2002 Jaguar S-Type Road Test

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Category:$40,000 – $50,000 Luxury Sedan
Who should buy this car:Someone looking for a stylish sedan where comfort comes first, but sport doesn’t take a back seat.
Comparable models in this class:Audi A6 4.2, BMW 540, Infiniti Q45, Lexus GS430, Mercedes Benz E430

Many Jaguar purists have been concerned, and rightfully so, that Ford’s recent acquisition of the Jaguar brand would mean a watering down, or all-out loss of those things that make a Jaguar a Jaguar. Certainly no one would argue that Jaguar has been an industry leader in reliability, but Jaguar cars have always had a certain something that makes them unique. Owning a Jaguar has always been about so much more than just driving a car. The question is; does the 2002 Jaguar S-Type live up to the Jaguar heritage?

Perhaps due partly to Ford’s influence, or perhaps due to changing market conditions, Jaguar has recently realized not everyone can afford a $60,000 -$100,000 car. Both the S-Type and the all-new X-Type are Jaguar’s attempt to build market share from the ground up. Now aspiring executives and future Ovitz’s can have a little luxury now. The new Jaguar X-Type is priced around$30,000 for a V6 model, and the more Jag-like S-Type 4.0L is priced closer to $48,000. So you see, there is now a Jaguar for almost everyone, and those who love the English brand can ease themselves into Jag ownership for little more than the price of a fully loaded Toyota Camry.

The 2002 Jaguar S-Type looks, for all the world, like a Jaguar. In fact the name and exterior styling harkens back the 1960s when the 1963 S-Type was a new, and quite competent sport saloon. The front-end treatment evokes remembrances of both the old S-Type as well as the XK sports cars of the 1950s. A vertically stretched grille with built-in driving lights, and two large, round headlights subtly sculpted into the front fenders all show the new S-Type to be a stylistic descendant of the original Jaguar S-Type. Ironically, in 1968, the XJ-6 replaced the old S-Type, yet the new S-Type is positioned as a slightly less expensive alternative to the larger XJ series of cars. Seems like the S-Type has come full circle. And while the XJ series of cars appear to have changed very little over the past 30 years, the S-Type is an all new car which made its debut only recently.

The S-Type is available with a 3.0L V6 or an all Jaguar 4.0L V8. There is a sport version which boasts bigger wheels and no chrome trim plus the CATS system. An optional navigation system is available as is voice activated communication system. Also available is a cold-weather package with seat warmers and rain-sensing wipers. Thankfully, the Jaguar S-Type is rear-wheel drive.

Inside the new S-Type there is evidence of a Ford influence. While the front seats are firm and supportive, and wood trim abounds (as one would expect from a British luxury car), the dash area seems somewhat lacking in true luxury. Most controls are easy to find, and are within the driver’s reach. It’s not functionality, or even practicality that is lacking inside this Jaguar – it’s character.

The instrument cluster houses a large speedometer and tachometer, with the usual fuel and engine temperature gauges. Frankly it all looks as if it came straight out of a Ford Taurus. While driving at night, the gauges light up in the rather pedestrian green tint. Other luxury cars such as the Chrysler 300M or Lexus GS430 have a unique, back lit look to their instruments, that’s what one expects from a luxury car. Further evidence of Ford influence is found in the center”pod” configuration used to house the audio, climate control, and buttons for the seat warmers. The switch gear for all dash mounted components looks and feels too much like a Ford.

A minor complaint is the lack of interior storage space. A small center console and a retractable bin mounted next to the stereo are simply not enough to hold a CD wallet or individual CD cases, sunglasses, cell-phone, checkbook, or any of other little things most of us carry in the car. The interior overall is not as large as the outside might suggest, rear seat occupants were comfortable but slightly cramped.

On the road is where the S-Type really shines. Many companies save costs by using a technique called “platform sharing,” and Jaguar is no exception. The Jaguar S-Type shares a platform with the Lincoln LS and Ford Thunderbird, but the engine, suspension and drive train are all Jaguar (if you order the V6 version of the S-Type, there are some Ford components in that engine). Jaguar’s 4.0L V8 is as smooth and powerful as ever. With 281 hp stuffed into a car roughly the size of an Audi A6, this little Jag can really move. Acceleration is very impressive. Engine noise is minimal – under hard acceleration there is mechanical noise, but it has a pleasant and reassuring growl, lacking the “rattly” sound many lower priced cars exhibit at full throttle. Handling is purposefully sporty without sacrificing comfort. Many luxury/sport sedans sacrifice luxury for razor sharp handling, not so with the S-Type.

Although cornering is tight, controlled and results in only minimal body roll, highway driving is still smooth and serene – it feels like a Jaguar. Order the”Sport” version of the S-Type and handling is further enhanced by 17 inch wheels and tires, plus Jaguars CATS system (CATS stands for Computer Active Technology Suspension) which automatically adjusts the shock absorbers while you’re driving. The Sport version also exchanges all chrome for body colored trim giving the car a monochromatic look.

Overall, the 2002 Jaguar S-Type is more than the sum of its parts. While it’s true this mid-size Jag does utilize some bits and pieces from its parent company Ford, the execution is clearly Jaguar – the exception being the interior which feels a bit bland. In V8 form, the S-Type is powerful and sporty without being harsh or crude. The S-Type excels in terms of exterior styling – anyone fond of Jaguar cars past will surely love the looks of this car.

In short, the S-Type does live up to its Jaguar heritage, but like the Jags of decades past, there are plenty of quirks to iron out. Many loyal to the brand accept these “quirks” as simply an element of “Jaguar-ness” while those who have been spoiled by the near perfection of Lexus and BMW might be a bit let down. Still, it seems only fair to recognize that the essence of Jaguar is much more than mere words or numbers can explain or calculate. There is a certain Jaguar quality that looms larger than nuts and bolts – a Jaguar says something, it has a history and a heritage. To that extent, the S-Type has succeeded in capturing the essence of Jaguar. And for better or worse, more of us can now afford to park that “certain something” in our own driveway.


2002 Jaguar S-Type Rear Wheel Drive Sedan

Engine Type4.0L double overhead cam (DOHC) 32 valve V8 with variable valve timing,
Horsepower281 @ 6,100
Torque287 @ 4,300
Fuel RecommendedPremium  93 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission5-speed automatic transmission with “J” shifter
Tires (Std.)
Tires (Opt.)
P225/55HR16 tires
P235/50ZR17 High performance tires
Overall Length191.3″
Turning Diameter37.7 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight3,903 lbs.
Fuel Tank18.4 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 17, hwy 24
Acceleration 0 to 606.6 Seconds
Base Sticker Price$49,330   Plus $645 Destination Charge.

Standard Equipment

  • 8-way power driver and passenger seat with adjustable lumbar support
  • Split-folding rear bench seat
  • 1 one-touch power windows
  • Dual zone climate controls for driver and front passenger
  • Interior air filtration
  • Wood and leather interior
  • 2 position memory driver’s seat
  • AM/FM cassette 6-CD stereo with 8 speakers
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Automatic headlamps
  • Universal Homelink garage door opener

Major Available Options

  • Navigation System
  • Communications Package
    Includes: portable cellular phone with voice-activated controls, Navigation System and a 4-year subscription to JaguarNet (VEMS).
  • Sport Package
    Includes 17″ alloy sport wheels, P235/50ZR17 low-profile tires and Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS).
  • Weather Package
    Includes heated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers and Dynamic Stability Control.
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Brian M. Moody

Automotive Expert

Brian M. Moody has 7 years of dealership experience to show for his effort. After earning a Bachelor's degree in Television and Film in 1993, Brian worked as a broadcast graphic designer for 5 years prior to making the decision to change his career and pursue work as an automotive journalist full-time. Based in Los Angeles, Brian is a writer for several local, community newspapers.

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