Used Car Bargain Buy: The Supercharged V8-Powered Jaguar S-Type R

Jaguar S-Type R 18 photos
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If you're a fan of early-2000s European performance sedans, the S-Type R is a rarer, more exotic BMW M5 or Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG alternative that's surprisingly cheap on the current used car market.
Introduced in late 1998 as a 1990 model, the mid-size luxury sedan sought to bring back the S-type nameplate after a thirty-year hiatus.

Apart from the nameplate, the design of the new S-Type was inspired by its spiritual successor, blending classic cues such as the round headlights and front grille shape with the modern styling language of late-1990s Jaguars.

In theory, this retro-inspired design sounded exciting, but after its debut, the new S-Type received a lot of criticism for its appearance.

However, while the looks left a lot to be desired in the eyes of many Jaguar enthusiasts, the luxury sedan's excellent road manners built quality, and engine lineup made it quite popular, particularly in the UK.

In 2004, the model was subtly redesigned, addressing some of the most nagging issues, but a year earlier, enthusiasts were given something even better to cheer about when Jaguar added the high-performance S-Type R version.

Aiming to compete with the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG

Jaguar S\-Type R
Photo: Bring a Trailer
While the standard S-Type competed directly with the E39 BMW 5 Series and the W211 Mercedes-Benz E class, it lacked a contender for its German rivals' high-performance M5 and the upcoming E55 AMG versions.

Jaguar filled the hole in its lineup for the 2003 model year when it launched the S-Type R, which, as expected, came with a slightly sportier appearance and a considerably more powerful V8.

In production until 2008, the S-Type R, didn't outperform its German rivals, so, consequently, it was far less succesful in terms of sales.

However, while it failed to become one of the decade's most iconic high-performance sedans, it was still a great, often underrated model.

It continues to be underrated today, two decades after its introduction, which is good news for performance sedan enthusiasts who want an affordable, yet rare, and somewhat exotic (particularly in places like the US) alternative to an M5 or E AMG from that era.

Powered by a supercharged V8

Jaguar S\-Type R
Photo: Bring a Trailer
In its most potent guise, the standard S-Type featured a Jaguar AJ-V8 engine. Until the 2003 model year, the naturally-aspirated unit displaced 4.0 liters and pushed out 272 hp.

From 2003 onwards, the S-Type received the upgraded 4.2-liter version of the engine, which came with an improved output, making 294 hp.

For the high-performance R version, Jaguar added an intercooled Eaton M112 supercharger to the 4.2-liter AJ, resulting in 398 hp and 408 lb-ft (553 Nm) of torque being sent to the rear wheels. In 2006, the engine received variable valve timing, leading to a little over 400 hp.

Unlike other powerplants, the supercharged engine could only be had with a six-speed J-Gate (ZF 6HP26) automatic.

While the standard, naturally-aspirated S-Type felt adequately powerful considering its 3,968-pound (1,800 kg) weight, the 100 additional horses of the R made it considerably more exciting.

A beefed-up suspension system and larger brakes

Jaguar S\-Type R
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Besides the supercharged, hand-assembled V8, the S-Type R received a series of chassis improvements worthy of a high-performance sedan.

The highly-praised suspension independent suspension system, comprised of an unequal-length wishbone setup front and rear, received stiffer shocks and springs, which improved rigidity without compromising the comfortable ride that everyone loved about the S-Type.

Like the standard S-Type, the R's shocks featured Jaguar's CATS adaptive damping system, which essentially switched between two damping settings electronically.

The brakes were also upgraded with larger-diameter rotors that could cope with the added power. Not only did they cope, but they excelled in stopping the heavy sedan surprisingly fast, earning rave reviews from automotive magazine editors who tested the R.

A more than adequate level of luxury and convenience

Jaguar S\-Type R
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Like its rivals, the S-Type R was a factory-built sleeper. Aesthetically, it didn't look much different from the standard S-Type, especially to the untrained eye.

It came with exclusive 18-inch rims with wider tires, less chrome trims, and a small, rear-mounted R badge, but other than that, it didn't stand out.

Inside, the R, just like the standard S-Type, was as luxurious, comfortable, and modern as any of its rivals. In fact, one could argue that the R's cabin was more impressive than that of an M5 or E55 AMG.

It featured an electronically adjustable steering column and heated power-adjustable bucket seats wrapped in high-quality leather.

It also came with a touchscreen infotainment system that's antiquated by current standards. However, modern plug-and-play Android-based aftermarket alternatives are available for anywhere from $300 to $1,000, depending on the screen size and performance specs.

A bargain on the used car market

Jaguar S\-Type R
Photo: Bring a Trailer
From 2003 to 2008, Jaguar built a little over 8,000 S-Type Rs, of which nearly half were exported to the US.

Today, this underrated Jag is far less popular than its rivals but also considerably cheaper.

According to, the model has an average value of $13,063. Well-kept examples with decent mileage go for around $9,000, while mint, low-mileage units rarely exceed $15,000.

Is it worth buying one?

Jaguar S\-Type R
Photo: Bring a Trailer
The short answer is yes, especially if you're looking for an affordable high-performance sedan and you want something other than a Bimmer or a Merc.

Still, you have to keep in mind that maintaining an S-Type R won't necessarily be cheap, particularly if you live in the US. Sure, the model was built on the Ford DEW98 platform, so some chassis components are easy to source and cheap. However, Jaguar parts will demand a lot more.

Nevertheless, the S-Type R is generally a reliable car that won't cause major headaches if properly maintained.

While the exterior design might require some getting used to if you're not a fan of its shapes, the luxurious interior, the precise handling, and the powerful engine make a used S-Type R a bargain buy.

Even today, 400 hp is an adequate figure for a high-performance car, and despite its age, the model will put a smile on your face when you floor the accelerator. Quiet at low rpm, the supercharged V8 really comes alive when pushed hard enough, and suddenly, the luxurious sedan will start feeling and sounding like a sports car, which is guaranteed to thrill even the most sophisticated enthusiast.

For a detailed review of the Jaguar S-Type R, we recommend watching the YouTube video below by Too Old Classics.

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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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