JAGUAR S-TYPE

SUPERCHARGED V8, FOUR DOORS, REAR-WHEEL DRIVE AND MORE LEATHER THAN A MAX MOSLEY BIRTHDAY PARTY. HEREíS WHAT TO KNOW WHEN BUYING YOURSELF ONE OF JAGíS SNEAKIEST KITTIES

S-TYPE VITAL CHECKS

EVER SINCE the demise of the original S-Type in 1968, Jaguar had just two relatively costly models to sell - a big sedan and a grand tourer. What it needed was a high-volume, compact sedan, but there wasnít the cash to develop one - until Ford took control in 1990. However, this new sedan wouldnít appear until October 1998, just before Jaguar became part of Fordís Premier Automotive Group.

í99 TO í07 YEARS IN PRODUCTION

Built on an all-new platform, the nineties S-Type came with new manual and automatic gearboxes, fresh suspension systems, plus a new steering setup. Despite all of this technology, the S-Typeís suit was unashamedly retro, and it was a design that polarised opinions like few cars of the time.

Now, if you do your homework, you could land the executive bargain of the year, but you must be very careful. Many examples are afflicted by electrical and electronic glitches that can be hard or even impossible to fix. But the S-Type will happily rack up huge kays if itís exercised and maintained regularly, and as a long-distance tourer it can provide exceptional value.

Those qualities put the V8 models (atmo and supercharged 4.2-litre engines) in favour with judges at our 2002 Bang For Your Bucks and 2003 Performance Car of the Year tests, with the keys being hotly contested for road loops. Theyíre also the S-Types that provide the most fun and collectability - especially the R. With its 298kW/553Nm supercharged V8 you might think theyíll know you on a first name basis at the local servo, but as long as you donít mash the pedal to the metal at every opportunity, fuel economy is actually pretty palatable.

Itís also no sook in a straight line, recording a 0-100km/h time of 5.81 seconds before going on to cover the quarter mile in 14.05sec. Thatís in 2002 - pretty okay for a ZF six-speed auto lugging some 1800kg. We said; ď400hp in the old money always feels good and in the right case, itís downright inspiring.Ē The judges also applauded the S-Type Rís aforementioned plush ride quality, communicative steering and ability to manage its weight. It finished in a commendable second place in the $140K-plus category, behind the Mercedes-Benz C32 AMG.

Ultimately, high-spec S-Types are in the greatest demand, so itís worth seeking out a car with desirable extras such as parking sensors, adaptive cruise and Jaguarís CATS electronically controlled suspension, the latter standard on the R.

However, theyíre also hard to find. Few were sold in Oz new and the initial asking price for the R was $162,000. Depreciation, however, has not been kind to this big cat, meaning if you find one, you wonít be paying more than around $25K-$30K. Hereís what to look out for when buying a used S-Type.

BODYWORK Many of the earliest S-Types are now suffering from structural corrosion, but 2002/2003 or newer cars donít tend to give problems. Stone chips are common inside all four wheelarches and on the bonnet. The former is what causes the most headaches as the stone chips turn to corrosion and the panels rot from the inside out.

Repairs at the front arenít possible as the metal is so thin - new front guards are the only solution and they bolt on. At the rear, items must be repaired, but doing this cheaply is difficult. If looking at an early car, check for repairs in the quarter panels towards the back of the rear wheelarches. Rot here is often patched up to sell the car on but the rust will be back within six months. Proper repairs are possible though.

The boot seals can fail, allowing water into the luggage bay. This wreaks havoc with the electrics as the battery is in the boot, and the parking aid module if parking sensors are fitted.

OILY BITS Jaguarís pre-2001 V8 4.0-litre has a reputation for destroying itself, thanks to its Nikasil-lined bores being eroded by petrol with a high sulphur content. However, the troublesome V8s have invariably been low-mileage units which have been run cold much of the time. Be wary of starting issues or hazy emissions after start-up. Horror stories of new engines being required are common, but in reality few cars have needed a replacement powerplant.

Itís thought that fuel isnít the issue, with experts saying that the problem occurs because of the way the software is written to cope with flooding. A lack of compression, with the crank spinning and the engine failing to start, are tell-tale symptoms. The root of the problem seems to surround using the incorrect oil grade. Using 10W/40 semi-synthetic oil creates problems due to the high carbon content, which leads to a massive loss of compression. Fully synthetic 5W/30 oil fixes this.

A more common issue with the V8 is the secondary timing chain being thrown off after the plastic top tensioner has cracked. The engine is rarely wrecked but a new pair of chains and an alloy tensioner will be needed. Expect costs to double if a replacement engine is required. While the S-Type Rís V8 is strong, the rubber hose beneath the supercharger perishes. It needs to be replaced every eight years or so, at about $1000.

Most S-Type V8s have a five- or six-speed auto, which can fail after just 100,000km. Even when healthy, the changes can be jerky, but a full service and a software update might smooth things out. On pre-2002 cars the gearboxes can be fixed with some new components and a fresh electronic control body. Later cars need a rebuilt transmission instead.

All S-Types have power steering and faults are rare. The suspension is more troublesome as the balljoints wear in the front links, requiring the whole link to be replaced. The typical lifespan is 95,000 to 110,000km. Post-2002 cars have a redesigned part thatís more durable, but not interchangeable.

The rear suspension bottom wishbone bushes collapse, and the whole wishbone has to be replaced. Parts prices vary according to build year, but the XJís wishbones are cheapest of all and a direct swap. Shock absorbers last well but the front damper bushes of post-2002 cars wear quickly. In the front suspension on all post-2001 cars thereís a lower arm known as the Ďbanana armí, which suffers from failed bushes; listen for knocking under braking.

THE JUDGES APPLAUDED THE RíS PLUSH RIDE, STEERING AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT

ONE

Replace the rear mufflers with straight pipe and the R gains one hell of a raspy V8 exhaust note. Bit of blower whine, too

TWO

Gearbox supposedly sealed for life, but needs servicing every 95,000km. The electronic parking brake can be unreliable with the motor failing

THREE

Steel brake pipes corrode, but copper replacements are available. Brake servos can also fail as a result of water ingress

FOUR

This is the blown V8 but there was an atmo 4.2-litre as well, producing a healthy 224kW/420Nm; good for a 15.2sec quarter

03 OTHER OPTIONS CONSIDER

C5 AUDI RS6

All-wheel drive, two body styles (Sedan and Avant) and a twin-turbo V8 (331kW/580Nm) made the firstgeneration C5 RS6 a different, but very potent combination. To round out the C5 production run, the wagon-only í04 RS6 Plus upped the game to 353kW (torque remained unchanged). This resulted in a 0-100km/h launch in 4.4sec before going on to a 280km/h top speed.

E39 BMW M5

At the time, we said the E39 BMW M5 was ďsuper quick, sounds great and carries four in comfortĒ. A departure from inline sixes that had traditionally powered the M5, the S62 4.9-litre V8 produced a healthy 294kW/500Nm. We ran 5.24sec to 100km/h and a 13.47sec quarter mile. Plus with an LSD, rear drive and a six-speed manual, it lived up to the driverís car ethos.

MERCEDES-BENZ E55 AMG

We said the E55 was a ďhairychested, agile gorillaĒ at PCOTY 2003. And with a supercharged 5.4-litre V8 pumping out 350kW and 700Nm, it had no trouble finishing fourth overall. Despite tipping the scales at 1825kg and using a five-speed auto, we managed 4.81sec to 100km/h. It also came as a wagon. Yes, please!

TRIM AND ELECTRICS The leather interiors are durable and the electric adjustment rarely gives problems. But do be wary of cream-coloured leather, as it cracks more readily.

There are numerous potential electrical problems, such as faulty alarm systems, snapped electric window cables and failed central locking motors. Wiper linkage joints also wear and catch on the bonnet. On cars with Xenon lights, headlamp bulb replacement means removing the front bumper.

The wiring loom goes brittle and see if the heater works properly. If itís permanently hot or cold the wiring will need some TLC. On cars with touch-screen multimedia the remote control heater modules fail, but they can be repaired cheaply. Replacing the heater valve is useful preventative maintenance.

Despite issues, the S-Type (in R form) is a luxe, loveable, rear-drive V8 thatíll powerslide till the cows come home and rocket you down a straight road. And weíre okay with that.