Jaguar S-Type R

It’s refined in this company, but the big Cat is more than capable

  • Comfortable and refined suspension, steering, standard equipment
  • Dated layout, upmarket cabin but lacks character

Although it’s soon to be replaced by the eagerly awaited XF, the S-Type is still attracting Jaguar’s investment. When the flagship R model arrived in 2002, it cost £47,400. Yet after five years of development and inflation, it’s now cheaper. So, is it a steal, or has time caught up the big Brit?

One thing’s for sure: despite its unique front-end styling, the Jag hasn’t got the macho appeal of its rivals here. It doesn’t come across as either overtly sporting or particularly menacing – in fact, the round headlights and oval grille seem rather effeminate in this company.

Nevertheless, with 19-inch alloys and that distinctive crease down its side, the S-Type isn’t devoid of charisma. Also, it’s the only car to show any interest in aerodynamics – it has easily the most slippery shape, with a 0.32Cd drag factor.

It helps that the Jag is comparatively small, too – the shortest, lowest and narrowest model here. However, that does mean practicality suffers: the shallow boot can only hold 400 litres of luggage, there’s a substantial 10cm less knee clearance for rear seat passengers and it’s hard to get your feet under the low-mounted front chairs.

Not that the person at the wheel will be listening to grumbles. He or she will be enjoying the well bolstered seats and near-perfect driving position.

The layout, however, is dated. The slab of black plastic that forms the central panel is too plain, and although the switchgear is logically laid out and easy to use, it’s rather old-fashioned.

At least it’s well screwed together. While not quite a match for a BMW or Audi, the Jag’s cabin is way ahead of its rivals here in terms of materials and construction. Yet despite these advantages, it’s clear the S-Type R isn’t a genuine muscle car – its sober suit and luxury cabin lack the right attitude.

That’s not to say the Jaguar doesn’t qualify to be in this test. Its V8 is the smallest at 4.2 litres, but what the unit lacks in capacity it makes up for with supercharging. The S-Type R’s power and torque are very competitive, and in a straight line it is no slouch, blasting from 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds. On the road it’s every bit as fast as rivals; in fact, none feels quicker through the mid-range

The trouble is, the engine whines rather than roars – and that means it’s not as satisfying to use as the normally aspirated V8s. But it is smooth, lag-free and mated to a much better auto than in the Chrysler. Despite the box’s ageing J-gate layout, it shifts more sweetly, and doesn’t blunt the performance. The brakes are positive, too, inspiring confidence and stopping the car sooner; it came to a halt from 60mph in 34.4 metres.

But it’s the balance of ride and handling that really sets this car apart. Where both its rivals – especially the SRT-8 – tend to be a touch clumsy, the S-Type R is taut, agile and instantly regains its composure. The steering is possibly the best of any sports saloon – the latest-generation BMW M5 included – and the ride is equally impressive, soaking up B-road punishment and taking the sting out of long motorway stints.

The Jag has more subtle charms than its rivals – it doesn’t create the same level of excitement as the VXR8 – but immaculate road manners mean it still feels thoroughly modern to drive.

Despite the price cut and generous standard equipment, the S-Type R is still rather expensive in this company. But that’s not necessarily its biggest drawback. The question is whether the hugely capable Jag is too sensible to win here?

Details

Price: £45,090Model tested: Jaguar S-Type RChart position: 2WHY: It may not have the visual impact of its rivals here, but the fine-handling, supercharged Jag has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Economy

The S-Type fell furthest short of its official claim, of 22.7mpg; over 800 miles, we returned 18.8mpg. We topped 23mpg on motorways, yet that dropped to 17mpg when we worked the engine, and its thirsty supercharger, harder.

Residuals

Although the Jag is worth the most after three years, look how much it loses. A drop of £27,415 is the biggest here. The announcement of its replacement, the XF, did the damage. The high price means it has further to fall, too.

Servicing

According to the prices we were quoted by the UK dealer network, if you stump up for an S-Type R, it will cost you well over £300 each time you take it in. And the 10,000-mile service intervals aren’t that special, either.

Tax

As a more established and recognisable mainstream car, you might expect the S-Type to have the lowest long-term running costs. Sadly, this isn’t the case. Heavy depreciation and servicing bills contribute to its 115.1ppm figure.

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