Yep! The boy's done-good. I even have the fake Rolex Oyster which my father-in-law kindly brought back from Dubai perched, nice and conspicuously, on my wrist. My double-breasted cashmere and lambs wool navy blazer is married up to a pair of pristine cream-coloured slacks complete with sharply pressed creases, fit to slice tomatoes. The look is completed with a classic 'Bombay' navy and white striped cotton shirt teamed up with gold cufflinks and a silk (primrose yellow) polka dot tie, all perfectly done up with a classic Windsor knot. Brown leather brogues are polished up to near military standard, all because a motor car like the S-Type JAG deserves to be accompanied by suitably attired occupants.
One feels that a car such as the 1990's S-Type is assured "future classic" status. After all, it's the absolute epitome of understated British design. The S-Type has long remained an unsung hero that’s sure to gain popularity even amidst that most discerning of ranks - Jaguar aficionados.
Calm down fellas. Don't look so repulsed. Every classic has to start life somewhere? Look at early XJ's as a case in point. A few short years ago, reasonable examples were just seen as troublesome things built during the BL era. Consequently they weren't worth a carrot, like most used big cats. But now, really good early XJ's have become hard to find, so they fetch good money. And rightly so, because let's be honest, nothing shouts "JAGUAR!" quite like an early-vintage XJ6!
The 90's S-TYPE was actually conceived with nostalgia in-mind. In the 1990's, Brits went absolutely barmy about all-things 'retro'. With a brand new Millennium lurking just around the corner, even new-build homes were kitted out with classic Adam style fireplaces and chair rails. Brown furniture was all the rage. Rover 75's (the absolute epitome of automotive retro) were proudly parked on the brick-paved driveways. Even Rolls-Royce were at it when they introduced the Silver Seraph, a model which just oozes very deliberate hints of their illustrious lineage. So, not to be left out, Jaguar designed the S-TYPE with styling cues that unashamedly harked back to the gracefully-styled model (and its namesake) from the 1960s.
Launched at the 1998 British Motor Show, at the same time as the aforementioned Rover 75, the new S-TYPE went on sale in March the following year. Under Ford management, this was Jaguar’s first punt at tackling the highly lucrative executive market which had thus-far been dominated by BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
BMW's 5-Series and Mercedes' E-Class saw their designers express their models' undoubted cutting-edge prowess by dressing them with equally modernistic outward designs. On the other hand, Jaguar styled the S-TYPE with heritage and pedigree firmly on center stage. Many pundits criticised the new JAG as being a rather poor replica of a gold-standard icon. The fact that the new baby JAG sat on a lowly Ford platform (shared with the American Ford Lincoln) didn’t altogether please those finicky Jaguar aficionados either. And then, there was the small matter of the interior. By traditional Jaggy standards, it just seemed too plasticky and rather fake with too many components lifted directly from the Ford parts bin, albeit dressed up with a few chrome embellishments to help bling things up a little.
All this retro stuff should have made the S-TYPE a tough car to sell in a market that was dominated by cutting-edge looks and up-to-the-minute technology. Back in the day, it was all about cramming modernistic cars with the very latest kit. Despite it all, the baby JAG actually found a dedicated stream of buyers. Deservedly so, despite its love-it or loathe-it styling.
At launch, the S-TYPE's V6 and V8 engines were well-matched to the car. Both combined refinement with performance. The seamless automatic gearbox provided the kind of relaxed driving that was synonymous with most traditional Jaguar saloons of old; a far cry from those more aggressive, wooden-wheeled German rivals. If armchair comfort and effortless cruising was more desirable than dominance of the fast lane, the S-TYPE was the car!
Our lustrous future classic combines plenty of smoothness with ample performance. This isn't to suggest that the S-TYPE was just a long-legged, point-and-shoot cruiser with little by way of handling. Whilst we've already concluded that the S-TYPE did unruffled mile-munching rather well, this talent was allied to decent ride and handling too. And just in case buyers thought that the Jaguar campus had forsaken their marque's sporting heritage, the company endowed this luxury saloon with a much harder edge when the R variant was introduced.
Lucky R model owners got a supercharged V8 engine, complete with no fewer than 400 eager horses. That's enough to propel the S-TYPE in excess of 60-mph in just 5.6 seconds. The S-TYPE R was embellished with purposeful styling both inside and out. This astonishingly beautiful car made a bold statement intended to demonstrate that this great British marque was more than capable of showing both Munich and Stuttgart that performance still lay at the heart of the Jaguar ethos. Punchier R models still have a healthy following to this day.
But if break-neck speed isn't a priority, rest assured that S-TYPE buyers often simply seek that legendary Jaguar comfort and refinement. These retro Jags still provide it by the bucketful. Later, updated S-TYPES lost that initial interior 'plastickiness' with the opulence of the full wood & leather treatment once again pleasing the die-hard traditionalists. Whilst the venerable S-TYPE was eventually phased out and replaced by the much more contemporary and sophisticated XF in 2008, S-TYPE Jaguars still feel like a plush and airy environment in which to tackle those long, arduous road trips.
Despite all the naysayers, the 'Marmite' styling of the S-TYPE is maturing quite nicely. When you consider how much motor car you'll be getting for your money, a good S-TYPE represents ridiculously good value.
In the world of classic cars, prices are inevitably all over the place. There are dreamers out there who will be asking high prices for absolute sheds. This applies no matter what make you're interested in. The general rule of thumb is buy carefully. The more you spend initially, the chances are, the less time you're likely going to be spending getting to know your mechanic on an almost intimate basis. If you stumble across a cherished low-mile minter, it may be worth dishing out the extra cash all at the offset rather than keep pouring it incrementally into an old money pit.
Of course, all cars have their list of favourite glitches. Corrosion and electrical problems can raise their ugly heads in S-TYPES. But once you've bagged a beauty, there may be rewards waiting not too far down the line. When all the shoddy ones have vanished into the gaping jaws of the crusher, those leftover will have "Classic Jaguar" written all over them. And that, dear friends, will be a result.
Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring.
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