Jaguar’s new S-type: from a purr to a racy roar
The Premier Automotive Group, which imports Jaguars to Korea, seemed to have found a way to strike a fashionable chord among 1,000 Koreans in their 20s and 30s, with a car whose image has long been of a silver-maned grand dame cruising Bel Air in an ivory sedan. The general manager, Lee Dong-hoon, who has been in the Korean luxury automobile business for the past decade, aspires to pump up sales of Jaguar from 600 per year to as many as 2,000 annually, and sees great potential for the already popular S-Type. Unveiled at the Birmingham International Motor Show in 1998, the S-Type has become a symbol of the new generation of Jaguar. The New S-Type, introduced in Korea in 2002, is an upgraded model with a six-step automatic gear shift, a 5x3 inch touch screen and improved suspension in a curvaceously lean silhouette.
Within the Jaguar’s sleek body in “British Racing Green,” the experience becomes understated elegance on wheels for young urban professionals, who by day work in towering skyscrapers, by night sip martinis at uber-chic bars, and on weekends opt for horseback riding right outside the city. In the language of fashion, Jaguar’s New S-Type is not a flashy Versace but a new Hermes by Jean-Paul Gaultier. The modernized look is new but not conspicuously so, as it often receives double takes from passers-by, young and old, once they spot the shining silver emblem ― a leaping jaguar ― between its tubular headlights. The point of the redesign was not to induce green envy but rather subtle admiration of a classy choice.
Once ignited, the 3.0 liter-V6 engine atop the sturdy 17-inch wheels bursts into life. The classic-looking dashboard is a combination of glossy wood and “Warm Charcoal” pleather panels, with the pleather extending to the rest of the interior. The front seats as well as three glare-proof mirrors, which provide excellent visibility even on rainy nights, are easy to adjust.
The touchscreen, the most prominent feature in the front, was designed for a GPS navigator, but the test-drive car lacked the program. Thus, the screen’s use was limited to controlling the radio, fan and audio system, which was frustratingly minimal with only elementary functions, such as Play, Pause, Repeat and the like, supplying music from one CD player with a 6-CD changer hidden in the trunk. Unlike most luxury sedans designed for the big boss in the back seat, the rear seats have no super-fancy functions: no reading lights, hyper-sensitive seat adjustments or control pads for optional whatevers. For the athletic driver, there’s a a space for skis extending from the spacious trunk through the arm rest in the back seat, with a protective cover and a secure belt. One advanced technological feature is a parking brake in the form of a small button, not a conventional pull-on stick or strap. In short, the car is a 4.9-meter (16 foot) long and 1.8-meter wide deluxe sedan ― minus all the frills.
Press the “S” or “sports” button, and it’s all about a rush of endorphines hitting the endless road ― the car, myself and my spirit blast forward, quickly stabilizing at the maximum allowable speed. On expressways, the effect is cinematic, with the rpm needle swinging at 6,000 and the car’s handling clearly indicating it could go much, much faster. The Jaguar, whose maximum speed on the dial reads 280, growls like a sexy, feisty F1 racing car ― without losing its cool. At that menacing velocity, this Jaguar won’t even bat an eyelid, a definite wow-factor.
Back to reality on local roads, I tried the manual drive setting. The car cruises as if set on automatic so, when I forgot to change the gear, the car adjusted by itself anyway, until I noticed the gear shift was still in third.
When driven between 60 and 80 km/h with the sunroof fully open, the car’s interior air pressure creates a weird ear-numbing noise. The only way, I found, to override it was to either pump up the dance music to mask the annoying sound, or to avoid that speed range.
On a sunny Seoul mid-afternoon, the young Jaguar seemed elegantly well-tamed, and my entire body entered the blissful state of a whirlwind ― half tropical warmth blowing in from outside and half icy breeze blasting from the air vents. If that’s not the joy of urban driving, I don’t know what is.
The price of a Jaguar S-Type is 85,800,000 won ($86,000) in Korea.
by Ines Cho