“It’s JUST A FORD!” they wailed. Ford assumed control of Jaguar in 1989 and there were dire pronouncements that Jags would devolve into Tauruses with leather seats and a thin schmear of burl walnut. While some cross pollination with Dearborn was inevitable, the pundits were a mile off. Rather than corrupting Jaguar, the Ford partnership kept the marque from going the way of Alvis, Triumph, Riley, Wolseley and so many others.
Prior to the S-Type’s debut Jaguar offered only the XJ sedan and the achingly pretty XK coupe and convertible. Gaining market share was critical to Jag’s survival strategy, but a two car product line was not going to carve out a big slice of the pie. Especially when the European and Japanese competition was very, very good and getting better with each successive model year.
Jaguar had been planning a counteroffensive in the form of a middleweight BMW 5-Series size car since well before the Ford takeover. But, development and production costs of a new vehicle tally the sort of figure you might mistake for the GDP of New Zealand; Jag didn’t have the cash until Ford stepped in.
Among the first fruits of this international partnership was a new rear wheel drive platform that would be used by both manufacturers. The so-called DEW Platform would underpin the Jaguar S-Type as well as the Lincoln LS and other vehicles. Thus, the S-Type has direct genetic links to other Ford products but it is emphatically not a Taurus!
The wrapper came off the S-type (factory code name X200) at the 1998 British International Motor Show in Birmingham, England. For the first time in nearly 30 years Jaguar had a second sedan in the lineup.
The new, smaller Jag showed the influence of company founder and styling guru Sir William Lyons, who had died in 1986. It strongly evoked the original S-Type and MKII of the 1960’s with a feline silhouette and distinctive, pouting, oval grille.
I can’t help but wonder if the late Geoff Lawson, Jaguar’s then head of styling, was trying to channel Sir William’s unerring feel for timeless style as he and the design team brought the S-Type to fruition? In a period review MotorTrend said “If our experience in Los Angeles is at all representative, no one mistakes the S-Type for anything but a Jaguar.” Doubtless that was welcome news at the factory, confirmation that they’d succeeded styling not a car, but a Jaguar.
Under the scalloped bonnet you’d find either a 240 bhp 3.0 liter V6, which actually was a Ford engine, though refined by Jaguar with cylinder heads and an intake system of their own design. However, the 4.0 liter V8 from the XJ and XK could be specified by those who wanted pace to match the grace.
The 8 cylinder was a thoroughbred Jaguar engine, no kin whatsoever to Ford V8’s (a slightly detuned version of this engine was used in the Lincoln LS). The AJ, for “Advanced Jaguar” V8 was a choice item; a compact, all alloy, 32 valve unit, thoroughly modern in every way. Under wide open throttle the AJ delivered it’s 281 bhp with a delicious snarl.
When MotorTrend tested a 2000 S-Type V8 it romped to 60 in 7.0 seconds, the six pot trailed by half a tick or so. That six, incidentally, will wind out to 7000 RPM (By comparison, ye olde long stroke, 4.2 Litre, XK inline six was redlined at 4500 rpm!). Variable valve timing and intake wizardry meant that 90% of the engine’s torque was available from 2500 rpm.
Whatever engine you chose, power was sent to the rear wheels through a five speed automatic transmission. Gears were selected through Jag’s J-Gate shifter. Easily one of the most polarizing features of the car. Most reviewers panned it. This writer feels that it’s elegant in appearance and intuitive in operation.
It was a given that the S-Type would be specced with disc brakes and fully independent suspension. Of course, by the turn of the last century those features were much more common than when Jaguar pioneered them in the 1960’s.
Suspension components were tuned specifically for the S-Type, chassis engineers spent a lot of time and effort getting the car’s “rolling feel” just right. An optional Sport Package brought adaptive shocks with firm and soft settings controlled by Jaguar’s Computer Active Technology Suspension, or CATS. Road testers noted that the ride was poised, creamy and controlled. More importantly, the consensus was that the S-Type felt like its own machine and not a Lincoln LS.
Interior ambiance was perhaps not quite up to the usual Jaguar standard. There were lashings of genuine birdseye maple and leather upholstery. But the clubroom feel associated with the marque was diluted with concessions to the organic styling trends of the late 1990’s. Particularly strange was the large, smiley face center stack wherein the stereo, climate control and navigation systems lived.
The model evolved throughout its production run. A facelift for 2003 brought a number of refinements, inside and out. The rear of the car was restyled to be less tapering and the passenger compartment was improved functionally and aesthetically.
The big U shaped center stack gave way to a more traditional layout and the dash received more wood veneer. Powertrain choices would expand to offer a supercharged version of the 32 valve V8, good to power the S-Type to 60 in 5.3 seconds. Non US buyers would even have the option of a 2.7 litre diesel engine and manual transmission.
Viewed purely in cold metrics S-Type performance generally fell mid-pack with their competition. But that misses the point of the car. It was meant to cosset the driver and help one escape the pressures of daily life, not dance around the Nürburgring. It’s telling that Jaguar resurrected the S-Type moniker, for the original S-Type always was a luxury car first, unlike the raucous MKII to which it was kin.
Spending time with an S-Type V6 today reveals a car of competence and refinement, if not excitement. The owner of the pictured 2002 example tossed me the keys saying “I’m not enamored of it. It’s a mid size Jag for old ladies who look through the steering wheel and figure a smaller car reduces the amount of reportable parking lot incidents.”
The owner’s criticisms are harsh, but he’s got a terrible speed problem, pleasant drawing room cars are not his thing. The Jag was a recent purchase, primarily for his wife to waft around Palm Springs.
On the move the Jag’s suspension was unflappable, the car slipping glassily over the pavement. Make no mistake though, the chassis is not anesthetized, it talks to the driver and passengers, albeit politely. Engine noise is subdued and very refined.
Give it some throttle and the tach needle whizzes ‘round the dial with verve, though the seat of your pants won’t feel much happening until it’s north of three and half grand. Selecting Sport Mode will sharpen up the suspension. If you feel the need, use the J-gate to manually control the 5 speed automatic transmission. It probably won’t improve your track times, but it’s very satisfying to run the shifter through the gears.
With fine quality silver paint, pale parchment hides and deeply tinted glass this swoopy Britisher fits into the California desert landscape as naturally as a cactus blossom. A benefit of the wood and leather steering wheel is less propensity to burn your hands, according to the owners.
Front seat comfort is excellent, with both driver and passenger enjoying a good range of adjustments. A dainty ashtray on the front armrest seems very retrograde today. The roofline encroaches slightly into one’s line of sight through the windshield, at least if you’re over 6’ tall. But the switchgear feels delightfully precise.
An efficient climate control system kept 115 degree heat at bay and the engine temperature gauge never crept out of the safe zone. The Jag seemed as faithful as Jeeves for an afternoon’s thrift shopping in Palm Springs; that is until it developed an intermittent power loss.
The owner is a mechanic of no mean ability, he reckons it’s a tired fuel pump or a bit of sludge fowling the variable valve timing system. Apparently the V6’s have narrow oil passages, making it important to adhere to the manufacturers suggested service intervals. It’s worth noting that the car sat unused for a considerable amount of time before purchase. Recommissioning any car can awaken mechanical poltergeists.
The S-Type line was discontinued in 2007 to make way for XF. The XF eschewed tradition, it’s a modernist’s luxury sports sedan of impeccable breeding, but with less personality than its predecessors. The S-Type on the other hand made no bones about having links to Jag’s glory days. It and the smaller X-type can be said to be the last new Jaguar four doors of the old tradition (in spite of the Ford connection). Their bodylines, interior styling and even ride and handling balance were all in the mold of Sir William Lyons. It’s true that the XJ sedan stuck with a traditional body style and clubroom cabin ambience until 2009, but it was a continuation of an established model, one whose first generation debuted in 1969.
Of course, public taste and design language evolve, but a Jaguar must kindle a spark of desire, it must feel like something out of the ordinary. In short, it must combine “Grace, Space and Pace” in a car that appeals to readers of Burke’s Peerage as much as those who peruse racing forms. The S-Type fulfills that role nicely with its unmistakable styling and excellent ride/handling balance.
Overlooked and often underpriced even in today’s strong used car market an S-Type is a compelling, individualistic, buy. Put one in your driveway and you can feel like a member of the aristocracy even if you just lost your last 5 Quid on the ponies.
My favourite car.. had one now for 6 years.. all going well 4litre v8. Parts easy and cheap even suspension…
Quiet as my tesla and more comfortable.
Handsome Jaguar S – Type . . Nothing rides like a jaguar or has it’s elegance
The 2.7 diesel V6 also has twin turbochargers it was one of the PSA/Ford joint venture engines and found its way into all sorts of things Jaguars, Landrover products Ford’s Australian Territory SUV and of course Peugeots and Citroens, Jaguar supercharged their V8 so it will outperform the diesel V6.
Beautiful car, but the owner being a mechanic speaks volumes about the reliability of these things. Some will say it’s reliable (for a Jaguar). I’ve heard these being compared to a trophy wife, they draw admiring looks from others, but the upkeep and drama will wear down even the strongest men.
I loved these. Sold a ton of them and they were my demo of choice. I had a string of the S-Type R as I was the only salesperson that seemed to be able to sell them. That car was not just an engine but had fantastic brakes, suspension, and some of the best seats I have ever experienced. The car was so much fun and sounded great too.
You just sold me!
Really liked these when they came out. Bought a gorgeous red 2005 in 2017 when they became affordable ($3200 vs. $40,000 new). Thought I’d have “Jaguar reliability issues” with it, but so far no major problems–turn the key and go.
The 2000 to 2008 S-Types were so beautiful. The 2009 replacement was so ugly–wouldn’t buy one of those.
Canned for being to contrived and retro in the UK. Ford planned to launch the Lincoln LS in the UK but introduced the S type instead. I did spot a RHD LS on in Bedfordshire in the day. Perhaps an Aussie import?.
I lusted after these when they came out, and I still like them. The “retro” theme dates them, whereas the X-Type, looking like a scaled down XJ, still doesn’t look dated to my eyes. I came across an X-Type 5-speed on a dealer lot a couple years ago and tried really hard to justify its purchase, but good sense won out. I’d still be very happy with an S or X, but at this stage I’m very leery. Low mileage well cared for examples pop up every once in a while, but they’re at the age when trouble is pretty much inevitable, and I just can’t afford trouble.
the X-Type is more expensive to maintain than the S-Type. It was a compromised design as it was converted from front wheel drive to all wheel drive. They still look good but the driving experience is not what it should have been. I remember being shocked that a brake job on them was more expensive than the bigger Jags.The second generation S-Type was very good with an updated ZF transmission and upgraded interior.
I used to own one (X-type, 2002), and can’t figure out what’s “compromised” about the awd system? It sent 60% of the power to the rear, 40% to the front by default, ended up very slightly tail-happy as a result and made for a fun drive. And was the most sure-footed Jaguar ever built to that date in any kind of poor weather.
There’s nothing about the brakes either that I can recall that should make it more expensive to service or maintain/replace than any other Jaguar. Or any other car for that matter. Can you expound on that?
It was a front wheel drive Mondeo initially, but it would have been unacceptable to market a front wheel drive Jaguar as rear wheel drive was the drivers choice. The compromise was to modify it by adding all wheel drive. The car had great all weather traction no doubt, but was a workaround rather than a fresh design. As far as the brakes it might not apply at an independent shop but as a Jaguar dealer replacement of pads and rotors were more expensive than the S-type for whatever reason. I think they looked great and were not a bad car per se, but time has not been kind to them and I rarely see them on the road now. One thing I remember is the way the car would dive and squat when hard on the brakes or gas.
That was accidental lol didn’t know the first one posted
I actually quite liked the X-type and think while the styling was spot on the driving dynamics could have been better. I consider it compromised because rather than a clean sheet design it started with the bones of the Mondeo and was then tweaked to make it unique enough to be a Jaguar. The Mondeo was front wheel drive and since Jaguar had always been rear wheel drive, the solution was to convert it to all wheel drive. There was nothing wrong with this and the car did have excellent traction, but never felt right to me. Heavy throttle made the rear squat hard, heavy braking made the nose dive. Most did not drive these hard so was a non issue, it just never felt sporty to me. An S-type always felt much more special to me at least. As far as the he brakes I just remember being surprised at the cost of replacement pads and rotors being higher than the S-type or XJ. This was at the dealership so it might not apply at an independent shop.
the red is my favorite! Used to be Carnival red then switched to Radiance red, looks really good on these.
Never thought of these as being classics already but I guess they are old enough for it. The toy like too-big rear lamps and the urinal dash of the first model made me turn away from the early series but I quite like the later version. However when compared to a “proper” Jaguar (the XJ series) it always falls behind so I cannot see myself owning one, cheap as they might be. And they are really at giveaway prices now.
These truly are classics and I would have to agree with most comments here. The follow-up car just doesn’t look all that beautiful. Yes, it looks dated, it looked dated when new, but that is part of it’s appeal to me.
Yet, I could never see myself owning one, I prefer the size of the X-type, and in fact recently bought a used Fusion.
This model is an homage to the Mark 2. For a time Jaguar was producing new “reproductions” of their classic designs. The S class was perfect for those that always wanted a Mark 2 and didn’t want to undertake a restoration. The X300 and later V8 update were for those that wanted classic XJ6 styling. And for those who always lusted after an XKE there was the XK8, it didn’t look exactly like an E type, but it sure stirred the same emotional territory. They were not without their problems when new, and at this age they will be prone to even more problems, but have you priced an XKE lately?
Nice article, thanks! I really like the pictures as it’s the perfect setting for the car, and not another vehicle in sight in the upscale Palm Springs neighborhood. Jaguars have traditionally been set apart by their interiors, so I was disappointed to not see any inside pics. The car is in wonderful condition for being 19 years old!
I am intrigued by the story. I assume you know the owner, but maybe you lived my fantasy of finding a choice CC parked and as I am taking pictures, the owner comes out and says, “take it for the afternoon, the car needs the exercise!”
I like these Jags a lot, which I have gathered is not universal. I think they were one of the better “retro” designs to come out. Unmistakably Jaguar, and looks good in its own right, in a way something like the Thunderbird didn’t (wasn’t that also based on the DEW platform?)
Always quite liked these, especially in the right darker colours and with a V8 of course. The retro thing might stop be taking one over an XF though.
Solid, if slightly left choice, against a 5 series or E Class for a daily driver.
Saw one of these when they first came out at the Fall ’99 ‘British Car Day’ at Woodlawn Plantation. I really liked the retro styling. Then I asked the Jag rep if I could see under the hood. He replied “No sir. That’s proprietary”. That was enough and I walked away.
Now I see them in salvage-yards, and can look under-hood all I want!
Happy Motoring, Mark
A friend had one for a few years. She let me take it for a drive in the country when they came to visit us. A very nice drive it was.
I could never quite make up my mind about the styling. In the end, it was a bit too much like the retro-TBird: it just didn’t quite nail it. I agree with those that think the X-Type was a better styled car.
I recently bought an 2002 x type I love it strong quiet and a head turner
03 s-type v8. Love this car however restricted performance light comes on and also gear fault light. It has the wood dash, touchscreen for radio, climate control, navigation and phone system, built in ashtrays on all doors except drivers side. Built in cd disc changer in the trunk. Fully loaded. Sunroof Awesome to drive
She screams refinement ..classic indeed love it ..06 3.0 V6 .
Smooth ride a hog on the highway and a head turner when in public parked .
Retro done right. With a manual transmission, I’d like to own one.
It might be made by ford but not on the road it screams jag
And as a classic she still turns head and poeple still ask me questions about about her ..love it relax riding and if you don’t be careful you will see my tail light waving good bye to you ..sporty and full of luxury .
I wrote this piece, and, in spite of my best efforts I have to offer a few corrections. First, there WAS a handful of V6 S-Types with manual transmissions sold stateside, secondly, Sir William Lyons died in 1985, not 1986 and, in the paragraph relating to the oil passages on V6 cars, the text should’ve read “fouling”, not “fowling”.
There, now I can sleep at night.
I have an 02′ Jaguar S-type, 3.0L V6, and I absolutely adore it. People are constantly complimenting me on it’s appearance and youngsters are always trying to race me at the red lights. I haven’t had to do anything much to it besides routine maintenance. It’s got 165,000 miles on her and doesn’t miss a beat. Buying another one same year and model, except with V-8 on Saturday.
Awesome I have an xtype I feel the same
Handsome Jaguar S – Type . . Nothing rides like a jaguar or has it’s elegance