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History repeating

Story by Murph (4/6/99)

The music to the advert for the Jaguar S-type is cool. A touch of the young and the mature, The Propellerheads and Miss Shirley Bassey respectively. It says it all really; young, vibrant with mature, agile behaviour. As for history repeating itself, it's true but even better second time around. Based on the looks of the old MKII this is a wonderful recreation of a classic enthusiast's car. Jaguar has a rich racing heritage and was the envy of many racing marques during the fifties and sixties. Think of Jaguar and many will think of XK120, D-type and E-type, memorable victories at Le Mans and Mille Miglia.

The sexy Jaguar S-type V8.

Jaguar battled to keep pace with changes in the auto industry in the seventies. More importantly it failed to live up to it's customers' expectations. It was even feared at one point that this great icon of British motor heritage would end up on the scrap heap. Ford Motor Company took over Jaguar and found life with it's new acquisition difficult in the beginning. Eventually their pain and hard work paid off . First there was the vastly improved XJ range and then the launch of the exquisite XK8. On the strength of their remarkable recovery Jaguar have now produced the S-type.

It's a stunning looking car and the designers have helped to recreate some of the classic lines which adorned the old MKII. The true Jaguar image has been rejuvenated particularly at the front. The distinctive grill and quad headlamp arrangement with a touch of chrome on the bumpers are all reminders of the past. There is an attempt at a deeper air dam beneath the bumper which is the only hint of sportiness on the outside. The side profile again holds some relationship to past "Cats", with the roof sloping gently rearwards towards the boot. I'm not a lover of chrome but it is used to great effect on the S-type. It enhances the rear end where it is used on the boot door handle and subtle overlays on the rounded bumper. Additional colour and flair is added to the rear with the use of translucent red light clusters. It's a clean and sophisticated car but under its smart suit it holds all the passion of its racing heritage. Overall I think the looks and image of this car should attract more customers to Jaguar than ever before.

Jaguar S-type V8.

The S-type shares the same platform as the Lincoln LS. This may astonish the Jaguar purists but surprisingly it gives the car class leading ride capabilities. There is minimal body roll and the chassis ensures that high grip levels can be achieved from the rear wheel drive layout. The car is agile through the corners and is assisted by light but precise steering. The suspension is firm but not stiff so rough road driving is well absorbed while enthusiastic handling is not compromised in any way. A double wishbone and coil combination make up the suspension all round with anti-roll bars front and rear. Traction control is fitted as standard.

Lifting the bonnet the engine looks, well, lets say nothing like how engines used to look. Everything is neatly packed away under a series of plastic covers. The V8 4.0-litre unit produces 281bhp at 6100rpm and that's enough to do the obligatory 0-60mph sprint in 7.8 seconds. The engine is energetic and reminds the driver of the car's sporting genes. The top speed of 150mph will only ever be achieved by those travelling on some of Europe's autobahns. Coupled to the engine is a five-speed automatic transmission. Some drivers may like to enjoy the involvement of a manual transmission but this is only available on the less expensive V6 S-type.

There's not a lot to say about the interior other than it's traditional Jaguar. Walnut and sumptuous Connolly leather adorn the well laid out cabin. Even the steering is a wood/leather combo! The driving position is optimal but may be uncomfortable for the larger framed driver. In fact larger framed passengers may also suffer from a distinct lack of cabin space. The one criticism I would level at the interior is the use of off-the-shelf Ford switchgear. You pay your money so you expect a little more than runabout or family saloon switches.

The style and passion which the designers have given the new S-yype is apparent throughout the car. It may be a reincarnation but I believe it is a very desirable car. Jaguar have come a long way from the dark days of the seventies. It's worth remembering that Jaguar recently came third in the JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey in the UK, something which was only a dream to the people at the Coventry factory a few years ago. The V8 version is available with a price tag of 37,600. There is also an entry level V6 3.0-litre which costs a modest 28,300. The S-type is the cat's whiskers. Shirley would approve.

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