The cars we loved.
Through most of the 90’s Jaguar had been a two car company. On one end of the spectrum it offered the large (and aging) XJ series sedan while at the same time selling either the supercar XJ220 or later the XKR coupe. The opportunity to reach a large and profitable segment of the market was being missed by not having a mid-sized car that would compete with the likes of the 3 Series, A4 and E Class sedans that dominated the European luxury market. Fords acquisition of Jaguar in 1998 sought to amend that by offering a new midsized car using Ford mechanicals shared with Lincolns and even the Ford Taurus. The 1999 introduction of ther X-TYPE was Jaguar’s attempt to offer an affordable luxury sports compact that would draw on design inspiration from classic Jaguars from the past. Led by the late Geoff Lawson’s design team,the new car’s overall shape was reminiscent of the Mark 2 sedans of the 60’s, while incorporating all the modern design cues that had been established with more recent cars like the XKR coupe. Initially there were only two models of the S-TYPE available using either a base 3.0-litre V6 (much like the ones in the Ford Taurus) or 4.0 litre V8 in the SE. Rear wheel drive was standard on all models with either 5 spped manual or automatic transmissions. The vast majority of cars shipped to the United states came equipped with the Ford and later ZF sourced five speed automatic transmissions.
Performance was acceptable on both models with the smaller engined cars reaching 60 mph before the 7 second mark. Public interest was significant initially, as the car’s shape made it distinctive from the otherwise boxy German competition. The press was not so impressed, labeling the steering as vague and noting fit and trim issues. Issues with the V8 loosing compression did not help matters as Jaguar scrambled to fix problems that were signs of a hasty launch. After patching issues associated with fit and finish, Jaguar addressed engine problems by simply replacing the old lineup with new or more refined versions of both the 6 and 8 cylinder powerplants, including a twin turbo V6. The S-TYPE covered all bases powertrain wise, offering twin turbos, diesels as well as supercharging. Power ranges were from 201 hp for the first V6 to 400 for the last 4.2 L Supercharged V8 in the 2007 model.
A new top of the line model debuted in 2002 called the S-TYPE R, sporting a 4.2 litre V8 with 300 hp, putting the S-TYPE in good company with the BMW M3. Unfortunately, while performance and handling characteristics were improved from initial cars, quality issues persisted. By now the automotive press seemed to hark on this in every review, even as improvements were made. The damage had been done. Despite its problems the S-TYPE offered the refinements that one expected in a premium sport luxury car like a comfortable ride, great handling and engine responses while serving up the pedigree that comes with the Jaguar name. Continual refinements made all S-TYPES resemble the R model. The 2006-2007 model years may have been the best for the S-TYPE. Years of refinements produced improvements inside, under the hood and in general appearance across the line. For instance by 2007 all S-TYPES came with the mesh grill of the R and a ground effects was available with the sport package in any model. The final year produced the best S-TYPE R yet, with 400 hp, supercharging and an optional 6 speed manual transmission, this was the best sports sedan Juaguar had produced to date.
The quality issues that dogged the S-TYPE have contributed to the overall low resale value of these cars. No one issue may have contributed to this unfortunate legacy. The simple fact that the car started life on the back of the discontinued Lincoln LS could not have been a plus. Also,the one factory where all X-TYPES were produced in Birmingham England had a history of labor and quality issues. All this means that for the careful Jaguar enthusiast, deals can be had on the S-TYPE if purchased from a reputable dealer. Like any modern car that was maintained on a regular schedule, the X-TYPE under those conditions would make a great used car. Many S-TYPES can be found at urban buy here pay here lots, places where they are likely to have issues due to poor maintaince, so buying from an individual would be best.
Jaguar released smaller, less attractive sedan called the X-TYPE that it continued to sell after the S-TYPE’s discontinuation in 2007. It in many ways was an improvement in quality over the S-TYPE, even though it shared many parts with lesser Ford cars. The lessons learned from the mistakes made with the S-TYPE were not repeated when the XF was realesed to high praise in 2008. The S-TYPE should have been the car to propel Jaguar back to 80s prominence. It certainly had the looks, but will probably be most remembered as the mid-sized Jaguar that couldn’t.