- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 2004

In defining luxury, Jaguar has always taken a slightly different path than its German competitors. Despite its rich racing tradition, Jaguar has tended to put more emphasis on exterior styling and the passenger spaces in its cars than on handling properties.

While BMW in particular, and Audi and Mercedes-Benz to a lesser extent are often defined by the handling characteristics of their cars, the appeal of Jaguars has relied more on sexy curves, supple leather and rich wood accents.

That’s not to diminish performance as a Jaguar quality, but it’s not necessarily the first thing that springs to mind when pondering the brand. The S-Type doesn’t stray from this established formula.

In terms of styling, the S-Type stands out among its Teutonic peers. Competing with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6 and the BMW 5-series, the S-Type offers softer, more rounded lines.

Not only is the S-Type obviously a Jaguar, its looks provoke passion. Its curb appeal is the first impression we register and that impression endures long after the S-Type passes from sight.

Inside wood veneers have replaced the solid wood dashboards of Jaguars from decades ago, but there remains an overwhelming opulence not always associated with others in this segment.

The leather-trimmed seats are inviting, yet firm and highly supportive. A touch of leather around the center stack adds to the cabin’s richness.

Climbing behind the wheel of a BMW 5-series makes a driver want to get things cranking; sliding into the driver’s seat of the S-Type is just as likely to give one pause to smell the leather, feel the wood and simply soak in the luxury.

Based on engine size, there are three S-Type trim levels: 3.0-Litre, 4.2-Litre and R. The 3.0L has a V-6 with 235 horsepower. The 4.2L has a 293-horsepower V-8. The R has a 390-horsepower supercharged version of the 4.2-liter V-8.

All three send power to their rear wheels via a six-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission.

Jaguar provided a 4.2-Liter for this review. It accelerates aggressively. The engine and transmission are well suited to one another. Shifting is smooth and transparent.

The V-6, however, is not a disappointment. It provides sufficient get-up-and-go to make the drive interesting, if not as invigorating as the V-8.

Fuel economy with the V-8 is better than might be expected. The Environmental Protection Agency has rated it at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway.

It is no secret that Ford is sharing components and architecture among its many divisions. The S-Type platform can also be found in the Lincoln LS. The S-Type, however, is not an LS dressed in Jaguar sheet metal.

The most profound difference between the two is in the engines offered, but only a handful of components are really shared.

The independent suspension is a satisfying compromise between ride and handling. The S-Type corners without getting out of shape. Conversely, its ride quality is what should be expected of a $50,000 luxury sedan.

An antilock system oversees the disc brakes on all four wheels. It is enhanced with dynamic stability control, traction control and panic brake assist.

The cabin is sufficiently roomy. Legroom for rear-seat passengers is a tad tight, but not overly so for the segment. Drivers of all heights should have no problem finding the ideal driving position thanks to adjustable pedals and a steering wheel that both tilts and telescopes. The trunk has a low lift-over and plenty of space for cargo.

Passenger safety was a high priority when the S-Type was engineered.

In addition to the dual front air bags, it also has side bolster side-impact air bags for the front seats and a curtain air bag that includes both front and rear seat occupants.

Minimizing dents and dings, a rear parking sensor system alerts the driver when he is too close to an obstacle.

Both the 3.0L and the 4.2L can be dressed up with the new-for-2005 VDP package. This is primarily an appearance/convenience package with such extras as burl walnut accents, chrome outboard mirrors, heated and multiposition power front seats, special 17-inch alloy wheels, electric rear window sun blind, and premium leather seating with contrast piping, but it also includes xenon headlamps with auto leveling.

Opting for this package will add another $3,300 to the bottom line.

Base prices for the S-Type run from $44,230 for the 3.0L to $58,330 for the R. The S-Type 4.2L stickers at $51,995 with delivery charges.

Included in this price are dual auto climate control, four-door one-touch power windows, Alpine audio system with six-disc CD changer, and power windows, door locks and outboard mirrors.

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