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2000 Jaguar S-Type

I had pole position for this -- stoplight Grand Prix. Front row, curb lane.

  • Driver

I had pole position for this — stoplight Grand Prix. Front row, curb lane.

As I waited for the green, a gorgeous, black year-2000 BMW 3 Series sedan crossed ahead.

The frontseat passenger, a stunning 30-ish blonde, stared with lust in her eyes at me as the car passed by.

This never happens when I'm driving my 1982 Pontiac Grand Lemon. Seldom even in my Hornet. So maybe it wasn't me she was staring at, but the car I was in at the time. D'you figure?

Would the new Jaguar S-Type elicit that sort of reaction? Well, yes — from everybody who saw it.

The front end is by far this car's best angle. Geoff Lawson, Jaguar's chief stylist, who tragically passed away just a couple of months ago, used the term "styling DNA" when referring to how

carmakers try to establish a family resemblance across a model range, without necessarily making all the cars look the same.

He succeeded, so I'm sure he's resting in peace.

The profile view is a bit less successful, looking a bit bloated. And the taillights look pretty generic.

But in most social situations, you lead with your face and the Jag does this better than any car on the road.

Inside, there is more tradition, with chrome, leather and wood abounding, although there are a couple of places where the materials seem a bit meagre the matteback dash panels on the

dash, the turnsignal stalk.

The seats are big and comfortable for the long haul (in my case, The Big Smoke to Ottawa and back within three days), but don't offer a much of lateral support in spirited driving.

The curvaceous bodywork brings the roof and side pillars a bit close. This sedan is cozy rather than capacious.

My S-Type had the optional voice-activated climate, sound system and cell phone controls (although my tester wasn't equipped with the phone). Touch a button on the left steering wheel spoke, then call out something like, "CD, play disc one, track four." It repeats what you've said, then does your bidding.

This is just about the coolest party trick available in cars today — except for two slight problems. First, the car's voice is dreadful. You would expect an Oxbridge-tinged reply of, "Frightfully good selection, sir. I will get that on for you straight away"

Instead, you get a midwestern loser with a speech impediment. Unless maybe it was trying to imitate my voice.

Most voice-command functions can also be operated with well laidout conventional controls on the dash or steering wheel. The whole thing steps close to the gimmick line, although I

suspect it would pay greater dividends if you had a phone in the car.

Jaguars have long combined a cushy ride with excellent handling. I was a bit surprised that the S-Type V8 exhibited more bump-thump on broken pavement than (a) I expected and (b) I

remembered from my earlier drive. (Then again, that was in California, where roads are perfect, not Ontario where Mike Harris doesn't give a damn.)

The steering is quick and light, but somewhat vague oncentre, which called for attention to the bobsledrun style ruts on much of the 401.

This is not a car that demands to be driven hard; it prefers to cruise 'n cosset.

I was mightily impressed with the dynamics of the S-Type's cousin, the Lincoln LS. I haven't yet had a chance to try the two side-by-side, but it could be an illuminating experience.

My previous experience with the S-Type was restricted to the base model, powered by a reworked Duratec 3.0 L twincam 24-valve V6 from the Ford Taurus.

With Jag-engineered variable valve timing and a three-stage intake manifold, that motor puts out 240 hp at 6,800 rpm, and 221 lb.ft of torque at 4,500 rpm, considerably more than the less-highly strung unit that graces the entry-level model of the S-Type's corporate cousin, the Lincoln LS.

But this was my first chance to try the slightly detuned 4.0 L V8 engine borrowed from the senior Jags.

(I almost said "larger" Jags, but the S-Type's wheelbase is actually longer than the regular XJ8's.)

In this guise, the V8 generates 281 horsepower and 287 lb.ft. of torque 9 and 3 fewer, respectively, than in its siblings, and bags more than the Lincoln.

With 26 fewer kg of car to haul around than the senior Jag sedan, you can expect pretty similar performance as well. Jag's own claims for the zero-to-60 mph sprint give the newer car a

slight advantage 6.6 seconds, versus 6.9 for the XJ8.

While these numbers are more than respectable, you don't drive around with a stopwatch. You judge the performance of a car subjectively, and this one is absolutely lovely.

The Jag V8 is one of the world's great motors — completely unrelated, to Ford's own multivalve V8 family. The British-built eight-pot is strong, smooth, quiet when it has to be, but with just a hint of a growl when you unleash it.

Both the V6 and V8 use a new five-speed automatic developed for this platform. But the transmission worked much better in my V8 than it did in the V6 I tested earlier. If my V8 was typical,

the engineers have the shift programming nailed — it is nearly imperceptible.

If you like to occasionally stir the gears yourself, all STypes come with the famous Jgate (or "Randle handle," named after the company's preFord chief engineer).

Incidentally, the Lincoln offers the option of a manual transmission, which the Jag does not.

With Jaguar tying first place in the 1998 J.D.Power Initial Quality survey, Ford has already proven that it can help the Brits build cars better.

The S-Type is a landmark car because it shows that Ford will let Jaguar design and develop unique products, cars that reflect all that the market has come to know and love about Jaguar, even while it shares certain underbody components and, perhaps more important, some basic engineering processes with the lesser brand. Without this sort of cooperation, it's extremely doubtful that the Jaguar marque would have survived.

Jaguar is also showing its confidence in the new car by not being particularly shy with pricing. The V6 begins at just under $60,000, which is 15 grand more than the comparable Lincoln,

while the V8 at just under $70,000 is within shouting distance of such notables as the BMW 540i and MercedesBenz E430.

Despite all the quality problems over the years, Jaguar's name has continued to live in the hearts, minds and dreams of consumers. Now that they can buy a gorgeous, capable and

traditionally Jaguaresque sedan, with a reasonable expectation that it will outlive the three-year lease term, the company isn't going to be able to build them fast enough.

The basics

2000 Jaguar S-Type V8

* Vehicle type: rear-wheel drive sedan

* Engine: 4.0 L, DOHC V8 (281 hp)

* Transmission: 5-speed automatic

* Brakes: power discs front and rear, with ABS

* Tires: P225/55HR16

* Standard equipment includes rack-and-pinion power steering, sunroof, 6 airbags, power-memory package

* Options include voice-activated climate, sound system and cell phone controls; sports package; reverse park control

* Fuel efficiency: 13.9 L/100 km city, 9.4 L/100 km highway

* Warranty: basic and powertrain, 4 years/80,000 km; rust

perforation, 6 years/unlimited km

* Base price: $69,950

* Price as tested: $72,120 + tax



Freelance journalist Jim Kenzie prepared this report based on driving experiences with an S-Type provided by Jaguar Canada. Email: jbkenzie@interhop.net

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