The best part of my commute is trips over and back across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s New York’s first large-span bridge, and still it’s most elegant. But it’s not prime CC territory. So imagine my surprise the other day when I found myself behind this mint-green Jaguar S Type of indeterminate age, sporting the tell-tale bumper calligraphy of an NYC street parker.
Introduced in the fall of 1999 as a 2000 model, the Jaguar S type was a major initiative of Ford’s then Premier Automotive Group. it was designed to give Jaguar a stake in the lucrative mid-sized sport sedan market, and shared its new, rwd DEW platform with the Lincoln LS and J.May’s short-lived Thunderbird revival.
The S type had all the sport sedan trimmings: rear wheel drive, 4 wheel independent suspension with good handling, power everything and areal wood and leather trimmed interior. Available engines ranged from a series of Ford Duratech V6s through Peugeot diesels up to the supercharged Jaguar 4.0/4.2 V8 in the sporty R model.
The S Type was a good looking car, with one weird aspect. I can’t think of another one whose styling seemed more affected by paint color. The S Type wore light/metallic colors best, in my opinion. They highlighted the longitudinal crease, making the car feel longer and lithe; darker/solid colors muted the crease and could make the S Type look frumpy. This was more apparent in real life than these photos suggest.
For Jaguar dealers worldwide there was the added benefit of a second sedan line to sell to a broader market. The S-type was the most successful of the DEW trio, selling 290,550 copies over a nine year run from 2000 through 2008, versus 205,747 for the LS and 68,098 for the T-bird. The S-type didn’t cannibalize sales of the aging, XJ40 based XJ8. and averaged 32,000 sales per year. But over that same period, BMW, Mercedes and Audi were selling a combined 500,000+ 5 series, E-classes, and Audi A6es per year. So while the S type was a an impressive success from Jaguar’s perspective, it remained a niche player in its given market.
Perhaps the S Type’s most important role was keeping a viable national option for the UK’s lucrative executive-class company car market. In the UK, company cars are far more common than they are here. They were introduced in the 60s as way to give workers a non-taxed benefit in lieu of higher wages that would be punatively taxed. And although the UK subsequently modified tax laws to treat company cars as income, they remain popular in the UK, with job postings often listing the specific class of car (B/C/D) provided with the job. Usually, but not always the new hire has a selection of vehicles to choose from within the given size range.
UK company cars vary from entry level Focuses and Fiestas up to Jaguar XK6s for Company Directors. An important segment is the “Executive” car for top managers – luxuriously fitted sedans with good handling, dominated by the German trio. Ironically, it was the Brits who pioneered this segment with the Triumph 200o/2500 and Rover p6/3500 only to fritter it away through a series of un-competitive Rovers through the 90s. The S-Type showed Britain could still put up a fight, if not win the battle.