with one of the worlds
UNTIL THE ARRIVAL of the
more compact X-type, the
S-type retained the seriously misleading tag of 'smallest' Jaguar. Smaller than big brother XJ it may be, but once behind the wheel you'll quickly appreciate that the S-type is far more than just a medium-sized 'Cat'.
A single glance at the chromed teardrop grille reinforces its Jaguar heritage. On closer inspection you'll be reassured that these
days Jaguar only builds good cars, and in the eighteen months since its launch Jaguar has sold over 75,000 S-types. While the entry-level model (powered by a Ford-derived 240bhp 3.0-litre V6) makes perfect sense, those who appreciate something a little racier will have their eye on one of the 281bhp 4.0-litre V8 S-types we tested.
Floor the fly-by-wire accelerator and the V8 leaps off the line as vigorously as any well-fettled sports car. Put your foot down and it will hit 60mph from standstill in just 6.6 seconds. Hold it there and
you’ll easily see 150mph. Although the creamy V8 is geared for cruising refinement — spinning at a serene 2300rpm at the legal limit — muscular acceleration is available on demand at anything below 100mph.
But with 287lb ft torque on tap, progress is always going to be remarkably civilised. You will be reminded, mile after mile, that this gutsy, mid-sized Jaguar is also a genuine luxury carriage and one that out of town manages to return a creditable 30mpg. Given the
V8's performance, 16mpg around the houses is hardly a cause for complaint!
First impressions are deceptive because, until you get acquainted, the rear-wheel drive S-type feels 'soft'. Familiarity quickly reveals the true character of this sharp-steering, supple riding, genuine sports saloon. Keen drivers will relish its pliant handling and enjoy driving it briskly
on fast, sweeping roads using Jaguar's trademark J-gate gearshift.
And yes, the S-type is as refined and satisfying to drive as any of the competition.
The cabin layout is inviting, comfortable, and luxurious. Jaguar and Rolls-Royce are still the only two car manufacturers in the world who really know how to do wood and leather, and given the amount of time we motorists spend battling through snarled-up traffic, the S-type's interior is a great place to be.
Buttons on the steering wheel control the voice-activated system for the SatNav, carphone, heating, and stereo. Ordering up more hot or cold air from the automatic climate control system, phoning home, or activating the SatNav, is as easy as pie. And all without taking your hands off the wheel. At night or in heavy traffic it's a Godsend and infinitely safer than having to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. Passive safety is well catered for too, with side airbags in each door plus front airbags for the driver and passenger.
Thankfully, the standard seats suited everyone who travelled with us in the car — including a very large American friend over from Orlando who commented on the impressive standard of comfort. The basic driving position is spot on, complemented by lots of electrical adjustment, and doors close with that satisfying sound that says 'quality'.
When you insert the ignition key for the first time, be prepared for a surprise. The seat automatically glides forwards and when you remove the key the seat slides back again to make entry and exit easier. Fold down the split 'n' fold rear seats and the S-type obligingly carries an impressive amount of luggage.
As with all its Jaguar stablemates, the S-type's engine drives the rear wheels. Meaty 225/55 Pirelli P6000 tyres and powerful four-channel, anti-lock ventilated discs at each corner keep you out of trouble and together give you the feeling of being planted securely on the road. Any excesses on the driver's part are quickly rectified by the electronic stability control system.
Riding on 17-inch alloys, the S-type's talented chassis glides over most surfaces — as you'd expect from a company with a reputation for building cars with a magic carpet ride.
They say true love never strikes twice. Oh, no? My first love was an
E-type Jaguar whose streamlined body, even forty years on, still has the power to turn heads. The S-type also has the power to bewitch and the more time you spend with it the more beguiling it becomes.
Not only is it visually one of most distinctive executive cars around but in V8 form it’s also comprehensively equipped and a polished all-
rounder capable of serving up plenty of driving enjoyment.
You can't help becoming a little blasé about £40,000 motor cars when you've tested so many desirable cars over the years, so it says a great deal about the silver-blue V8 S-type we tested when it came to the day it was due to be returned not one of us wanted to see it go!