Used 2003 Jaguar S-Type Review

Edmunds expert review

Currently the best Jaguar sedan available, substantial upgrades and refinements for 2003 make this timeless beauty even more appealing.

What's new for 2003

For the 2003 S-Type, Jaguar has redesigned the interior, upgraded its hardware and added models to the range. The model lineup includes the S-Type 3.0 SE and 3.0 Sport, 4.2 V8 and the supercharged R. The S-Type R is the most powerful Jaguar sedan ever created, making about 400 horsepower and moving from rest to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. A new five-speed manual transmission is attached to the 3.0-liter V6 this year, while a new six-speed automatic transmission puts V8 power to the rear wheels. The suspension is also new in front and heavily revised in the rear. New standard safety features include stability control, panic assist brakes, anti-whiplash front seats, dual-stage front airbags, side curtain airbags for front and rear occupants and power adjustable pedals with a memory feature. Jaguar has also stiffened the body structure, made slight revisions to the exterior styling and added xenon headlights as an option (standard on the R). Audiophiles can opt for the 320-watt Alpine sound system, and technology buffs will appreciate the new touchscreen telematics system with improved voice recognition.

Vehicle overview

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.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.