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View the cars in our FastSaloons' Fleet Search Visit our Forum   Contact Us Jaguar S-Type R Test ReportDate:10/10/2003   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests Jaguar S-Type R Roadtest  
Jaguar S-Type R
28th August - 5th September 2003.
10 days.
Roadtested by Neil.
Most cars tested at are cars that we have not driven before. On the odd occasion one of us will have driven the car before. This is the case of the Jaguar S-Type R, which I had actually test-driven when I was considering what to replace my Alpina with. At the time I wasn't too impressed with the car (see HERE).

I am sure I would have been impressed, outside the very limited opportunities of a garage-chaperoned, time-limited test drive. The more I test cars the more the concept of test driving cars before you buy them seems ridiculous. If you're lucky the car is available (most of the cars I am interested in are like 'hens teeth' to locate). Of those that are available, you get to see a microscopic part of the car - on which you could get completely the wrong idea. When you consider how much you are paying, insisting on a longer, un-chaperoned drive really is a must.


The S-Type R delivered was in an attractive light-blue metallic colour. Over the week the colour really grew on me - I liked it to start with, but at the end I really thought it suited the car, accentuating the retro lines of the Jag.

The R is differentiated from its lesser siblings by a mesh grill, rear spoiler, R badges on each front wing and boot, huge brakes with branded callipers. The overall effect is very subtle and will probably be missed by non-car people. In addition the style of the S-type doesn't shout out 'hey I've got 400bhp'. The whole effect is typical Jaguar and I love it.


Inside the Jaguar is very similar to the XKR that I tested the week before. The dash is vertical and has a Black -eye maple finish that looks nice but doesn't lift the cabin, which in turn can feel quite drab.

The dials are semi-circular and two-tone grey with white writing and needles. The speedometer is marked up to 160mph (labelled to 150). The revometer is marked up to 8000rpm, with the red line at 6,500rpm. On the left of the revometer is the engine temperature gauge and to the right of speedometer is the fuel gauge. A multi-function display, a small lcd at the bottom of the dash is used to display mileage and different read outs of the computer (¾ tank = a range of 227miles, average fuel economy is 19.7mpg, average speed 30mph, the current time and mileometer).

To the right of the main dash are the controls for the fog lights and also the buttons to control which trip computer is being used and also the buttons to reset them. The right stalk on the steering wheel controls the wipers, the left controls the lights. On the steering wheel itself are the controls for cruise control on the right, and stereo/phone on the left. The phone control doubles as a mute button for the radio.

The car has a great stereo; you can actually feel the air being pushed out of the door speakers on your leg, when the volume is up.

The Gearbox is slightly different than that in the XKR. This one has a smaller left hand side of the J gate and sport button at top rather than bottom in the XKR. The parking brake is pretty unique it consists of a small chrome flap just below the gear lever. It can be applied by lifting it and released by lifting it again. There is a safety system built in to stop you driving with it on.

Below the gear lever and parking brake there is a leather armrest which slides back to reveal two cup holders, and it lifts open to reveal a large cubby hole. The central console is edged in leather.

The vertical part of the central console houses the stereo, air conditioning and phone controls. At the bottom there are buttons to control the central locking, hazard warning lights and the traction control system. This car has no sunroof but does have a glasses holder in the roof.

The doors are also trimmed in black leather with red stitching. The overall feel of the cabin is very good. You feel like you are sitting in a quality car. The driver's door has controls for the mirrors; the front and rear windows and the memory settings for seats. The door handles are chrome and when the car moves off the doors lock automatically.

The seats are fantastic, very soft black leather, electric 16-way adjustment and look great black leather, red stitching, with a combination of dimpled and flat leather and an R logo in the seat back. The seats are very comfy and great for long journeys, a good feature is the extendable base, which allows you to move the seat base forward and back to accommodate the length of your legs (hip to knee) and does away with the need for an extendable bolster. The seat has a good lumbar system (again electric). The rear seats are equally stylish but non-adjustable.

On the move

As I mentioned at the start of this review I have driven the R before and wasn't too impressed. It was quick, but I didn't feel the car. To me , I felt like the passenger not the driver, I was disconnected somehow.

So as I start the car up for the first time I am a little sceptical. The engine starts nicely, quite muted but still a satisfying rasp. On the first bit of open road I give the car a little right foot encouragement and the car surges forward with the pull of a small jet plane the gear change in auto setting good. As the revs increase the noise of the supercharger joins in - a slightly mechanical sound that gets in the way of the 4.2 litre growl.

Now this is a bit of revelation, either this is a different car to the one I tested or the effect of a sales person sat next to me completely converts a cars behaviour (or mine). This car feels tauter and faster, its very quick and composed. The engine is more obvious than in the XKR, you can hear it prior to and through the supercharger, which is a very good thing.

The steering is interesting; it is quite meaty, offering a resistance that is noticeably more than other cars with power steering. This is most obvious off-centre where usually the resistance lessens as the tyres relinquish grip, in the R the resistance is still there. This improves feel but does tire your arms after a bit and can catch you out if you are driving one handed and need to steer a little more than intended.

On the Motorway the R rides well and is very quiet with hardly any tyre or engine noise. At 75mph in 6th gear the car is doing 2000rpm and is indicating an instant-mpg of 60mpg. You feel cosseted, relaxed and comforted by the seats. The XKR is even more so - it illustrated what GTs (Grand Tourers) are all about, the S-Type R is not quite as relaxing but still a very good car to cover many many miles in.

Mid-way through the test I am enjoying car. It has good ride, good handling and is pretty darn fast. The one thing that is disappointing is the manual part of the gearbox. Changing up is not good in manual setting; you need to predict the point at which to make the selection, if you misjudge the time and change to late the car hits the rev-limiter before the gear change is made. The time required is not insignificant either. Changing down is not too good either with a delay between the gear changes. The XKR gearbox is the same and I can't imagine anybody bothering with the manual selection. The J-gate itself is annoying too as you have to select the actual gear rather than tiptronic style of up=back, down=forward. The result is that you generally mistime the change (under heavy acceleration) hit the rev-limiter, panic, and change up two gears instead of one. Not big and Not Clever! The automatic setting is so good it really is questionable why there is a need to use the manual setting. I certainly gave up trying and left the car in the auto and got on with enjoying the rest of the car.

Handling-wise, if you push the car around corners with traction control on you can physically hear the car braking it's wheels to keep the direction in check - little chirps. The car can be hustled along and feels capable.

Grip is very good the car has footwear similar to the BMW M5: 245x40 front tyres and 275x35 rears. They are shod on 18inch 5 spoke alloys, which are simple and suit the car. The car has huge (365mm front and 330mm rear (compared to 345/328 on the M5, 360/330 on the Merc E55 AMG and 345/330 on the Audi RS6)) Brembo brakes. They help pull up the car with conviction and on the road at least don't show any signs of fade.

Over the ten days a number of people experienced the car from the passenger side and their opinions were pretty unanimous: - impressive acceleration, mix responses to dash - bit conservative, seats good, quality of interior, and interior size, general liking for the looks but some felt it was a bit 'old man'.


On the practicality side the legroom front and back is good.

The boot is very shallow and it's volume (370ltrs) compares badly to the old 5-series (460ltrs), new 5-series (520ltrs), and E-class (530ltrs). Beneath the boot floor there is the spare wheel, battery and couple of other things that have loads of space. If the boot could take advantage of some of this space it would be far more practical. Certainly it would be a problem for me, with my family, and a reason not to buy the car.


Performance-wise we were able to do some quick tests:
Acceleration0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
FastSaloons(*)(2.6)(3.6)(4.7)(6.0) (7.5)(9.2)(11.1)(13.5)
(*)The fastsaloons results are the average of a number of runs carried out under normal situations - and reflect realistic, repeatable numbers. (Tests recorded with the Race-Technology AP22). Other results show fastest time recorded by a Car Magazine (Autocar).


Mpgurban (mpg)extra urban (mpg)Combined (mpg)
Jaguar S type R (2)(15.3)(30.5)(22.5)
EmissionsCo2 Emissions (g/km)Tax Bracket (%)
Jaguar S type R (2)(314)


The S-type is a subtle, fast, comfortable mode of transport. In terms of day-to-day practicality the auto box makes life very easy. Performance is good and as long as you stay clear of the manual side of the gearbox, quite painless too. If you were doing lots of miles I would pick the car over the M5 as it is easier to live with. Ride and handling are also far better than I was expecting and make the car enjoyable to drive when you get the opportunity.

The cars direct rivals are: the out-going BMW M5 (£52k), Audi RS6 (£57,700) and S6 (£52k), Merc E55 AMG (£60,640). At £47,400 the S-Type R undercuts the others by a significant margin. In fact price wise there is little to touch it other than perhaps the Holden HSV GTS that doesn't really match the Jag for class but more than matches it for pace. Given the M5 is no longer on sale the S-type R is in a class all of its own and offers a great deal of car and performance for the money. Better still are the second hand R's that offer seriously attractive propositions.

The timing of the S-Type R coincided with the arrival of my new car (BMW M5), which gave me an interesting prospective on the two cars. Something you can read about very soon…

Thanks to Jaguar for the loan of the car.

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