Blog : S-type encountered in 1999

Mike Butler

That’s my mobile then… who’s that calling me now.?

‘Hello, is that Mike Butler?”
‘Er, yes. Who’s calling?”
‘It’s Car magazine here; I’m glad to say that you’re one of the winners in our S-Type launch competition.”

So, 24 March 1999, I was off to Brown’s Lane for the launch of the then new S-Type Jag. I must admit to being a fan of Jaguars for years, but as I was never going to have enough money to buy one, this was going to be as close as I was going to get to having the Jaguar ‘experience”.

The eagerly awaited envelope with the day’s itinerary landed on my welcome mat, and ripping the envelope open, like a student awaiting exam results, I looked to see what was in store.

Obviously, the ride and drive of the new car was top of the list – and we’d be fed and watered – but there would also be a tour of the factory and museum; and a chance to take a ride in some of the museum cars. Now taking a ride in some musty museum piece might not sound like fun, but just look at Jaguar’s back catalogue. Available would be NUB120 – the XK120, a D-type racer, William Lyons’ personal XJ6, the Queen Mum’s Mk VII, the last V12 E – type, the last Daimler limousine (which was the last use of the masterpiece XK engine), a couple of other saloons and drop heads, and even a Daimler SP250 (Dart) managed to sneak in.

‘Sorry, but if you’ve got a camera, you’ll have to leave it here, and collect it after the factory tour.” Well, you don’t want to give away any secrets, now do you? Not that we saw anything secret. I suppose one very clean production line looks much like any other, but when we got to the trim shop, well, there were processes going on there which must have gone back to the first days of car production – admittedly, now with more modern equipment.
Leather hides being transformed into seat covers, hand brake gaiters, and sections of trim. Wood being turned into veeners for dashes, door trims, gear knobs and steering wheels. Even inlays for the Jaguar name in some of the wood trims. I know, very olde worlde, but at the time (only 11 years ago!) very much the make up of the luxury brand.

After the tour, ‘optional ride in heritage vehicles.” Optional? When there’s a D-type on offer? Watching the sight of grown men, sometimes overgrown men, using all their strength to wedge themselves into the riding mechanics position was almost worth the trip alone. (Just in case you’re not up on racing regs of the time, the cars had to be capable of carrying a mechanic. They never did, so the space allocated was minimal.)
Back at the factory, we could hear the D-type roaring through the country side; and upon it’s return, depositing men, bent double, but very happy; grinning from ear to ear. At well over six foot I sadly elected to give this a miss. But the limo, the personal XJ6 of William Lyons, and NUB120 got my attention.

Buffet lunch seen off, it was time to get to grips with the S-Type. Teamed up in pairs, we were given a route through the Warwickshire countryside to follow, which would take us a bit over an hour to complete. Our car was a manual 3.0-litre, which; a recalcitrant throttle pedal aside, was a very nice drive – comfy and reasonably quick.

The route, like the S-Type, didn’t go quite to plan. We turned out of the gates, got less than a mile up the road, and some kind soul had decided to dig up the road, closing it completely. So we struck out on our own, managing to re-join the original route not too far away. But on one stretch of road, we did manage to see several other S-types going the opposite way; each convinced they were going in the right direction.

What struck me was, that although it was an extremely nice car to drive, the retro style didn’t quite hit the mark. If you were going retro, I thought the Rover 75 did a better job.

Also, the interior, whilst comfortable, and with a goodly quota of leather and walnut, just didn’t seem quite special enough. Even though some of the cars on offer had voice activation for the ICE – I wonder what happened to that?

Upon our return to the Factory I managed to start a conversation with a very smart young chap in, if I remember rightly, blazer and chinos. It turned out that he was one of the engineering team, and he’d just returned from across the pond, after helping the guys Stateside to try to make the forthcoming Mustang go round corners.

As there was some free time remaining before the whole show would be wound up – and there was an auto V8 on offer – we decided it would be churlish not to accept his offer of a guided tour. This was more like it, somebody who knew the car, and gave us a show of its ground covering capability. If I was to say that the drive was quick, but comfortable, you’ll get the idea.

Some way down the road I was released from the back seat, and allowed to drive. As we set off, our new best friend commented ‘There’s a nice stretch of road just over this brow; there’s no roads coming onto it, so if there’s no one about…” No further invitation was required. Earlier comment had been made that with the rear lights on, it looked like you were following a jet on reheat. Well, this backed it up. When I pushed the pedal towards the carpet there was just a continuous shove towards the horizon. Brake for the inevetable bend, set up for the curve, no fuss, no drama; just steer in and away. I remember thinking – ‘When they get round to supercharging this, and putting an R badge on it – it should fly.”

All too soon, we’ve followed our man’s instructions, and found ourselves back at Browns Lane, and I’ve got to give the car back. Damn.

So, back to today, and the wheel has turned full circle. The car I went to see the launch of is now history, and unfortunately, history hasn’t been kind to the S-type. Not that it wasn’t a good steer, but its backward looking styling hindered it. Somewhere I read this – ‘You can get an old man into a young man’s car, but you can’t get a young man into an old man’s car.” Now the new Jaguar style is anything but backward looking, and from what I’ve seen in the press they can sell everything they can build. Looks like the person who made that earlier statement was spot on.

Now, there’s a little Arthur Daley on my way to work, and I pass it every day. There’s a metallic red XJ Sport on a V-plate sat there for £1600; I know it’s going to be a money pit, but it looks so good.

If I can just convince the wife…

Keith Adams


  1. I think to a fair extent jag lost thier way with the s-type,(excluding the R)they have aged far worse than the 75,and the dash may as well have come out of a lincoln on which it is based,there are some right shabby dogs on the market just as there are 75’s,sometimes you can be too retro,it aint no mk2!

  2. I want to see a coupé version of the XF with that oval grille on it. It looks a bit out of place on the S-Type, but I think that a modernised version of this style (without so many retro cues) could still look good today. This car was far too old-fashioned and couldn’t pull off the look.

  3. Picked up a 3.0 manual a few weeks ago. Apart from a few annoyances like the rubbish centre dash and lack of storage it’s a great car. Styling wise Ive grown to like it,

  4. There were a few iterations of the S-Type and they got progressively better:

    X200 – Launched vehicle
    X202 – 2002. Updated nose badge moved to grill from bonnet, interior improved, structural improvements (front bulkhead, I think), different rear subframe (changed pick-up points). Different Auto box (I think it switched to ZF auto).
    X204 – 2004. I think just an emmisons update.
    X206 – 2006. Styling update. Namely, reduced bonnet centre height & grill, rear end & lamp cluster smoothed.

    Not 100% sure on those, so if someone else can confirm!

    From what I’ve learnt, 2002 X202 & beyond are far better than the launched 200.

    Of course, that also includes the 2000 MY and beyond V8 engines having steel chain tensioners and cast iron liners.

  5. ive been thinking about getting an Stype, and the comments above seem appropriate many of the surfaces dont seem to have aged well, a shame really. also I dont like the black grill I quite like the cross hatched chrome one though. alex

  6. I think its got better with age to look at and there are some great second hand examples about. Its like all second hand Luxury cars, whether its German or English if its been subject to poor short cut maintenace in its past then at some point the neglect will catch up. I have driven a few and I like them and at some point I shall probaly buy one but only after hunting down a good one.

  7. Lockwood sell a newer style stainless grill for the older s type. Dechroming the bumpers and colour coding would take years off an older one

  8. For that money the Xj is probably quite nice, in my year and a bit of ownership it cost me £50 for a genuine part crank sensor and never dropped below 25mpg, 30 on a run. See go for it 😉 and it’s red so it will go faster 🙂

  9. Although the newer XF & XJ are nicer cars, I still like the look of the S Type and for that matter the X Type. Wouldn’t turn either down if I was offered one.

  10. Currently have an early S Type which replaced a 75 Connoisseur. I like the look of both cars although the interior design and build quality of the Rover is superior to the Jaguar
    The Jaguar has suffered lots of electrical problems (ie door locks,mirror motors,window lifts etc.)and terminal auto gearbox ( Ford ) at 80,000 miles.Now done 140000 miles and has front suspension rattle which needs sorting.When it goes will I replace it with an S type or a75? I don’t know.
    Both cars appeal and despite the S type problems,I love it.

  11. I had use of one for the day, back in 2001. The company I was working for had allocated one to the design manager. He lent it to me for the day to go to London. I’d driven a couple of tasty cars before, but not a Jag (and I’ve not driven one since!) Positives – it had sumptuous leather seats, loads of toys (by the standards of the day), a silky smooth V-6 engine, equally smooth auto-box, and oodles of effortless power. Negatives – I was 29 at the time:- the styling and interior suited someone in their mid-40s. I just could not get on with the retro styling at all, even though I appreciated the silky-smooth power delivery, ride, and (except the wooden dash) interior. And herein lies the failure of the S-type – it had nothing to attract the affluent younger buyer – someone who would aspire to a BMW or Audi. Thankfully, the XF has largely reversed that trend – the more forward looking design, and vastly improved interior seem spot-on. Mind-you, I am 40 now, and am probably spot-on the demographic the S-type was aimed at!

  12. I don’t know what it is, but (the styling of) the S-Type never was my thing… I can’t say it’s an ugly car, but it’s just not desireble… And a Jag should be just that, something special.

    The X-type was much better IMO, if you don’t buy a grey one that is… (So I bought mine in BRG)

    It’s not a bad car though, The S… I just don’t “really, really want it”… There’s just something mising…

  13. The first time i ever saw one I just tought NO!
    The Rover 75 looked better and has aged better. Someone comented that the interior was of poor quality, worse than a 75! My 75 interiour was not up too much. Sill kick plates that never fitted plus sun visors that fell off when deployed

  14. I was there for that launch day too – thanks to Car magazine. Good article – I totally agree with what you say about the S-type, I thought it was a real shame because the car drove well and you could see from the factory tour that the people making it and the other jags on sale at the time were taking a lot of pride in their work. In fact I remember thinking that it was quite heart-warming to see people who seemed to enjoy their work so much.

  15. After 2004 the S type was heavily revised. Far better looking and a lot better made. I buy and sell cars so have had a fair few Rover 75s and Jaguar’s. I have a soft spot for the 75, I have even owned a Mg zt 260, but the Jaguar in my view is a way better car. Try the 2.7 Turbo diesel. I think as good and engine as the Bmw 3 litre Diesel.

  16. #15 Yes, you’re right. In my earlier post [ #4 ] I think I got X204 & X206 swapped round.

    The BIG plus that the S-Type has over the XF is that you can get a manual ‘box on the 2.5 & 3.0 petrol V6 and on the 2.7D.

  17. Remember this was the Ford-era. Even the Aston Martin DB7 was brimming with Ford parts bin components. I went in an S-Type around 2000 and spotted half of my Mondeo interior in it and the plastics weren’t even upto my car’s standards.

    Agreed the 2004 onwards cars had a better interior although I suspect the Ford switchgear remained!

    It’s the headlamps that let the car down. They’re too much like the 1995-2002 E-class’ which didn’t exactly come from Mercedes’ finest hour.

  18. Re the dash, I think it’s more poor design than poor quality. The radio is a big let down as its the same as on a Focus, and the dials are very plain, had they had a cream finish like the 75 they’d have been nicer.

    I’m gonna swap my headunit for a double DIN touch screen job and do something with the wood. Also the chrome on the bumpers and grill is going

  19. Car should have been replaced in 2005/6. The very fact it was allowed to stay on for that long made it seem to age much faster – same problem with the 75 – it too should have been replaced in 2006, aided by the facelifted version.

  20. They got 17 years out of the XJ40/X300 shape just goes to show what a few mild tweakings can achieve. What let the S Type down was the fact it was a Lincoln underneath and dynamically that showed through. The first 2 updates sorted that.

    By basing X type on the European Mondeo they were onto a winner.

  21. S-Type is a good car, which by the end of its time in 2007 was one of the best handling cars in its class. Which shows through because the XF is based on the S-Type chassis all be it with XK suspension.

  22. I like the idea of a late 2006 model 2.7 diesel or an R type if fuel prices allowed. A car that was poor at first but got much better with age. The post 2004 cars look very desirable. Maybe I will replace my 75 with one at some point in the future. The late models drove like an XF but will cost a tenth the price. Something of a bargain.

  23. In my opinion, simply placing the badge within the grille (as per mk 2 and original s-type) significantly improved the front end look on the updated model.

    I can see where the original cue for the badgeless grille on the 1st model was taken from (xk120 + c-type), but to me it just didn’t work too well on this car.

    I’ve just picked up a very cheap (sub grand) but reasonably straight X-reg V8 with a full test and would like to swap the badgeless grille for the one with the badge within it.

    Does anybody know if it fits, as I have been told that they are not interchangable? Not sure if this is correct though…as i’m sure i’ve seen older cars than mine with them fitted in autotrader…

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