This review was conducted in various areas of beautiful Duluth, MN. I wrote this because I love automobiles and love driving and writing about them.
Man was I excited for this. First time driving a rear wheel drive car! And it has a V8! Driving mostly front wheel drive vehicles throughout my life, I could only ever read about the glory that is rear wheel drive.
As I sat down in the drivers seat of the S-Type, some of the things I've read about rear drive cars flooded my mind:
"It frees up the front wheels so they can focus on turning"
"Sick nasty doughnuts"
"The Miata is RWD so every car should be."
I turned the key, awaiting the muscular explosion of eargasmic revs that I'd expect from a V8.
Instead I'm greeted with a muted low rumble as the engine calmly readies itself to be put to use. You could say I was a little disappointed, but really I wasn't. It's a Jaguar, not a Camaro.
Camaro or not, a V8 is still cause to raise my eye. This particular V8 cranks out 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Yeah ok, it's not a lot, but it's the highest horsepower car I've ever driven, and just knowing that made me think it was going to be awesome. So was it? Sort of. It pulls very strongly and was plenty to move the 4000ish lbs of heft that is the S-Type to sixty miles per hour in a bit under seven seconds. Once it's past the lower parts of the rev range (past 3000ish RPM) the torque can really be felt. All in all, Jag's lil V8 in the S-Type is everything it's meant to be: refined, smooth and powerful enough.
Power goes to the rear through a six-speed auto that shifts so smoothly the only way to notice shifts is by watching the RPMs drop when the next gear is slotted. But the best part about it is the Sport setting. Next to the shifter is a big "S" button that toggles the transmission's sport mode. All it does is move the shift points to slightly higher RPMs. It's completely unnoticeable, even if the accelerator is to the floor, I couldn't see or feel any difference in the shift points. Oh well, still kinda cool to have a sport button, even if it does nothing more than light up.
Driving around town, I got a sense of how the S-Type is meant to be driven. It rides very well but seems to have worn out shocks. The car crashed over certain bumps that most cars would've gone over with more stability. It's happiest just cruising around, doing everything smoothly. And by everything I really mean it. It's so easy to drive this thing, it's like driving a car that is actually melted butter slowly flowing over popcorn. I felt obligated to make all of my movements as smooth as possible. Even stuff like moving my hand over to the window toggle switch. I was pretty damn graceful sitting in there. The break pedal has no dead zone and very smooth and consistent with increased pressure. The accelerator has an obvious mush zone at the top of travel to prevent lurching forward. The mush zone does it's job but often caused slow or delayed starts until I got used to it.
I reached the portion of my test route that's full of tight hairpins and turns that are seemingly sculpted just for us enthusiasts. The S-Type attacked the turns with nearly as much understeer as my front drive Impala. However, lift off the throttle a bit and then reapply it upon exiting the turn and the car will glide around corners with surprising composure. Feeling the car shift its weight as it goes from turn to turn is very satisfying but wasn't all that different from the front and all wheel drive vehicles I've driven in the past. What was better was the steering. Handling that steering wheel was a joy. It felt better than almost every car I've driven. The weighting felt right, the speed felt right and I couldn't help but marvel at just how right the steering felt.
Going down the winding and steep Piedmont Avenue allowed me to test out the Jag's down hill speed control ability. I was able to set the cruise at 42 miles per hour and it stayed there without an ounce of input from me. Nice. Onto the interstate, the S-Type cruises along like ore ship cutting through the calmest sea. Swapping lanes like a pro and merging into traffic effortlessly.
Going up the steep 21st Avenue E, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Jag has hill start assist. 21st Avenue E is littered with stoplights, which makes rolling back upon releasing the brakes inevitable in cars without this lovely gizmo. Besides the stops, the car powered up the hill easily.
The interior is quite handsome and comfortable. Wood trim and leather are the highlights and seem to fit well with the style of the car. There's a decent amount of lowish quality plastic but it doesn't ruin it. The drivers seat is quite comfortable with the best lumbar support adjustment I've ever used. The set of gauges are very simple and clear and there's a lovely little message screen that can inform the driver of something as common as an unbuckled passenger to a failed brake light.
From the outside, the S-Type is less pleasing. A wise informant told me it looks like a corrupt politician's car. I guess that makes sense. Its whole frontal profile just doesn't really have much if any appeal. The weird oval grill with the bulbous quad headlights kinda make me cringe. But looking at the rear and side profile, it looks alright.
Overall, my first rear wheel drive car experience was a good one. Not as good as expected but it was still one to remember. I'll have to wait for a real performance focused RWD car to fully exploit the benifit a it. For having 117,000 miles, the S-Type performed very well. It's a good car and I'm very thankful to the fine folks who let me test it out.
2004 Jaguar S-Type 4.2 V8 ~ 117,000 miles
Seats 5 (Including driver)
Engine: AJ33 4.2L DOHC V8 300 HP@6000RPM, 310lb-ft torque@4100RPM
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
EPA Gas Mileage Figures: 16 Ctiy/25 Highway
Thanks For Reading
Photos by TheJacobJones