Jaguar's supercharged S-Type offers M5-rivalling performance for less money, making it a scorching family-friendly bargain.
Jaguar's riposte to the E39-generation BMW M5 was to fit an Eaton supercharger to the rather underrated S-Type. The result was a four-door executive saloon that just happened to serve up 400bhp and the ability to blast your way to 155mph in leather-lined luxury.
While it's the Munich-crafted super-caloon that's more in demand 13 years later, the S-Type R offers similar performance for a smaller outlay, making it a family-friendly saloon with sure-fire future classic credentials.
All are fitted with the blown, 4.2-litre version of Jaguar's AJV8 engine and a six-speed ZF autobox, with the only major update coming in 2004 when some of its busier lines were tidied up as part of a facelift for the entire S-Type range.
Today, the R represents one of the best value routes into performance Jaguar ownership, with prices hitting the bottom of their depreciation curve. It's also the rarest, best-equipped and fastest of the modern S-Types, so now is definitely the time to buy one.
Torque 408lb ft@3500rpm
Maximum speed 155mph
0-60mph 5.3 sec
Fuel consumption 20-27mpg
Transmission RWD, six-speed auto
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
A common S-Type R niggle is the water pipe beneath the supercharger failing. The component itself only costs about £20, but relacing it involves lifting out the supercharger to gain access, so labour costs quickly stack up. Check carefully to see if there are tell-tale antifreeze stains around the pipe, and haggle accordingly if you know if needs replacing.
The rear suspension arm bushes are prone to wearing out - particularly if the car's been used hard throughout its life - so check them carefully for signs of perishing or flexing. The good news is that you can buy the bushes independently of the arm itself, which keeps costs down.
Get into gear
The six-speed ZF autobox should be as silky smooth as you'd expect a Jaguar to be. On a good example, the shifts will feel seamless - walk away from anything that isn't. Earlier models suffered from a jerky shift due to an electrical glitch, but this fauly should have been ironed out years ago during ECU upgrades. Any problems later in life caused by hard us will be trickier to sort, particularly as the unit is sealed for life.
Don't mix up the coolant
The cooling system is generally reliable, but watch out for cars that have been given the wrong type of coolant. Jaguar specified a red coolant that's not meant to be mixed with regular antifreeze. Blend the two and a thick sludge forms, which eventually leads to overheating - take the radiator cap off and make sure there isn't any.
Check the sills
Jaguar's ability to keep rust at bay has improved markedly, but the S-Type R isn't immune, and pre-facelift cars are particularly susceptible. The key place to check is around each sill - it's covered by a panel which over time can trap water, so look for any signs of rust or discolouration. Poorly-repaired bodywork is a magnet for rust too, so keep an eye open for clues that the S-Type you're looking at might have been repaired on too tight a budget.
The inside story
The R's leather-lined cabin tends to be generally free form niggles, but watch out for heaters and air conditioning systems playing up - though faults here will most likely be down to easily replaceable valves. A more qorrying sign is an S-Type interior that's ageing prematurely, with wear visible on the driver's seat leather and the steering wheel, which can indicate the car's been clocked.
The S-Type offers M5-baiting performance for less cash and it's still at the bottom of its depreciation curve.
Its looks may be love-it-or-loathe-it, but once you're inside, the supercharged V8 offers up effortless performance and more practicality than the XKR and XKJ models of the same era.
Earlier cars in particular have a few glitches to look for, but choose carefully and you can get one of Jaguar's supersaloon greats before the classic world cottons on and starts to push up prices.