, including stability control -- which will help on slippery roads -- as well side curtain air bags that protect all outboard passengers and side air bags for the front-seat occupants.
HE: One refreshing thing about the S-Type R is the exceptional assembly quality -- much better than we've seen on expensive Jags in the past. On the downside, the digital display in the center console is way too fussy and looks too cheap for a vehicle in this price segment.
SHE: I worry that the beautiful lines, including that sculpted hood, will turn off male buyers who are just looking to make an in-your-face statement about power and muscle. This is no Cobra, guys. But if you want the best of all worlds -- performance, elegance and refinement -- the S-Type R is one of the most appealing packages out there.
2006 Jaguar S-Type R
Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger sedan.
Price: Base, $63,995 (incl. $665 shipping charge); as tested, $66,645.
Engine: 4.2-liter V-8; 400-hp; 413 lb-ft torque.
EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway.
Where built: England
Estimated 12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $2,023
Anita Rating: 4
Likes: Completely different personality from German sports sedans like Audi RS4. More geared toward women. Love the dark wood trim. Easy to handle, easy to park. Great safety features.
Dislikes: Front doors are large, heavy, hard to reach to close. Backlight looks like it's shared with the Ford Taurus. Only takes premium fuel. Cabin is too black/monochromatic. Optional Sirius satellite radio not integrated into audio panel.
Paul Rating: 4
Likes: Sensational supercharged engine. Smooth six-speed automatic. Active suspension provides firm, controlled ride. Outstanding brakes.
Dislikes: Seats don't fit my butt. Too much fussing with digital display. Cramped rear compartment.
Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, a Detroit-based automotive information services company.