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What’s New Pussy Cat? Jaguar S-Type on the Prowl

By Gladstone J. Gunner

Much like its four-legged namesake, Jaguar is creeping up stealthily on its German competition. The new S-type is Jaguar’s make or break chance for a piece of the BMW 5 Series action. The big cat’s sharpening its claws.

When Ford took over Jaguar it knew to tiptoe carefully, not to disturb the very essence and nature of Jaguar. Rolls Royce and Bentley to one side, Jaguar is the last great bastion of British motoring. Rover started capsizing back in the eighties when Honda got on board. Ford has turned the XJ series into one of the most evocative executive saloons money can buy and replaced the aged, dreadful XJS with the magnificent XK8. It could be said that Jaguar hasn’t really moved the game on, but to come to that conclusion, you’d be missing the point completely.

Few car manufactures in the world have the romance of a Jaguar. They feel as dead as a dog, alongside these big cats and always have done. By keeping true to the classic lines and organic shapes that make up a Jaguar saloon, while improving the quality and running gear, Ford has breathed new life into this line. Compared to a Mercedes, the Jaguar is cramped of cabin – but then, it always has been. But for grace and class there is little comparison. Yet like Jag’s of old – step on that tail and she roars – the supercharged XJR saloon snaps like a beast awoken from deep slumber. The double-edged good and evil character set is reflected in typical owner profiles, for Jag’s have always been cars of heroes and villains.

It was the original Mark 2 of the ‘60s, which was chosen by those on the wrong side of the law as the ultimate gangster steed. The infamous Kray twins kept the East End of London in check chauffeured around in their fleet of Jaguars. The police only stood a chance once they followed suit, giving chase from behind the wheel of one of these landmark performance saloons.

Jaguars’ attack on the BMW 5 Series et al – comes in the form of the new S – type. The classic lines of the original Mark 2 and old S – Type have been reworked into a pastiche. This may well appeal to the older generation; Jaguar has little option if it is to preserve its classic style. But it must also crack the younger and affluent executive market place.

Turning to the interior, all is as it should be – fitted like a glove. While the Germans have realised that they can’t cut it with their attempts of walnut ‘n’ wilton and now are perfecting their techno carbon/alloy futurescapes, Jaguar is holding true to what it knows best. Mixed in with its traditional virtues – technology shows itself with the ubiquitous executive satellite navigation/TV combination. The S-Type driver can now shout commands like a sergeant major, as voice recognition controls everything from radio, telephone and climate control – ordering more logs for the fire has never been easier.

In the engine room, Jaguar’s classic quad camshaft V8 four litre engine is mated to an ultra smooth automatic transmission. Outputs give 281 bhp at 6100 rpm and 279 lbft of torque at 4300 rpm. Given full throttle, the S -Type will accelerate to 60 in 6.6 seconds and up to a maximum of 150 mph. The S-Type has double wishbone suspension all round, assisted by electronic adaptive damping (CATS – computer active technology suspension!) the overall effect is a traditionally Jaguar, optimal compromise between cosseting ride and cornering balance. Safety is well taken care of through airbags, anti-lock brakes, mapped crumple zone and traction control. Optional extras that were far from the minds of Mark 2 getaway drivers back in the ‘60s.

The S-Type’s chances in the battle against the now firmly established class leaders, look much the same as those for the rest of the old school UK motor industry. Rover is struggling with its new retro 75 model and as it does across the board. Jaguar, with its current range, is still in with a fighting chance. Whilst Rover was always seen as ultimately conservative and sub-urban. Jaguar maintains an aura of romance.

The new F-Type sports car prototype has its root firmly in the ever popular E-Type of the ‘60s. So far Jaguar has managed skilfully to keep in touch with its ancestry – to refine and build upon its traditional values. However, to continue forward it must appeal and tap into a younger market – not only those who wish to revisit youthful dreams. Perhaps the tradition it maintains today of furnishing pop stars and sporting heroes with subsidised transport (England & Liverpool football star Michael Owen is one satisfied Jaguar XKR owner!) should be extended to those gangland figures on the wrong side of the law who today mould the aspirations of youth. Then again, the Jaguar would appeal to both hero and villain.

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