2003 Jaguar S-Type Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Powerful R sport sedan, beautiful styling, full load of standard safety equipment.
- A few cheap interior bits, high price, fussy J-gate shifter.
Currently the best Jaguar sedan available, substantial upgrades and refinements for 2003 make this timeless beauty even more appealing.
Introduction: The current S-Type debuted in 1999 as a 2000 model and doubled Jaguar's worldwide sales within a year. Sharing a basic platform with the Lincoln LS, the S-Type is nonetheless a true Jaguar. It features its own powertrains, suspension tuning, steering and design. The only evidence of a relationship with Lincoln is a smattering of shared interior parts.
Significant upgrades for 2003 further distance the S-Type from its Lincoln cousin. Foremost amongst the news for 2003 is the addition of a supercharged R model. With a 390-horsepower 4.2-liter V8 engine under the bonnet, the R will rocket from 0 to 60 mph in a scant 5.3 seconds. Jaguar claims that this is the most powerful sedan it has ever built.
Safety improvements are widespread for 2003. Jaguar has made stability control standard, and the brakes have been upgraded with a panic assist feature. New seats reside in a redesigned cabin, sporting anti-whiplash technology. Dual-stage front airbags and new side curtain airbags that protect front and rear seat occupants are also new for 2003 and feature a new adaptive restraint technology system. Shorter-statured adults are able to sit further away from the steering wheel thanks to new power adjustable pedals that also feature a memory function to store the preferences of more than one driver.
Sitting in the center of the dashboard is a new optional LCD touchscreen telematics system with improved voice recognition technology to control stereo, climate, navigation and telephone functions.
Jaguar has also stiffened the S-Type's body structure to boast a 10 percent gain in torsional rigidity, and the suspension is heavily revised. In front there is a new front suspension making extensive use of forged aluminum, and Jaguar has retuned the springs, dampers, bushings and antiroll bars at all four corners.
New transmissions also debut for 2003, with a new five-speed manual unit available for the 3.0 models and a new six-speed automatic managing power for V8 versions.
The S-Type competes on solid footing with models from Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It is a beautifully styled car, easily recognizable as a Jaguar from a distance and serving as a fresh departure from what can be characterized as cookie-cutter styling in this class. New models from Infiniti, BMW and Mercedes-Benz could chip away at the Jag's appeal in coming years, but with the R performance sedan and its timeless design, the S-Type should remain a popular alternative for those looking for something a little different.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: Jaguar's S-Type sedan is available in five trims: 3.0 SE, 3.0 Sport, 4.2 V8, 4.2 V8 Sport and the high-performance R.
Standard equipment includes stability control, traction control, adaptive restraint technology with dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags for front and rear occupants, power-adjustable anti-whiplash front seats covered in leather, bird's-eye maple cabin trim, dual-zone climate control, 140-watt sound system with in-dash CD player, power windows with an automatic up/down function, heated exterior mirrors and alloy wheels.
Stepping up to a 4.2 V8 includes a six-speed automatic transmission; additional power adjustments for the front seats; 17-inch wheels; a power moonroof; a memory function for seats, mirrors, pedals and steering column; a programmable garage door opener; and autodimming mirrors.
The Sport models add sport seats, a sport steering wheel, unique wood trim, special alloy wheels, body-color exterior trim, larger brakes and Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension System (CATS) to either the 3.0 SE or the 4.2 V8.
Billed as the most powerful Jaguar sedan ever created, the R includes a supercharged 4.2-liter V8, a sport CATS suspension, Brembo brakes, a 16-way power driver seat, special interior trim, a subtle rear decklid spoiler, 18-inch wheels with performance tires, a bright-finish mesh grille and xenon headlights.
Powertrains and Performance: The S-Type's standard 3.0-liter V6 makes 235 horsepower and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission that drives the rear wheels. A six-speed automatic transmission is optional with this engine. Models with 4.2 nomenclature on the decklid have a 293 horsepower V8 engine displacing 4.2 liters. The supercharged R is equipped with a 390 horsepower 4.2-liter V8 that, according to Jaguar, allows it to accelerate from rest to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Both V8 models have the automatic transmission standard.
Safety: Jaguar has added a cornucopia of safety equipment to the 2003 S-Type. Standard equipment includes front, side and side-curtain airbags, the former of the dual-stage variety and all connected to an advanced adaptive restraint technology system. This year, a panic assist braking system is standard, along with stability control, traction control and power adjustable pedals. New seats offer an anti-whiplash design. A reverse parking control system and rain-sensitive wipers come on all S-Types.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has conducted crash tests on the Jaguar S-Type.
Interior Design and Special Features: Slathered in real wood and sumptuous leather, the Jaguar S-Type's interior has few competitors that are as opulently trimmed. For 2003, the redesigned cabin features an optional touchscreen telematics system that controls the stereo, climate, DVD navigation and telephone features. Jaguar has done away with a traditional handbrake for 2003, replacing it with an electronic parking brake operated using a switch on the dashboard.
Driving Impressions: Jaguar's new S-Type R is a real thrill ride. It boasts powerful brakes, steering that offers just the right combination of feel and heft, explosive power from the supercharged V8, an acceptable ride and handling compromise, and seamless performance from the six-speed automatic. Though it's not as visceral as a BMW M5, it is plenty of performance car for the money.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverallNot RatedDriverNot RatedPassengerNot Rated
- Side Crash RatingOverallNot Rated
- Side Barrier RatingOverallNot RatedDriver4 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront SeatNot RatedBack SeatNot Rated
- RolloverRollover5 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of RolloverNot Rated
More About This Model
Although you'd be hard pressed to differentiate it externally from the 2002 model, the 2003 Jaguar S-Type R is substantially changed.
That's no problem, in fact, it's good. Style is what frequently differentiates a Jaguar from other luxury cars. People frequently swoon over the looks of Jags whether they are 5, 15, 25, 50 or 65 years old it doesn't seem to matter whether it's the age of the car or the person.
In the past, Jaguar's cars remained largely unchanged for long periods. That was fine as far as the exterior styling went, but the cars' interiors became dated all too easily and the mechanical aspects invariably left much to desire.
This situation has changed thanks in part to Ford's masterly care and feeding of the famous feline nameplate.
The S-Type was launched four years ago, and here's Jaguar already touting a heavily revised 2003 model. The designers sensibly didn't alter the exterior. The S-Type still has that nice crouched look to it with a relatively long hood, a short trunk and curves in all the right places. There's no mistaking it for anything but a Jaguar. OK, from the rear it might still have some Taurus design cues, but that's not necessarily bad.
Instead of messing with the sheetmetal, Jaguar has spent its money under the skin, improving the car's suspension, powertrain and interior.
Up front, the car gets an all-new suspension that includes several parts in aluminum to cut down on weight, as well as retuned springs, shocks, bushings and antiroll bars. The rear suspension design is the same as before but with refined tuning to help give the car an improved ride and more agile handling.
Jaguar says the new S-Type's body is 10 percent stiffer. This helps improve the ride and handling of the car as it provides a more rigid mounting point for suspension components. Despite the added rigidity, the car's overall curb weight is down by about 100 pounds due to use of aluminum and even magnesium in places such as the complicated fascia structure under the dashboard.
Inside, the car gets a revised dashboard with a much more luxurious look to it. Of course, there's still plenty of genuine wood trim and nice soft leather all round. The optional navigation system has a touch-sensitive screen that is actually intuitive to use (that is, you do not need to read a handbook in order to operate it). A new feature is an electronically operated parking brake: a small chrome lever located behind the transmission is pulled up to put the brake on. It is also activated automatically when the ignition is switched off, and it disengages automatically when the transmission is moved from "park" on a car with automatic transmission.
Another feature, picked up from Ford, is an electrically adjustable pedal set. The pedal position can also be programmed into memory along with the seat and mirror positions. This feature is optional on the V6 model and standard on V8 models.
One of the complaints about the old S-Type was the automatic transmission's propensity to shift abruptly while also being slow to react to driver input. This has been rectified with an all-new six-speed automatic transmission that is standard on V8-powered S-Types and optional on V6 models. The 3.0-liter V6 engine is unchanged, still producing 240 horsepower.
The displacement of the normally aspirated V8 engine increases to 4.2 liters (from 4.0 liters). This raises horsepower from 281 to an even 300.
The really exciting news is the S-Type R. It's powered by a supercharged version of the 4.2-liter V8 that pumps out 400 horsepower, one-third more than the normally aspirated engine. To cope with this substantial increase in power, the R model gets a sport-tuned suspension, huge Brembo brakes and 18-inch wheels. Appearance-wise, the only difference is a mesh front grille with a body-color surround and a rear spoiler. Although subtle, the minor changes are just enough to give the car a slightly aggressive look while still remaining refined in overall appearance.
We got to spend a few hours driving the new S-Type along a variety of highways. Needless to say, the highlight was the R. It provides gobs of power yet it is really smooth in operation. The new six-speed transmission responds promptly to messages from one's right foot, shifting down quickly and propelling the car forward seamlessly. Although the car is available only with the six-speed automatic, it's not a shortcoming, as there is more than enough power on tap. It's also still set up in the traditional J-gate fashion of all Jaguars.
Jaguar claims the S-Type R can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 5.3 seconds. We can't confirm this, but it's a figure that feels accurate. The steering is just right, giving enough feedback without being too heavy. The handling is adequate for a sport sedan, and the ride quality is not too stiff for those looking for a luxury ride, which is remarkable. The brakes feel really powerful, easily bringing the 3,700-pound car to a stop rapidly and without drama. Overall, the car may not deliver the ultimate performance and handling of the BMW M5, but it's a car that should prove to be a much more pleasant daily driver, even for true-blooded enthusiasts.
We also had an opportunity to try a regular V8 S-Type and were pleasantly surprised that it was not at all disappointing even after getting out of the R. It still moved along at a decent pace and, although its ride was somewhat softer, it still handled capably.
Unfortunately, Jaguar did not have a V6 S-Type with the manual transmission on hand. However, based on our experience driving the similar Lincoln LS V6 with a manual transmission, we can expect it to be a fun car with enough performance to satisfy many enthusiast owners who like to use a manual gearbox.
This new entry-level S-Type will retail for $42,495, almost $2,000 less than the least-expensive 2002 S-Type model. At the other end of the scale, the S-Type R will empty $62,400 out of your bank account. Either one will appeal to enthusiasts. For the rest, Jaguar hopes potential buyers will be attracted by the S-Type's mid-life upgrade, the price of the most commonly equipped V6 will be around $45,000 while the V8 version will start at $49,975.
Jaguar hopes to double its sales in the U.S. in 2002 to around 90,000 cars. Judging from the way the 2003 S-Type has improved and the range expanded at the low- and high-end, the company should have no trouble meeting its goal. The new S-Type goes on sale in May 2002.
Used 2003 Jaguar S-Type Overview
The Used 2003 Jaguar S-Type is offered in the following submodels: S-Type Sedan, S-Type R. Available styles include V6 4dr Sedan (3.0L 6cyl 5M), V8 4dr Sedan (4.2L 8cyl 6A), and R 4dr Sedan (4.2L 8cyl S/C 6A). Pre-owned Jaguar S-Type models are available with a 3.0 L-liter gas engine or a 4.2 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 390 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2003 Jaguar S-Type comes with rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed manual, 6-speed automatic. The Used 2003 Jaguar S-Type comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. powertrain warranty.
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Should I lease or buy a 2003 Jaguar S-Type?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.