Full 2008 Jaguar S-Type Review
What's New for 2008
Jaguar's midlevel sedan enters its final year with several tweaks, all of them cosmetic. V6 and V8 models upgrade to standard 18-inch wheels and adapt the front bumper design of the S-Type R. The R, in turn, upgrades to 19-inch wheels.
The Jaguar S-Type has a fairly significant place in automotive history, signifying the first real fruit of the Ford-Jaguar partnership and the first step from either brand into the midsize luxury segment. The 2008 Jaguar S-Type represents the ninth and final year of production for this midsize, rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan.
Born as the classier-looking sibling of the Lincoln LS, the S-Type also enjoyed a higher-grade interior and more potent versions of both the V6 and V8 engines. Ride and handling have been praised from the start (braking less so), and whatever was lacking in powertrain performance has been rectified over the years as the automatic transmission became a six-speed, the standard V8 gained power and a supercharged V8 debuted on the S-Type R to blow away nearly every competitor (at least when it arrived in 2003).
Regardless of the prodigious power at the top of the lineup, the S-Type as a whole has become known more for walking the middle ground between performance and comfort. Its V6 delivers weak performance for this class, and even decked out in R guise, handling is on the soft side. This midsize luxury sedan is also known for an interior that's a mix of virtues and vices: high comfort in front but skimpy space in back, and old-world British ambience with unfortunate splashes of Ford-grade controls and materials.
As all competitors have redesigned their entries during this Jaguar's lifetime, most have surpassed it in performance, comfort, refinement and features. While a 2008 Jaguar S-Type is not an altogether poor choice for a midsize luxury sedan, we think most prospective buyers will be happier with more desirable choices such as an Audi A6/S6, BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS or Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The 2008 model year will be the S-Type's last. Look for a replacement modeled after the C-XF concept car.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Jaguar S-Type sedan lineup consists of the V6-powered 3.0, the V8-powered 4.2 and the supercharged R. The 3.0 starts off with 18-inch wheels, leather seating, power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof and rear park assist. The S-Type 4.2 upgrades the 3.0's 140-watt CD stereo to a 320-watt Alpine system with a trunk-mounted six-CD changer and adds a power rear sunshade, premium carpets, a navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, front parking sensors, xenon HID headlights and bigger brakes. Many of the 4.2's features are available as options on the 3.0. Satellite radio is an option on all models.
The range-topping S-Type R comes with 19-inch wheels, bigger brakes and a sport-tuned suspension with Computer Active Suspension Technology (CATS) that automatically switches between two shock absorber settings to benefit both ride and handling. Note that the R reduces the regular 60/40-split fold-down rear seat to a small pass-through porthole and moves some of the 4.2 model's features to the options list. Exclusive to the R's options list are two-tone seats and a Luxury Package containing adaptive cruise control.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Jaguar S-Type 3.0 uses a Jaguar-enriched version of Ford's Duratec 3.0-liter V6. Its 235-horsepower rating is the most this engine has ever made, though keep in mind that it has less torque (216 pound-feet) than the competition's bigger V6s. The engine in the S-Type V8 displaces 4.2 liters and cranks out 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, while the supercharger and variable valve timing on the R boosts that all the way up to 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. If those numbers still sound petty compared to the BMW M5's 500 hp and the Mercedes E63's 507, so should its $65K price compared to their $82K and $87K. Ever since the V6 lost its short-lived stick shift of 2003-'04, a six-speed automatic transmission has transmitted power to the rear wheels on all models.
All 2008 Jaguar S-Types come standard with the six airbags now expected in most luxury sedans, though many upscale cars have been upgrading to seven or eight. The disc brakes get progressively larger with each model and antilock is standard across the board, as are traction and stability control. While front crash test scores are unavailable, the S-Type scored four out of a possible five stars for front-side impact protection and five stars for rear-side protection in NHTSA testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The S-Type has been well-received for its supple leather -- standard on all models -- and elegant wood trim. Downsides include a slight perception of confinement at all positions and a J-gate shifter that many drivers find fussy to operate. Some of the plastics and materials also suggest a lower caliber of car.
With the exception of this year's unusually aggressive wheel and tire packages, the 2008 Jaguar S-Type follows Jaguar tradition by emphasizing easy steering and an overall relaxed driving experience over serious sporting pretensions. The chassis lacks the liveliness of the German-brand luxury sedans, but the six-speed automatic is smart at picking gears, either V8 should be good enough for most buyers (the V6 is debatable) and the R's electronic CATS suspension pays real dividends, limiting body lean without hurting the ride much.