Name the first luxury automobile brand that comes to mind, and I’ll bet it’s something German or Japanese, or possibly American. Even narrowing it down to just Britain, and it is likely that said brand is the ultra-prestigious Rolls-Royce or the highly-relevant Land Rover. Jaguar, meanwhile, is often forgotten and for good reason. Quite simply, it doesn’t sell anywhere near as many cars as its rivals.
Over the past decade, total annual Jaguar sales in the U.S. have typically averaged around 15,000, while in Europe around 25,000. Unlike most luxury brands, Jaguar has had very little penetration in the Chinese market. Of course, the introduction of all-new products have typically caused significant upticks in Jaguar sales, most notably the recent F-Pace and E-Pace crossovers, which have allowed Jaguar to effectively double its U.S. and European sales since 2016, and even reach its best ever worldwide sales figure of 180,833 units in 2018.
Notwithstanding this feat, Jaguar has never been a volume brand, chasing the title of best in sales in the way that its German competitors do. Always more of a boutique retailer, I’d like to say that Jaguar focuses on quality over quantity, but I can’t even keep a straight face saying that and I work for JLR. Quality and reliability have never been strong Jaguar suits, dating back to its beginnings.
Nevertheless, lower volume has its benefits. Jaguar has always held on to a special sort of appeal and image, one of highly-distinguished and grandiose exclusivity — an appeal and image that has arguably been Jaguar’s most equitable quality over the years, and one which has kept its most dedicated owners.
While Jaguar has fewer model lines and longer product cycles than most competitors, it generally makes the introduction of a new model all the more significant and impactful. Jaguar’s recent and notable sales increase is completely due to the introduction of its F-Pace and I-Pace crossovers. Prior to this, the brand’s most drastic increase in sales was attributed to the S-Type, a very significant model for the brand that went on sale in the first quarter of 1999 as a 2000 model.
Just to put things in perspective, prior to the S-Type’s introduction, Jaguar had been a two-model regular production lineup of the XJ full-size luxury sedan and the XJS/XK personal luxury coupe for decades. At least in the United States, total brand sales had never topped 25,000 and for the decade prior to the S-Type, 1998 was the only year Jaguar cracked 20,000 units, largely attributed to the refreshed 1998 XJ.
Built on the new Ford DEW platform shared with the Lincoln LS, the rear-wheel drive S-Type shared relatively little with the LS beyond basic underpinnings and powertrain, offering its own distinctive styling, driving dynamics, and overall character. Offering Jaguar’s traditional blend of spirited performance coupled with a plush ride, the base V6 S-Type’s starting price undercut the XJ by some $13,000 USD, while its V8 model did so by some $7,000 USD, making it a much more attractive means of entry to the Jaguar brand.
Indeed for its time, the S-Type did offer impressive performance stats, particularly with its larger engines. Depending on market and model year, buyers had the choice between a 2.5-liter V6 (201 hp/185 lb-ft), 3.0-liter V6 (240 hp/216 lb-ft), 2.7-liter V6 turbodiesel (204 hp/321 lb-ft), 4.0-liter V8 (281 hp/287 lb-ft), 4.2-liter V8 (300 hp/310 lb-ft), and the S-Type R’s supercharged 4.2-liter V8 making 400 horsepower and 408 lb-ft torque.
Gasoline V6s were in the form of the all-new Jaguar AJ engine, the Jaguar-built version of Mazda’s AJ-V6, itself heavily based on the Ford Duratec V6, while V8s were Jaguar’s own AJ-V8, an engine that also had versions used in Land Rover, Aston Martin, Ford, and Lincoln products. As for the S-Type, it’s worth noting that V6 models offered 5-speed and then 6-speed manuals, while all were also paired with 5-speed and then 6-speed automatics.
The S-Type’s largest criticism fell upon its love-it-or-leave-it styling inside and out. Clearly paying homage to the original Jaguar S-Type from the 1960s, the new S-Type exuded traditional Jaguar styling cues such as quad round headlights, deeply fluted hood, prominent chrome grille, and a low boot.
The rounded greenhouse and bodywork also mimicked that of the original S-Type, giving the 2000 S-Type a heavy, rotund look that some including your humble author have never cared for.
The 2000 S-Type’s interior was also very traditional Jaguar, with of abundances of supple leather, polished wood trim, and sound deadening for a plush and coddling environment. A not-so traditional Jaguar element was the S-Type’s prominent U-shaped center instrument panel.
Featuring an unattractive jigsaw puzzle of hard plastic, Ford parts bin radio and HVAC controls, and an illy-placed nav screen when so optioned, it rightfully drew heavy criticism and was one of the first things changed with the S-Type’s mid-cycle refresh in 2003, with a more elegant-looking X-Type-inspired console replacing it.
In spite of any perceived shortcomings, the S-Type was an astounding success for Jaguar. Quickly becoming the brand’s best-selling model, the S-Type was almost solely responsible for Jaguar sales tripling in both the U.S. and European markets from 1998 to 2002. Unfortunately, the S-Type and its retro-ness proved merely a fad, as meaningful updates including a significant refresh for 2003 and the addition of the high-performance 400-horsepower S-Type R didn’t help the S-Type in keeping its momentum. By 2007, overall Jaguar sales had fallen below their pre-S-Type levels.
The S-Type was replaced by the new Jaguar XF in 2008, a car which despite some shared underpinnings, was far more beautiful by nearly all accounts. Sadly, it arrived just as most economies were going into a sharp recession, and at a time when sedans began rapidly losing their popularity in comparison to CUVs and SUVs.
While it’s doubtable whether or not Jaguar will ever find consistent success in the way which its German rivals have for decades, the 2000 S-Type gave it one of its most promising glimmers of hope, whether or not it was a worthy car of doing so. Regardless, total global sales of the S-Type came in just shy of 300,000 examples, making it one of the most successful single generations of any British-built car of all time.
Photographed in Blackstone Square, South End Boston – October 2018
Ugliest Jag ever to my eyes, at least. Looks like a dowdy ovoid Taurus to me, and that interior with its fake wood… all I can say is “ouch”! This was supposed to be a luxury car?
I have been told it is real wood. But it’s polished so well it looks fake.
This looks nothing like any Taurus, from any angle, in spite of a slightly similar headlight treatment. I never understood this complaint.
“This looks nothing like any Taurus”
Especially underneath with its rear-drive architecture.
Jags of this era all featured genuine wood, behind a roughly 1/8-inch layer of varnish. I’ve pulled pieces from junkyard cars for my own X-Type and have confirmed that it is genuine wood.
The V6 diesel is the model Jeremy Clarkson tried to do a sub ten minute lap at the ring in, the engine is a Peugeot model with twin turbos also used by Ford but with single turbo in the aussie Territory.
I remember that, but I’ve forgotten what Sabine Schmitz’ lap time in that car was. I thought at the time that someone really had to be enamored with diesel to want an S-Type with a stick and strange powerband like he mentioned in the video. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but somehow diesels are very passe even in Europe now, and automatics selling in record numbers.
Apparently Sabine Schmitz heard Jeremy’s lap time in the Jaguar and said ” I could beat that in a Transit van” So Top Gear rented a van and she took a crack at it.
Clarkson managed to prove he doesnt know how to drive a diesel in that show, wanna go faster change up and use the torque revving them to the redline isnt the method, from memory Sabine bettered his time first try and she matched it in a diesel Transit van. My 4 cylinder diesel manual Citroen really never gets past 2500 rpm in road use 2050rpm in 5th is our speed limit but it hauls ass from there overtaking.
Changing up at the torque peak was how I was taught to drive – relying on high revs was for MGs and the like… 🙂
I was driving my mate’s new(ish) diesel Renault Trafic. No more auto tranny like his hump-roof last model; only 6 speed manual now. Was using instinct to determine when to change gears, then noticed the dashboard had a symbol pop up when the ECU determined shift moment. I was off by at least 500 revs each time. Could not get comfortable shifting at such low revs.
Those shift lights are all about max. fuel efficiency. But yes, diesels have a very low torque peak, thanks to the turbocharger.
Well Bryce, I hate to tell you but you’ve got this wrong too. Horsepower is what delivers maximum acceleration, and that peaks at or near redline. Sure, in normal driving, shift earlier; with the powerful torque curve thanks to the turbo, revving high isn’t needed normally, but if you’re racing, you want every bit of hp available.
And shifting at the hp peak (or more) means that the engine will be already at the torque peak or so.
There’s nothing really magical about a diesel vs a gas engine, except that the power band is typically narrower on the diesel. But ultimately, hp trumps torque, which is why they can rev higher than the torque peak. Otherwise, why bother. Might as well just shut off the fuel earlier.
Agreed, except for the middle sentence. Torque curve has usually dived steeply south by hp peak (or more) in modern td’s, which isn’t “torque peak or so” but down by as much as half.
I myself love the early 2000’s XJ’s…they are beautiful and have aged well. You can pick up any older jag in that era for peanuts as a price of entry…keeping them running is another matter. My consciousness of Jags started as a boy upon seeing a family friends 1973 XKE V-12 roadster, which I think is one of the most beautiful cars of all time. Glad to see them resurgent with their new lineup. I think the E-pace SUV is the best looking one going.
Saw one of these once that had a bumper sticker that read ‘ MY CAR IS TOO A REAL JAGUAR!” It’s hard not to look at these and squint and see the Taurus with lipstick that it appears to be. Always reminded me of the way GM tarted up a Chevy Cavaler and called it a Cadillac. Good thing is, you can buy a used one for cheap.
I never forget Jaguar, because of an uncle who owned three of them. He bought two original S-Types, in succession a 3.4L and a 3.8L; and then an XJ6, a beautiful and very comfortable car in which I felt that Jaguar had gotten the ride/handling balance correct, far more so than anything American at the time. Unfortunately he had problems with it and was soured on Jaguar. I remember him saying about the new S-Tyoe, “It’s a cheap car,” on a day when his BMW 7-series was in the repair shop…again…which it had to visit about as often as had the XJ6.
He was driving his wife’s Lexus LS that day.
He’s gone now, as are most of his cars. The only one left is the XJ6, now owned by his younger brother, British racing green replacing silver-grey, and with an American heart transplant: a Chevrolet 350 and Turbo HydraMatic. It now goes as well, and as reliably, as it rides and handles, and even the air conditioning works!
I found these more intriguing than appealing. I liked the idea and it was nice to see a style/flavor that got away from the German-ness that everyone else was either doing or copying. I kind of liked the styling.
But today I would avoid one for the same reason I would avoid a Lincoln LS (or an early 60s GM Y body senior compact, for that matter) – they are oddball cars with too many unique parts. Plus, these never developed a very good reputation from a maintenance and durability standpoint, at least from what I have heard.
If I were to sign up for the Jaguar high-maintenance experience, I would at least like to be rewarded with a car more special than this one.
The beautiful thing about Jags from this era is that everyone’s already had about every problem there is to have. So, once you can bite down on the parts cost, you can at least find the info on how to fix the thing. From what I’ve heard, the S-Type was completely a mixed bag for reliability. My guess is it’s like the X-Type: Everything Ford touched works great, while everything Jaguar touched will break.
I can’t speak to the S-Type reliability but my Lincoln LS has been very reliable over it’s 200,000 mile journey so far, the only repair that I would classify as unscheduled would be a radiator replacement (plastic side tanks) at around 180k; otherwise it has been routine scheduled maintenance since I bought it, and if it were not for the S-Type I probably would not be driving my LS today as Jaguar (and others) still supports the S-Type and many of those Jaguar parts are direct replacements for the LS.
It’s taken 19 years, but the styling of these has finally grown on me. However, I think the X-type was a more successful translation of the old school quad-headlight Jaguar style on a modern vehicle. Well, short of the XJ. Those were beautiful.
I’ve no idea why buyers aren’t picking up current Jaguar sedans, but they don’t appeal to me because they have no unique angle or selling point. With the regal old styling and interior replaced by modern anodyne anonymity, all you have left is another random euro sedan. I’m sure the company and its fans were not thrilled with being pigeon-holed, but the brand gave up its identity in a crowded field.
The retro design theme was just an endless retread. I love the last “heritage-style” XJ (generation before current one) because it kept the classic Jaguar design cues but on a boxier, more upright body. But even it didn’t look fresh enough to most people and considering it introduced an all-aluminum body and new technology, it wasn’t a good thing for people to think it was just the same ol’ big Jag.
So retro was going nowhere and a new design language was needed. I think all the latest Jags look great but I can see how you would feel they’re anonymous.
Jaguar needs to capitalize on what made its XJs striking for so long – that they were slinky and lower and sleeker than other full-size luxury sedans.
Also, current Jag interiors… I’m not a fan. The XJ’s is nice. The others? Not so much. They’re just so… bland.
I agree with your points on the Jaguar interior and exterior styling. There was a proportional elegance that was part of their best designs, and that really defined the brand’s style, versus add-ons like grille and headlight shape. Of the current range, I think the F-Type is the best modern interpretation of the traditional Jaguar slinky shape, while the I-Pace is closest to something Sir William Lyons might have actually found interesting and modern (which the XK and XJ of the 1960s decidedly were).
I also agree that most of the current Jaguar interiors are very bland and don’t feel special, or modern, or even upmarket. Again, I think the I-Pace sets the pace for the best of their current offerings and does a reasonable job modernizing the expected “wood -n- leather” Jaguar ambiance with high tech features. For better or worse, it is much less sterile than a Tesla for example, as a Jaguar should be.
“….no unique angle or selling point” you say. That’s it in a nutshell.
Every product needs a difference to sell, a reason for a consumer to buy it rather than an opposition product – whether it be an actual material difference or the product of a carefully-crafted image.
Jaguar cannot rely on image these days, as too many folk have heard the horror stories of high maintenance and unreliability. They may be old news, perhaps from decades ago, but that’s what’s in so many people’s minds (Jaguar customer or not) when they think of Jaguar. That means they need a material difference, something Jaguar can do better.
For a long time that was obvious: style, interior design and materials, ride/handling balance, performance. But in most if not all of those areas, the opposition is right up there nowadays, and often without reliability qualms. Big problem.
Is high-tech the answer? Innovation always used to be a Jaguar staple (twin cams in the forties, disc brakes in the fifties, IRS in the sixties, V12s in the seventies…) – but everyone’s scrambling to do modern high-tech too.
Current Jaguars have gone away from the old retro-but-heritage-Jaguar styling, and that was needed – but I don’t think they have successfully bridged to gap to create a new distinctly-Jaguar look. Without that they’ve become just another luxury car. Sad.
Aussie Curbivores will get this but the early S-Type interior looks remarkably like an AU Falcon’s.
The facelifted S-Type tidied up the styling a bit, inside and out, but these were design dead ends. Still, they have presence and character and that’s gotta count for something.
Yeah it does but both were built by Ford so hardly a surprise, pity they didnt put a turbo Barra in the Jag.
Now that would be interesting – but would it fit?
As an American, the S-Type’s original steering wheel reminds me a little too much of the late ’90s Eclipse/Talon’s.
It was the other way around. The V8 Lincoln had a Jaguar engine.
Isn’t that exactly what the article says???
Stating opinions as facts:
1) This is the most beautiful sedan of the 21st century. It successfully combines the modern look with traditional Jaguar styling cues. One of the few recent cars that really has character.
2) “The S-Type was replaced by the new Jaguar XF in 2008, a car which . . . was FAR MORE BEAUTIFUL by nearly all accounts.” Not by MY account. Jaguar replaced that classic grille with an ugly wild boar snout. Big mistake.
I have owned a 2005 S-Type for over a year now. Paid $3200 for what was a $41,000 car when new. Haven’t had to put any $$ into it yet. Looks beautiful, drives beautifully–like you’re driving something special. The chrome “leaper” on the hood leads the way. The Achilles’ Heel is the transmission, which does not shift as smoothly as the Chrysler I had before.
Why are cars so dull today? Because when distinctive cars are introduced, the normies won’t buy them, and haughty critics pan them.
My Jag is red, like this one:
I completely agree with your statements about the styling. I really like the look of these cars. Much better than the greyscale, retro looking ’61 Plymouth grilled current offerings.
Agreed on both counts, and a little envious of your Jag too! I’ve liked these from the beginning, but the affordability vs practicality curve was never in the right place at the right time for me.
My neighbor had one of these. He had nothing but complaints about it. It had low kilometers and he offered to sell it to me cheaply, but warned me that it was $2500 per year to maintain (the windshield itself was well over a thousand, and even the headlights were ridiculous). I took it for a test drive just for fun. Comfortable, reasonably powerful with the V8, and the leather was fantastic. Of course, I had to decline the offer, but still entertained it for a few hours.
He told me later that it seemed to be running well for once, with no dash lights, so he and his wife were going to drive it to their cottage a couple hours away. Big mistake. Halfway there, the dash lit up and they had it towed (I can’t remember the issue). After that, it seemed to go in and out of limp mode, with no mechanic able to find the issue. It would be declared good as new, and a few hours later it would go back into limp mode.
He said he had paid over 40 grand for the car (slightly used) and that it was one of the worst decisions he had ever made.
He ended up cashing in on some insurance claim. The hood flew up as he was driving and the insurance company handed him a cheque for $8000. He was thrilled.
Friends of mine have owned two different S-Type Rs. The first one was totalled, and after a few years found another (this white one). In the R configuration, it’s a very handsome car. And they really did scoot, was very fun to drive.
I never found these at all attractive, at least from the front and side. The rear looked good, though. X-Type looked worlds better. Also worth noting: I don’t think the S-Type manuals were ever offered in the U.S.. I haven’t driven an S-Type, but I’ve had two X-Types now, one with the 2.5 and the current one with the 3.0, both with the 5-speed manual. The 2.5 was an absolute dog. The 3.0 does pretty good, though. Same transmission behind them, so it’s absolutely astounding the difference between them. Funny thing is, the bigger engine actually does better on gas since I don’t have to downshift and pin the throttle to get the car to move.
I will also say, it’s really hard to argue with a Jag interior from that era. The S- and X-Types had pretty similar designs inside, and I am a big fan.
I’ve always liked the S-Type. A true luxury car should be about being distinctive. The new Jags could be built by anybody. The soul is gone, inside and out.
i had an Amanti. close enough?
I never saw that resemblance, rather I always thought the Amanti was the 21st century reincarnation of the Studebaker Lark. The Jag was a looker, just always worried what they were giving away with Ford at the helm.
As a kid, I liked the S-Type commercial with Sting’s “Desert Rose”. The overdone aesthetic of that commercial and this car is the kind of thing that seemed impressive then, but cheesy now. I hate to admit it, but I prefer the X-Type styling to this car’s.
This car reminds me of the choice between “the urinal” and “the British LeSabre” that my mother had to make in 2005.
She was always a huge Jaguar fan, loving the classic ones and feeling that the cars were truly unique and graceful. Her father had an XJ12 that was a reliability nightmare but a very alluring car when it worked, and that imagery stuck with her. So when Jaguar went to Ford, reliability improved, styling on the XJ was “retro-modernized” and the AJ V8 was introduced, she was finally ready to indulge her dreams and get one. Her 1999 XJ8 proved to be a very satisfactory car, and she got another one in 2003, also trouble-free. Both Jags felt retro cool in their own way and were the perfect ride for a NOLA dowager like my mother.
Then Katrina hit, the Jaguar flooded (luckily her raised house did not) and the car was a total loss. She wanted to replace her XJ with another Jaguar, but by that time the choices were the X-Type (non-starter for her), the S-Type and the X350 series XJ8. So it boiled down to the S-Type versus the new XJ. I made the mistake of mentioning that I thought the S-Type grille was shaped like a men’s room urinal, so she crossed that one of the list and went for the pricier XJ8, with the stuffy Vanden Plas trim. And it just came across as the ultimate Buick LeSabre, big, sorta blobby/curvy, soft, old-fashioned looking–no one would have had any idea it was a fancy new aluminum-bodied flagship. She never loved the car like she had the previous XJs, and she ditched her XJ8 for the 2009 XF, which at least felt more modern, if not particularly Jaguar-like.
When Jaguar gets the formula right, they have unique niche appeal. But when they miss, it feels especially wrong. The S-Type will always be one of those “misses” in my book.
I like the looks of the face lifted version, yes it is totally retro. The X Type was just a shrunken version of the big XJ model. The problem with Jaguar’s retro styling was that it did not expand the pool of buyers beyond those that always wanted a traditional Jag. The new models do share a consistent modern design language but they do look like most other competitive cars. That’s the problem. Before, the unique styling of earlier Jags was their greatest appeal. Expanding appeal and therefore sales, to a new group of buyers is a difficult task.
I always look at the S-Type as one of those examples of how not to do retro right. The XJ Jaguar, for as dated as it started looking towards the end of the old body style’s life, still evoked something very classical and nostalgic on its own. That’s the thing about British cars that I like, even when they adapt to the times, you always get the sense that they seem very evocative of a time period that no longer exists, for better and for worse. But the S-Type to me, seems almost a joke in how it pays tribute to the company’s history. There’s a fine line between Homage and Parody, and the S-Type falls squarely into the Parody category for me, it feels like a joke that I’m not quite in on, same problem I have with a lot of Retro-styled cars from the early 2000s.
The only angle this looks right to me, is dead center on the side, everywhere else, is just yeesh. This remains another sorted chapter of that time when PAG was actually a thing in all its ill-conceived glory.
I’ve been reading this site for a long time now, and have been thinking about writing a COAL about…my 2003 Jaguar S-Type. I still find it funny to say that it is mine, since it was my mom’s car. My mom was not a materialistic person, but she liked nice things, and she always wanted a Jaguar, if it weren’t for their reputation for unreliability. There was never one in our garage until she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in 2000. My mom’s outlook on lots of things changed, including finally getting that Jaguar – life is too short to put off what you want.
So in the summer of 2002, my mom got finally got her Jaguar – a black-on-black 2003 Jaguar S-Type 3.0 with the much-improved interior, refreshed exterior, redesigned front suspension, and the new 6-speed ZF automatic transmission. I always thought the car struck a nice balance between comfort and sportiness. It rides very well, but it handles and steers nicely, and the engine has a nice growl to it. All in all, it’s smooth.
My mom lived with CLL for 12 years. She was a strong woman and did not want her cancer to define her. She lived her life and loved her family (and occasionally drove her Jaguar). Sadly, my mom lost her fight in October 2012. It was quick, and it was a shock. We were fortunate that my mom was able to see the best doctors and had access to the best treatment, but whatever the worst case scenarios that never happens, happened.
I now have my mom’s Jaguar. I think of her when I’m behind the wheel. My mom never got to meet my daughter, but it was her car that drove her granddaughter home from the hospital after she was born. I’m sure I’m the only person who has ever Googled “best car seat for Jaguar S-Type” and we probably have the only S-Type with a “Baby on Board” sticker. It’s now 16 ½ years old and just shy of 100K miles. We live in Manhattan where having any car is a luxury, and the Jaguar dutifully shuttles my wife and I and our 2 ½ old to visit friends and family outside the city. It may seem silly, but there’s something nice that the Jaguar is a reminder of my mom.
A very poignant little COAL, TS. Nicely done.
This came out about the same time as the Rover 75, which in my immovable and thus un-humble opinion was a far better looking retro-type design. For Brits, I’m sure the 75 is just part of road furniture, but here, where they were uncommon, they still stand out as a class act today. As for interiors, there was no comparison: the Jag’s first one was just ‘orrible.
Quite why Jaguar would appear to have chosen to mimic their oddest looker – the S-type – from the lovely ’60’s lineup is hard to fathom. In any case, Mk2 or S-type, if you remove the chrome detailing and bumpers and delicate glasshouse, as modern regulations and weight/fuel issues of even ’99 would dictate you must, you have only a rather thickset blob of a car. Insofar as it was interesting at first view, that waned very quickly.
I said this in one of my posts before, but there’s no car I can think of whose looks changed more depending on the its color than the S-Type.
That long, arching character bevel on the body sides drew great shadows on lighter-colored cars, helping to visually both lengthen and lower the body, as intended.
But on dark cars, the shadow, and the character line tended to blend into the body in anything but the brightest sunshine, leaving the frumpy appearance you so well noted.
I had the Ian McCallum facelifted version with the V6 diesel and a stick. I heard someone in the trade refer to it as the Monica (can’t think why). A poorly executed design and comprehensively upstaged in the retro stakes by the Rover 75 released at the same time. The Rover though was a competent barge, but the Jag handled like a sportscar. Immense fun to play Mr Toad round the B roads. Good old Ford, they know how to build a suspension.