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Jaguar S-Type -- Review: Ah, to be young, rich and beautiful on a limpid summer day in Southern California. Or to pretend to be at least one of the three, courtesy of a job that allows you to drive expensive cars that you could otherwise never afford.
Click here to find out more! We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves while driving a 2005 Jaguar S-Type 4.2 around Los Angeles, having been the recipients of the obvious perks that come with driving a luxury vehicle, such as prominent front-and-center placement in the valet parking line of the Cheesecake Factory. Or knowing that passersby subtly check out the car, then glance inside to see if the driver’s aesthetic endowment matches the vehicle she’s piloting. (Quick tip – large sunglasses and a hat help keep the reverie alive.)
The 2005 S-Type, like most other Jaguars, is indeed a beautiful car, even six years into its product cycle. At its introduction for the 2000 model year, critics reached a nearly universal consensus about its distinctive exterior styling, which managed to be both modern and classically retro at the same time. Back then, the Jaguar S-Type stood out as the belle of the excellent, but sometimes staid, group of European and Japanese cars that comprise the midsize luxury sedan coterie. Though some reviewers gave it a good drubbing for sharing too many bits and pieces with its corporate cousin, the downmarket Lincoln LS, its unique flavor helped double Jaguar’s worldwide sales during its first year on the market.
Fast-forward five years. To keep finicky consumers intrigued by the S-Type, Jaguar gives its aging sedan a minor facelift and a new option package chock-full of the traditional luxuries that have come to symbolize the brand.
A new aluminum hood and slightly modified front styling add definition while retaining the S-Type’s distinctive appearance. In back, the tail end of the 2005 Jaguar S-Type sports more obvious modifications that include new rear lights, tweaks to the bumper, and a revised trunk lid that provides added cargo capacity. Overall, the updates are not so dramatic as to alter the character of the Jaguar, and we still find it to be pleasing to the eye.
But to what degree can mere good looks sustain a career as a luxury sedan? We test-drove the refreshed 2005 Jaguar S-Type to see if its beauty is only skin deep, or if there is substance behind its fair face.
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Motivating our 2005 Jaguar S-Type was a 4.2-liter V8 engine capable of generating 293 horsepower and 303 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s a velvety smooth powerplant, rushing to speed with urgency and refinement. Jaguar claims zero to 60 acceleration runs of 6.2 seconds, impressive for this rather ponderous 3,826-pound sedan. Distributing the power to the rear wheels is a six-speed automatic transmission, with a “Sport” mode to hold gears longer for greater revving potential. It delivers smooth shifts out of the gates and for passing traffic, but often becomes confused when faced with the abrupt throttle changes that accompany a run down a twisty portion of road. And Jaguar has remained stubbornly loyal to its fussy J-gate manually interactive shifter. No, it’s not the most efficient setup for changing gears on your own terms, but we’ve come to accept it as an endearing, quirky British trait. Kind of like bad teeth and warm beer.
So the Jaguar is speedy, complementing its real-world feline namesake. But does the S-Type also mimic its sinewy grace? Not quite. Think overweight indoor housecat, and you’ll have a good idea of how the S-Type handles. It’s still balanced and light on its feet in most applications, but its tame domesticity becomes quickly apparent when asked to show its more aggressive side.
When pushed on the winding roads of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Jaguar exhibited plenty of side-to-side body roll, and weight transitions generated an unpleasant pendulum effect in the cabin. This is not a vehicle that makes you seek the long, curvy route home to test performance potential; look into the available sport-tuned suspension package if you’d prefer more dynamism.
On the other hand, Jaguar’s CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension) setup was effective at controlling dive-and-squat motions when accelerating and braking, and the stability control system kept the car on its intended path without being overly obtrusive. Road adhesion presented no problems thanks to chubby Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 235/50 R17 tires, which offer plenty of grip and little tire squeal. Around town, occupants enjoy a smooth, comfortably dampened ride, albeit one with more road noise than expected for this type of vehicle.
Piloting the Jaguar S-Type is pleasurable, thanks to its sublime, fluid Servotronic steering rack. Communicative steering is a very good thing when testing the handling limits of any car, and the Jaguar did not disappoint, transmitting every nuance of the road both tactilely and aurally. Over uneven surfaces in the middle of high-speed sweeping curves, however, bump steer makes itself known. Halting the S-Type are fade-resistant front and rear ventilated discs with ABS, however, pedal feel could be improved, as its mushy progression lacked linearity and precision.
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