With launch pledges that include fixed-price servicing, Jaguar's traditional highly-competitive pricing structure plus an exceptionally strong showing in the recent JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey, where the larger XJ saloon series came third overall, the future looks bright for the company's products. This is truly a Jaguar that comes within reach of middle-ranking executives hungry for status and the appeal of a car with real heritage.
But the greater accessibility that the S-type brings to the Jaguar range needs to be handled carefully as it could dilute the very reason for buying into the brand. Jaguar prides itself on exclusivity, and the very fact that the S-type is set to double Jaguar's worldwide sales to some 85,000 units in 1999, rising to over 90,000 by 2000, could be as problematical as it is profitable. It's especially relevant when you consider that the company's next car, the BMW 3-series-sized model codenamed X400, is set to debut in 2001 and will open up Jaguar ownership to an even wider audience.
With just 6,000 units earmarked for the UK in the rest of 1999, customers ordering a car today can expect a delivery delay of nine months to a year. For the moment, however, the S-type is a landmark car for Jaguar. Marketed as a 'baby' Jaguar, it is actually taller and wider than a standard wheelbase XJ, though it is some 20cm shorter. In fact, the casual observer might even class the S as the bigger car, testament, if any were needed, to the svelte XJ's slimline looks.
With an entry price of ú28,300 for the 240bhp 3.0-litre manual, the S-type is extremely competitively priced compared with its rivals. Automatic transmission is an extra ú1,100 while the better-equipped SE model, which includes leather trim and bigger alloys, is ú33,150. At the top of the range is the 4.0-litre V8 at ú37,600, powered by the same 281bhp engine as used in the XJ and XK series cars.
Tested here is the entry model 3.0-litre manual, at ú28,300 on the road.