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Slick Cat: Jaguar S-Type (2001)
 
Jaguar—there’s something very mystical about the brand that puts it a cut above the BMW and Mercedes-Benz crowd. The reason for this could range anywhere from its long heritage in making automobiles, or its very distinctive design. Nonetheless, before Ford took over the company in the 1990s, the marque was losing ground very fast, perhaps maybe because buyers wanted something more than the stodgy British-luxury image.

It was during the 90s that archrivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz began to focus more on solidity and performance rather than relying on brand shine alone. If Jaguar was to gain ground, it had to match these qualities that younger corporate executives and CEOs were looking for. Indeed, the Ford takeover looked promising for Jaguar: their XJs enjoyed better quality, while the XKs gave the company a more diverse line. However, this wasn’t enough for Uncle Henry. They wanted more—enter the Jaguar S-Type.

Poised to take the mid-sized sedan segment by storm, the S-Type offered a great alternative to the understated German automobiles that dominated the market. The design of the S-Type is clearly British, borrowing lines from the Jaguar MkII, but at the same time it looks completely modern. This makes the S-Type a synergy of two completely different elements: sport and luxury.

Taking a head-on view of the S-Type reveals some amazing detail elements of the car. Although a short glance at the car would probably make you say ‘Mercedes-Benz E-class’ more than anything else, the Jag’s beauty is never seen through a single piece of lens or chrome strip, rather it has to be appreciated as a cohesive whole—and the S-Type does a great job at giving an upscale, sporty look. The front bumpers for instance contain these short creases that continues to the side and rear of the car, and more than anything this produces a more racy look. At the same time, the design elements are contrasted with curving bulges on everything from the hood to the trademark MkII grille to the cleverly hidden front brake ducts.

The MkII grille design is a big break in terms of design for Jaguar as a whole. In fact, in the coming line-ups the S-Type will be the only one to carry this trademark shape and therefore retain a sort of distinctiveness, something that isn’t true with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi lines.

Looking at the car from the side reveals a royal look for the S-Type. When the Germans tried to make their cars look sleekly and modern, British designers decided to give their executive car challenger a more elegant stance—sporty, classic elegance if I had to be specific. The swooping roofline and curving crease on the side give the Jag a teardrop shape that’s reminiscent of classic Formula One cars. These design touches seem to outscore the thin C-pillar that removes some of the muscularity of the car.

The S-Type doesn’t utilize any of the design crap known as the cabin forward—in fact, if I had to explain the general profile of this Jag, then it has to be cabin backward. The extensive front-end and the rather short rear end is a complete opposite to the general direction of design followed by those Autobahn cruisers. Again, this is mainly to give the S-Type a more retro-styled look and feel. In effect, the S-Type has a very British feel oozing in every part of the exterior.

Unfortunately, not even this car’s design is perfect, and it’s easily noticeable when you notice is god awful rear. Sure this Jag may have dual exhaust pipes that produce a balanced look and a couple of nice touches such as the chrome strips, but the overall look reminds me of a certain Korean car named Sonata. It may seem that British designers have worked all of their talents in producing a great profile and front end that they just burned out in designing the back of the S-Type. The multi-reflector rear taillights give a bit of cheesy effect of the car that don’t seem of fit a car of this caliber. In fact, I would wager that if you color the surrounds of the tail lamps, you’ll produce a rear-end that’s similar to a Mitsubishi Lancer with those Lexus IS200-tail lamp design.

Generally, the same theme is carried into the interior of the Jaguar: a combination of retro, luxury and sporty feel. The overall look and feel of the interior is a mix of retro styling and super modern push button switches. The vents are particularly a nice touch, when they look as if were lifted straight from a classic Jaguar. The quality of the wood is a cut above the rest—no other German could match the opulence offered by a Jaguar’s interior. The plastics are soft to the feel and yet firm enough to keep it balance between being to soggy and plasticky. Even the glovebox is ratcheted and gives itself a soft swing down action rather than a hard plop.

The messy stuff such as the sun glass holder, center utility box and cup holder are all cleverly hidden through soft-feel switches and seem very solid and reliable, unlike the BMW 5-series, whose wood feel like it was fashioned as plastic toothpicks. The leather covers a huge part of the car from the wheel to the side panels to the seats and these are high quality hide, mind you. These cows got killed to make sure that every Jag owner is comfortable, and by golly it works so fine with me!

However, no car is perfect—and in this case, the S-Type’s great design is marred by a few problems regarding switchgear feel—Ford switch gear feel. Though the interior is nice to admire from afar, once the driver or the passenger starts changing CDs from Mozart to Beethoven, he’ll quickly notice the tacky feel of the central buttons. In fact, despite all the Jaguar labels here and there, it’s quite obvious that these have come from the Ford parts bin—and not just the European Ford parts bin, but rather the American Fords. Thus, here and there, you’ll begin to nice switches you swear you’ve seen before in the Ford F150 and Explorer Sport Trac. However, good thing is that you have an onboard computer to play with during traffic jams.

Besides the switches, the display inside the Jag aren’t Optitron or any of those fancy stuff. In fact, they don’t even have the decency to have backlit LCDs—all of it is in a shade of green that seem to shout, Made In America. The gauges have also suffered the same fate, as it lacks the visual impact as those new fancy gauges from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. Clearly, the S-Type was designed a few years ago, and unfortunately for us, Ford has decided not to update the car in some areas before it was released into the public in 1997.

Ergonomically, majority of the switches feel within easy reach. However, there are some nuisances such as some switches that seem too small and too cluttered around the center. It’s quite hard to reach the ventilation controls and once you get to reach it, it gets blocked by the trademark J-gate shifter.

Interior spaces is nothing to praise inside the Jag, as the feel is similar to the BMW 5-series—cocooned without being too claustrophobic. In fact, the overall sitting position and the location of the wheel and the shift gate means that this S-Type doesn’t suffer a monkey-like driving position, rather this car is set to be a perfect driving tool. The rear is adequate for a car of this size, but it’s no bigger than the BMW 5-series or Mercedes-Benz E-class. In fact, for those used to front-wheel drive cars, the rear space is a bit of a squeeze. However, if you own a car such as the S-Type, you’ll probably won’t care—and during our test drive—we didn’t car as much. Why? Well, those the Jag lacks the space, the quality of the seating makes up for this shortcoming. The seat cushions give excellent support for both front and rear passengers and very comfortable during long haul drives.

Starting up the S-Type reveals the deep growl of its 3.0-liter V6 engine that it shares with the Lincoln LS. Though most people think that this isn’t the true power plant of a Jaguar, I couldn’t care less as this engine has a great exhaust note and will make those Japanese cars green with envy. However, against the Germans, this power plant is still no match for the silky smoothness of the BMW inline-6 engines.

Tapping the acceleration makes you realize the S-Type’s heavy weight nature. Though the acceleration is great, there’s nothing much to talk about here. It’s punchy, but the BMW 523i feels a lot faster and more adept to the driver’s needs.

However, a few kilometers into the test, we’ve noticed a small ‘S’ button near the shift gate—the ‘sport’ button it seems. What the sport mode does is that it keeps the revs higher before shifting the car to the next gear. Theoretically, this should give faster acceleration and more fuel bills to car owners. Nonetheless, from experience we’ve noticed that the sport mode does nothing to radically improve the car’s performance—but all our pronouncements will be shattered by this S-Type.

Pushing the sport mode is much like giving the potion to Dr. Jekyll. The 5-speed automatic comes to life and transforms the S-Type into a sports sedan, befitting its excellently designed and crafted shape. The acceleration becomes explosive, but the shifts remain smooth and collected. Now, there’s a near perfect match with the BMW’s performance. Despite a curb weight that’s 108 kilograms heavier than the BMW, it matches the Bavarian cruiser’s every move.

On the highway, the Jag is very impressive as it can easily overtake anything from Honda Civic SiRs to 18-wheeler trucks and even Mercedes-Benz C240s! However, blistering acceleration isn’t just the Jag’s strong suits. In fact, this cat is quite fast doing a top speed of 240 km/h on the eight kilometer road known as Skyway. And even at these speeds, the S-Type feels every bit a confident handler. Although crosswind noises are very noticeable at this point, the Jag doesn’t suffer from a wallowy ride that hampered us during a top-speed test for the Honda Accord VTi-L. Jaguars are built for European highways and with this as an example, no lengthy discussion is needed.

Traction Control on or off, the Jaguar communicates well with the road and in fact, it transmits to the driver the exact limitations of the car—it will let you have fun, but at the same time warn you if you’re going overboard. Even in the sharp and twisty flyover districts of Makati City, the S-Type easily keeps to its lane with the minimal of steering corrections—an amazing feat considering the 4859 mm body length of this automobile! It corners with admiration and gusto that’s both precise and exciting. In effect, this transforms this car to something much more than just a display piece of sorts: this is the real deal ladies and gentlemen. Ford hasn’t messed with the handling and the characteristics of the Jaguar brand.

One little gripe that I’ll probably have to mention is that the brakes in the S-Type are a bit spongy. In fact, if I were to describe the car’s break then I would say that they are better adept to chauffeurs rather than private owners. It takes quite getting used to these brakes since even the bite from the Nissan Cefiro’s brakes feel a lot better than the Jag’s.

Overall, the Jaguar is one great car and since it’s priced near to the Mercedes-Benz E-class, the Jag turns out not just as a great alternative, but as a winner here. Let’s face it, between a PHP 3.5 million Mercedes-Benz and a PHP 3.5 million Jaguar, it becomes clear which is the better choice. With almost the same characteristics as the sporty 5-series BMW, the Jag manages to claw its way into the top of its segments as well as into our hearts. The Jaguar S-Type is indeed one magical car.

Editor’s note: according to an owner of a Jaguar S-Type, although the car has proven to be quite reliable, it did suffer a major hiccup once that required it to be towed into the shop for repairs. The problem? The wiring of the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) of the car fused together causes most of the car’s major functions to get all jumbled up (the ECU operates everything from the engine to the rain-sensing wipers and headlamps). In time, the dealer fixed the problem, still covered by warranty, and added further insulation to prevent this from happening again. Now, that’s what you call dealer service!

By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang
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The Sky's the Limit: Peugeot 206 CC (2002)
November 3, 2002
Class of the Titans: Lynx GSi, Civic VTi, Corolla 1.6 J (2002)
November 3, 2002
Any Given Sunday: BMW 318i (2002)
October 1, 2002
Sexy Sensibility: Volvo S60 (2002)
October 1, 2002
Anti-Lexus: Toyota Echo (2002)
September 30, 2002
Borrowed Time: Mitsubishi Lancer (2002)
September 30, 2002
The Right Stuff: Ford Escape (2002)
September 30, 2002
Torque Wrench: Ford Focus (2002)
August 1, 2002
Siren Song: Nissan Serena (2002)
July 2, 2002
Top Level: Nissan Cefiro Brougham VIP (2002)
July 2, 2002
One More Time: Opel Astra (2002)
July 2, 2002
Staple Food: Toyota Hi-Ace Super Grandia (2002)
May 26, 2002
King of Plain: Toyota Camry (2002)
May 26, 2002
Energizer Bunny: Honda Accord (2002)
May 26, 2002
Conspicuous Consumption: Ford Expedition (2002)
April 28, 2002
Utility Sport: Honda CR-V (2002)
April 28, 2002
Fighting to Stay Ahead: Mitsubishi Adventure (2002)
April 28, 2002
The One: Honda Civic VTi-S vs. Corolla Altis (2002)
March 13, 2002
Welcome Mr. Hyde: Honda Civic Type-R (1997)
March 13, 2002
Better the Second Time Around: Ford Lynx (2002)
March 12, 2002
The Weakest Lynx?: Ford Lynx (2002)
February 19, 2002
Ultimate Toy Story: Porsche Boxster 2.7 (2002)
February 16, 2002
Spiritually Correct: Porsche 911 Cabriolet (1997)
February 16, 2002
Steady as She Goes: Hyundai Starex (2002)
January 21, 2002
King of the Hill: Ford Ranger 4x4 XLT (2001)
January 21, 2002
Lost in Space: Ford E150 (2001)
December 12, 2001
Not Quite Yet: Isuzu Crosswind (2001)
December 12, 2001
As Good As It Gets: Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001)
December 12, 2001
Superman The Ride: Ford F150 (2001)
October 21, 2001
The X Factor: BMW X5 (2001)
October 21, 2001
RAVishing Performance: Toyota RAV4 (2001)
October 21, 2001
Viva La Carnival: Kia Carnival (2001)
September 10, 2001
Class Leader: Toyota Corolla Altis (2001)
September 10, 2001
Condition Normal: Honda Accord Long-Term Test Update
September 10, 2001
Four-Eyed Monster: Mercedes Benz E320
August 15, 2001
Different Road: Nissan Exalta Grandeur (2001)
August 15, 2001
Happy Endings: Nissan Cefiro (1998)
August 15, 2001
Ultimate Experience: BMW 318i and 325i (2001)
July 19, 2001
Slick Cat: Jaguar S-Type (2001)
July 2, 2001
Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001)
May 18, 2001
Slow Advancement: Toyota Revo (2001)
April 15, 2001
Below Expectations: Toyota Echo (2001)
April 15, 2001
Civic Revolution: Honda Civic (2001)
April 15, 2001
White Collared Brawl: Honda Accord and BMW 523i (2001)
March 12, 2001
Bus Driving 101: Mercedes-Benz MB100 (2001)
March 12, 2001
Everyday Transport: Toyota Corolla (2001)
February 5, 2001
Beautiful Day: Toyota RAV4 (2001)
February 5, 2001
Civilized Monster: Ford Explorer (2000)
December 18, 2000
Empty Space: Mitsubishi Spacegear (2000)
November 18, 2000
First Class Effort: Hyundai Starex (2000)
November 18, 2000
Service Please! Nissan Cefiro Classic Long-Term Test Update (1998)
November 18, 2000
Astra La Vista: Opel Astra (2000)
September 18, 2000
Old World Brute: Nissan Patrol Safari
September 18, 2000
Newly Hatched: Toyota Echo (2000)
September 18, 2000
Goodbye Beetle: Toyota Echo (2000)
August 15, 2000
Steer Flick'n Good: Audi A4 (2000)
July 9, 2000
No Lucky Stars: Ford Taurus GL (1998)
June 11, 2000
Simply Bulletproof: The Honda Accord VTi-L Long-Term Test Update (1998)
June 11, 2000
Still Life: Mitsubishi Lancer (2000)
May 13, 2000
Living with America: Ford F150 (2000)
April 16, 2000
Civic Minded: Honda Civic (2000)
February 20, 2000
Ford Lynx Ghia (2000) Driven
January 18, 2000
White Lightning: Honda Civic (1999)
December 18, 1999
The Lost World: Volkswagen Polo Classic (1998)
December 12, 1999
Against All Odds: Mazda 323 (1999)
September 29, 1999
Warp Speed Transport: Nissan Sentra Super Saloon (1995)
August 30, 1999
Complete Change of Mind: Nissan Cefiro (1997) Long-Term Test Update
August 30, 1999
Honda City LXi (1999)
July 12, 1999
Alternative Nature: Mitsubishi Galant (1999)
June 20, 1999
The Bavarian Delight: BMW 328Ci (1999)
May 15, 1999
Alpha and Omega: Opel 2.5 V6 Omega (1999)
February 5, 1999
Opel Vectra (2.0 (1999) Driven
January 1, 1999
The Daily Nightmare: Nissan Cefiro (1998)
December 1, 1998
VTEC with a Vengeance: Honda Accord (1998)
November 10, 1998