Part of the S-type's seductive quality on road trips, long or short, was its accomplished blend of a responsive chassis and a creamy ride. Helping our car's double-wishbone suspension achieve this feat was Jaguar's optional CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension), which automatically switches the dampers between soft and firm settings. Unfortunately, as the miles accumulated, the ride became noticeably ragged, with the S-type transmitting an un-Jaguar-like amount of impact harshness to the cabin. In addition, the brakes always felt undersized, requiring more pedal pressure and travel than we would have liked. The steering, however, was spot-on in its quickness and effort. Curiously, for 2001, Jaguar has switched to a ZF power steering unit, which the company says improves steering feel and isolation. We drove a 2001 model, and, despite those contradictory claims, the steering felt pretty much the same, but that's fine with us.
Also revised for 2001 was the S-type's standard voice-recognition system, which allows the driver to control the stereo, the climate control, and the integrated cellular phone via spoken commands. We found the feature rather silly. You have to push a button on the steering wheel to activate it, and then the system repeats your command back to you before taking action--unless it didn't understand you, in which case you have to say it again. Makes one just want to reach over and turn up the radio oneself.
Our S-type, ordered with the deluxe communication package, was veritably stuffed with electronics. In addition to the voice-recognition system, it had a navigation system, which was roundly criticized for the spotty coverage of its mapping software, as well as parking sensors in the rear bumper, which twice failed and necessitated two trips to the shop. We also had the seat heaters quit and the nav system black out. (That our only problems with the S-type were electrical in nature undoubtedly has owners of Lucas-era Jags nodding their heads.)
Besides filling our car with electronics of dubious value, our inability to exercise the slightest restraint with the option order form--we checked all the boxes--pushed our S-type's sticker price from $48,000 to $57,095, a figure that gave nearly everyone pause.
Encouragingly, however, the value story is improving. For 2001, Jaguar has added new standard equipment to all S-types, particularly the 4.0. Additionally, the company now picks up the tab for the first four years or 50,000 miles of routine maintenance, which would have saved us $1052. Also, one body-side molding has been stripped off the exterior, so there's one fewer line cluttering up the side, and the interior has been spiffed up a bit with the addition of scuff plates for the rear doors. It appears that Jaguar is aware of its baby's weak spots and has begun to address them.
That's good. We'd like to see the S-type fulfill its promise as a Jaguar. The hard part, the engineering, is largely done. What's left is mostly cosmetic, getting the details right. Then we'd have an S-type that fully merits its enthusiastic public reception.