1999 Jaguar S-Type
It may not have a German badge on the bonnet, but the Jaguar S-Type has enough strong qualities that make it a realistic alternative to models like the Mercedes E-Class. The rather dated image isn't one of them unfortunately. There is a thunderous R version, powered by a supercharged V8 engine, but the Jaguar's real strength is in long distance comfort. It's superbly refined and the ride quality is excellent, while it also handles sharply. The styling received a reworking in 2004 and the excellent V6 diesel engine was introduced.
The S-Type was originally available with either a 240bhp 3.0-litre V6 or a rumbling 4.0-litre V8 with 281bhp. Both options are smooth, refined and well suited to the relaxed nature of the S-Type. In 2002 a 2.5-litre engine was added with 201bhp and the V8 was increased in capacity to 4.2-litres and 300bhp. A supercharged version of this engine was also launched in the high performance R model, with 400bhp. All V8 models come with Jaguar's smooth automatic transmission, while a five-speed manual is available on the other petrol models and a six-speeder on the diesels.
The S-Type is traditional to Jaguar standards for ride and handling – it’s a capable sports saloon. It’s not quite as slick as a 5-Series, but with a punchy engine line-up and sharp handling, most drivers find it great to drive. Sport and supercharged ‘R’ versions are stiffer and have better body control. CATS active suspension is optional across the range and gives better composure in corners.
Thanks to that wonderful ride, the S-Type is a perfect car for covering long motorway miles - there's little engine or road noise and the suspension does a superb job smoothing out uneven roads. It's a shame that the cabin feels a little cramped, especially in the rear where legroom is quite limited and the large central transmission tunnel makes it difficult to seat three. But the seats are incredibly comfortable and supportive enough for longer journeys.
The S-Type is only available as a four-door saloon. The boot itself offers 400 litres of space, which is less than most alternatives, plus the luggage area itself is pretty shallow and not capable of carrying large items. On the plus side the rear seats do fold and split 60/40 to increase capacity.
The driving position is excellent, with a low seat and plenty of adjustment in the steering column, while the instrument dials are easy to read. All the controls for the stereo and air conditioning are on the central console and simple to get to grips with - although there are a lot of buttons. Top models come with a touch screen system which is straightforward to use, but while the layout is clear and quality good - the cabin lacks the modern touch and supplication of alternatives from BMW or Audi.