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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The Jaguar S-Type “R”

Jim Brennan December 5, 2014 Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage 20 Comments

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Under Ford’s 19-year stewardship, Jaguar made great progress improving build quality and reliability, but in the end it became known as the English Patient. Under the ownership of the Ford Motor Company, Jaguar again created cars that people aspired to own. They were at least mostly reliable, retained their English good looks, and were truly becoming a threat to the German Über sedans. However, Ford seemed to lose the recipe to success, first with the S-Type which shared its global DEW platform with the Lincoln LS and retro Thunderbird, and then really jumped the shark with the introduction of the X-Type, which was really nothing more than a Ford Mondeo in drag. We will concentrate on the S-Type “R” for this posting, and see if this English Ford is really a latter day Muscle Car…


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The Jaguar S-Type was always a bit of a throwback. The S-Type’s exterior design echoed the classic Jaguar saloons of the sixties, posh and comfortable. Its distinct styling differentiated it from its competitors which typically feature sharp edges and flame surfacing. Utilizing a common platform that underpinned both the Lincoln LS and the retro-future two-seat Thunderbird, the S-Type was the brand’s first true competing model in the modern midsize luxury segment populated by the Audi A6, the BMW 5-Series, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. However, any sort of dynamic excellence that platform may have exhibited faded rather quickly as the S-Type lived long past its expiration date. Its retro styling eventually became synonymous with a brand that was perceived as stuck in the past.

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The S-Type was a four-door sedan produced from 2000-2008. It was only produced for one generation, and most of the incremental changes were made under the skin. Originally, Jaguar rated the S-Type’s 3.0-liter V6 at 240 horsepower, though there were two revisions that lowered the power rating over the years. The 4.0-liter V8 was initially rated at 281 horsepower but was de-rated to 277 horsepower for 2002. A five-speed automatic was at first standard, but for 2003, Jaguar replaced it with a six-speed and made a new five-speed manual transmission standard on the 3.0 trim. The manual was never popular with consumers in the US; it was quietly dropped two years later. For 2004, the optional V8 was up-rated to 4.2 liters with 293 horsepower and for 2006 it was raised to 300 horsepower.

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Regardless of year, the V6 was found to be underpowered given the S-Type’s considerable weight. Publications at that time recommended opting for the beefier V8. Despite the light steering and a soft suspension–two deliberate traits of Jaguars in general–the handling generally drew praise from reviewers.

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An important addition to the Jaguar S-Type came in 2003, when a 390 horsepower supercharged R version was released. From 2004 to its final year, the S-Type R produced 400 horsepower. While it was capable of doing 0-60 in just 5.3 seconds, there was more to the R than mere muscle. It was an all-around performer, equipped with larger disc brakes, an adjustable sport-tuned suspension system, and 18-inch wheels which were upgraded to 19-inch for 2008. Still, the S-Type R could never stand toe-to-toe with the best high-performance sedans from Germany or even those from Japan.

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At first, the S-Type’s cabin was widely panned. Both the design and materials seemed down-market and indicative of the car’s Ford roots. For 2003, the interior received a thorough overhaul, bringing it more in line with the Jaguar name in terms of design and luxury trappings. The interior was upgraded again in 2005, but changes were minor. Controls exuded a certain “Old English Pub” quality but the switchgear gave away the secret that they were inherited from the corporate Ford parts bin. Equipment levels were also increased as the years went by, from the optional CD changer when the S-Type was introduced to Bluetooth phone connectivity when it was slated to be discontinued. This being a British saloon, leather and wood trim were never in short supply.

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In reviews of the Jaguar S-Type, consumers typically praise the car’s styling and features. They’ve commented unfavorably about its small trunk and the poor shift quality in earlier cars. The Jaguar’s overall reputation for reliability is also not as good as that of other midsize luxury sedans from either the German or Japanese automakers. So, was the Jaguar S-Type a bad automobile? Not necessarily. It was developed in tandem with the Lincoln LS, which itself was highly regarded at its introduction, winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year Award. It was a stately sedan that could never be mistaken for anything other than a Jaguar.

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Unfortunately, the design did not age all that well, and being a Jaguar, reliability couldn’t measure up to the standards set by Lexus, or Infiniti. It couldn’t compete with the reliability of Audi, BMW, or Mercedes Benz either, but that’s missing the point about this car. The latest S-Type, in the R configuration, provided its owner with a 400-HP V-8, touring-car tuned suspension, and world-class British-styled interior furnishings all wrapped in a body that is distinctive and that will never be confused with a German or a Japanese luxury saloon. So would you call the Jaguar S-Type R an obscure Muscle Car, and would you admit it into the Obscure Muscle Car Garage? Think about this entry long and hard, then tell me what you think about this series…

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Would you be willing to admit the Jaguar S-Type R into the Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

  • Sjalabais

    I have to say, the more wood-and-leather-sedans you throw at us, the softer my definition of muscle car gets. Not quite there yet, though.

    • ptschett

      My definition's gotten more restrictive with respect to premium / luxury cars, and more open with respect to drive wheels and transmission type. I'll vote for FWD GM's that have a silly sideways V8 bolted to a 4T65E-HD automatic long before I'll vote for anything from Mercedes/BMW/Audi/Jaguar/etc.

    • George

      not a muscle car. muscle cars are fast in a straight line only and at home on a drag strip (or doing donuts:)thats it! __tradisionaly they do not steer, ride, stop, or go round corners well and often use far to much fuel and produce far to little power from their massive engines.__all Jaguars ride and handle well, and stop as well as they go. And the s-type r went very well indeed. so not so much a muscle car but a high performance car.__in the words of Parrelli "power is nothing with out control"

  • PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

    If anyone every had the chance to drive one, this was a European muscle car. It's power far exceeded its handling and the power was raw and brutal.

    The noise this engine made was outstanding.

    Also, it followed one of the archetypal rules of muscle cars, it was a midsize with the most powerful engine from the full-size car in the lineup under its hood.

    I'll allow it.

    • skitter

      And oddly, I think the argument for muscle gets stronger when Jaguar made the jump to 500hp, even with the new chassis. You've convinced me. OK, actually, it was the wing that convinced me.
      <img src="http://i615.photobucket.com/albums/tt237/jskitter/hooniverse/JaguarXFR-SA_zpsd3133def.jpg&quot; width=500>

      • PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

        The XFR-S is something special. And one of the key things that is interesting to note, unlike the XKR-S, it has a steel platform. I have only driven the "R" models of each but in talking with Davy Jones (On the winning Joest Team in the 1996 Le Mans) he actually finds the platform preferable to the K because of it.

        It's been too many months now to remember the exact statement, but he found it much better suited for driving hard day after day on the road and the track.

        Oh, and he was buying/bought a blue one.

  • MrDPR

    A luxo factory hot rod, to be sure. Not quite a muscle car.

  • CABEZAGRANDE

    If i accept that sedans can be muscle cars, then a strong yes. Super torquey, snarly V8? Check. RWD? Check. Boil the tires on command? Check. These thing will run mid 12's all day with the lightest of mods. If it had two doors, the choice would be obvious, and I don't think the addition of two doors changes that verdict. If the modern GTO is a muscle car, than this (which matches it almost spec for spec) is too.

    • ptschett

      For the record (since I've been vocal against this kind of car) I have no problem with the sedan part. But I object to taking hotted-up cars from premium/luxury marques and trying to construe them as muscle cars on account of their happening to be cars with muscle. I'd object to the BMW 6- and 8-series coupes on the same grounds, but I would support the modern GTO on account of its relatively proletarian origins.

      • Maymar

        I think it depends on the nature of the car – BMWs and Audis tend to be relatively low-torque and very balanced, and are very much sports sedans, so wouldn't count, but Mercedes AMGs and this Jag very much seem to be developed in a similar manner to traditional muscle cars, dropping a big (or blown) torquey engine in a moderately sized car, and then afterwards, maybe making some effort to bring the stopping and handling up to par, but if the rear tires can be vaporized with ease, they're pretty happy.

      • CABEZAGRANDE

        I don't think the spirit of what makes a "muscle car" lies in the cars origins though. Like Maymar said, I think a lot of it is in the car having a sort of brutish, slightly unrefined character defined by high torque and a certain lack of refinement. For instance, I totally think of the 70's Aston V8 Vantage as a muscle car. I definitely think of things like the E55 AMG and even Jag XJRs of this era as muscle cars. But I don't think of something like the E39 M5 as a muscle car, because there's a certain feeling that the engineers of the M5 would think of "hooning around boiling tires because you can" as foolish. They don't really feel like they like being hooned around, it feels like it'd rather you tighten up your line and drive "properly", whereas all you want to do in something like an E55 or STR is burnouts.

        • ptschett

          I see where you and Maymar are coming from, but I think there's an inherent bang-for-the-buck factor that's necessary for the outcome to qualify as a musclecar. It's difficult to achieve that when the starting point was already a premium-priced luxury car. If it's 2005 and I want to buy a car to do musclecar things, I'd rather spend $30,000 on a Pontiac GTO than $60,000 for a Jag that can't do those musclecar things much better.

  • njhoon

    I would say any Jag R series would work.

  • dukeisduke

    I've always liked the S-Type, but I would agree that the styling hasn't aged as well as the Mark II or the Mark X/420G, the cars that its styling was modeled on; James May once said it was the car that Americans thought a Jag should look like. Nowadays when I see them, they're usually escapees from "Buy Here, Pay Here" lots, and looking a little forlorn.

  • DangerD

    I vote yay. Also, this article series may be the best part of Hooniverse.

  • I had to vote no. Although close, I refuse to go down the slippery slope of allowing expensive luxury cars. A muscle car is a car of the common man or woman.

  • Maymar

    I would like to express my disappointment that this engine never found its way into the LS (which has aged better) or the Thunderbird (which, there's historical precedent for with the odd supercharged '57s).

    That said, I like these, even with their awkward styling, although since we're talking used, it's hard to make much of a case for one when you can get an XJR for about the same money. Also, I don't think Ford parts bin is an entirely fair assessment – very few interior components are shared with the LS, let alone more plebian stuff (it may be different for Euro Fords, admittedly). A lot of the little bits are clearly borrowed from other Jags though – that era of their product mostly feels like very cheap plastics (so yes, similar quality to contemporary Fords), wrapped in very nice leather.

    • paulz67

      There's 'aging better' and then there's *aging better*. Styling-wise, the LS has aged better. As cars, the S-Type's aged better than most Lincoln LSes I've seen here in the rust belt. Build and materials quality-wise, the S-Type felt better, both in build quality and in how they've fared over the years. I seriously considered an LS when new in the early 2000s; tried it and a bunch of other stuff at that time and thought it felt like a typical Ford product of the time–shiny, good driving dynamics, but the materials felt cheap and wouldn't hold up much longer than the car loan. The Jags of that era felt better, even though there's a few S-Types on the local CL that need engines (both the six and the V-8). The -R? One of my better birthdays was spent test-driving a then-new S-Type R. Loved it, and I've kept one on the automotive 'bucket list' ever since.

  • Scoff Law

    I have an 06' LS so my opinion might be slightly biased here, but considering that the current XF is still using an evolution of the DEW98 platform and that Jaguar is stuffing them with the ridiculously awesome 5 liter supercharged V-8; then I would put forth for consideration that the LS and S-Type were underrated by many and that the DEW98 had not had it's full potential realized at the time, despite any failings it may have (real or otherwise) it is an all around good example of what a muscle car should be…

    Take the top of the line motor from the flagship car and stuff it into the next model size down, which is a formula that has been followed by many a car manufacturer.

  • Ratpick

    The X-Type was NOT a Mondeo in drag. It was a Mondeo in a tweed jacket and deerstalker hat.