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Jaguar S-Type R

Broadcast dates : 8th August 2004
12th August 2004

The Jaguar S-Type R is like no other luxury performance car. It manages to retain its old-world English charm, while providing a totally captivating driving experience that, in its way, is right up there with top performance models from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The basic S-Type has been around for a good couple of years now, and in R form since 2002.

But new styling updates have given this ultimate performance Jaguar a leaner, tauter look, in keeping with its crouching cat styling theme.

The biggest changes were made this year, with the new revised version going on sale in April. And although the changes are subtle, they required many different body panels.

It now features an aluminum bonnet, replacing the steel bonnet used before. The restyled bonnet blends into new headlight surrounds, the headlights being self-adjusting bi-xenon units.

And there is a new, crisp bumper style and gaping intakes for the engine radiator and the oil coolers.

In fact the supercharged V8 R has no fog lights, as these apertures were used for the oil-cooling ducting.

The main grille has been redesigned too, and the sporty R uses the steel mesh trim to denote its Le Mans heritage and the very real power of its supercharged V8 engine.

On the side of the car, the door sills have been redesigned to be less fussy, and the rear end, towards the tail lamps, is cleaner and more aggressive.

The tail of the car has less drop-off than previously, as the boot line has been raised. There is also a new bumper and the boot is given a subtle spoiler treatment.

The interior has also gone on a refresher course, with a new instrument panel with old-world round dials and two digital information centres.

The S-Type still lacks the large television-navigation panels fitted to most of its competitors these days, and some may see this as a bit of an omission. But that will probably come with the next all new S-Type due in a year or two.

Others may welcome the fact that the modern age has not encroached fully on the Jaguar interior. There is still the marvelous use of leather and thick carpeting, although for the first time trim panels can be ordered in textures other than wood.

There is plenty of bright metal trim in the R version, hinting at its sporting prowess, and obviously loads luxury too, such as heated seats, individual climate control, top level audio, and a full complement of airbags, as wells as seats specially designed to prevent whiplash.

In fact the whole cockpit has evolved into a very tight, well-orchestrated design, and like the exterior, panel fit and material qualities are far better than when the car was launched in 1999.

Of course there has never been much to criticize on the mechanical front and experiencing the S-Type R in its 2004 form was a task that Clint really relished.

Rear wheel drive and traction control that is able to be switched off made for lots of fun in the safe confines of the Wesbank Raceway. Especially with all two ninety-eight kilowatts on tap from the supercharged four-litre motor.

The engine has a wonderful Jekyll and Hyde character. On small throttle openings it’s a pussycat.

But when the supercharger kicks in, it becomes a growler –incidentally the same term Jaguar executives use to describe the snarling cat badge fixed on the nose and the steering wheel.

Initial understeer – or front-wheel sliding, can be switched to wild oversteer if enough power is dialed-in to the rear wheels.

Handling is very controllable, but for novice R owners, it’s advised that they keep the traction control switch in the "on" position – at least on public roads.

The car is quick through fast corners, with good chassis balance, but a bit of a handful in the tighter bends, despite the weight reduction in front due to the aluminium bonnet.

Fat, low-profile rubber is used on beautiful 18-inch alloy wheels, but despite having very impressive drilled brake discs and large calipers, the brakes tend to fade too quickly if the Jaguar is pushed this hard.

As the car is available only as a six-speed automatic, albeit with a manual override, it also lacks some of the engine braking effect you get with a pure manual model.

Acceleration is in the sports car league – zero to 100 in five comma three seconds, and an electronically limited top speed of 250, which it can achieve with consummate ease – on a racetrack of course!

Around town the S Type can be used as a docile cruiser, and Jaguar claims an overall consumption figure of 12,5 litres per 100 km. We found this to be very optimistic, and a realistic figure would be in the 15 litres to 19 litres per hundred kilometres, depending on the pressure of your right foot.

Driving in the city, and out on the freeway too, the cabin gives one a cosy, cosseted feel that is very retro. Not perfect as far as space usage goes, but wonderful in terms of ambience.

All in all, a worthy continuation of the Jaguar performance legend, combining excellent levels of comfort with riveting performance.

At six hundred and thirty five thousand, five hundred rand it’s not cheap, but Jaguars are gaining more and more acceptance once again at the top of the premium-level sedan class.

And if you can afford the top-level R version of the S-Type, we’d have no hesitation in recommending it.

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