As you long time CC hangers-on know, I now have three classic cars from the late 50s/early 60s in my stable. But the fact is you really need a “modern” car for day-to-day reliability. So I thought I’d share my experience owning this used Jaguar S-Type, one of the few modern cars I could find that really appealed to me on an emotional level.
Before I bought the Jag, I had been driving this 1991 Chrysler Imperial. (Sadly, I don’t have good pictures of it, so I had to snag this photo from an old Google street view.) Now the Imperial was one gem of a car, but I had been driving it for a long time. Also, I broke a plastic trim piece below the headlights while polishing with a buffer. And you know how when you break something and it can’t be fixed, and it’s staring you in the face all the time? Well, that’s how I felt about it.
Now I always liked these S-Types, even when they first came out in 2000. There were other similar “retro” cars introduced around the same time: the Volkswagen New Beetle, the 2002 Ford Thunderbird, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, etc. But I liked the Jaguar S-Type the best.
So because I’m always cruising Craigslist, I finally found one locally–for $3,200! (Quite a difference from the $42,000 list price in 2005). “Yeah, you know–depreciation, man!” as Ray Charles would say in The Blues Brothers. 🙂
And it was red; that was important. Specifically Radiance Red. I thought the S-Type looked best in that color. I also liked Jaguar Racing Green, British Racing Green and Seafrost as well. Pacific Blue (an elegant deep blue) might also be nice. But all of these colors were rarely ordered–most S-Types are silver, white, or some shade of gray.
I think the designers did a good job reinterpreting classic Jaguar styling cues into a modern form:
The 2005 version was altered in small ways from the original 2000 model. Specifically, the taillights are different, the dashboard was revised, and a new transmission was introduced.
The classic Leaper–little touches like this make the car really special. This Jaguar is not just another “rolling appliance”–I get a lot of compliments on it!
Inside–lap of luxury! Real wood and Italian leather abound (It’s a Jaguar, after all!) I put in a custom shift knob with polished blue/green marble insert with silver Jaguar insignia.
Back seat is OK for children and dogs, but not adults for a trip of any length. However, both seat backs fold down, extending trunk load space. I’ve been able to bring home many large, bulky Craigslist treasures that wouldn’t otherwise fit because of this wonderful feature!
But what is this car like to drive? Well, overall, very nice! It feels like it cost $42,000, but that’s hard to express in words. The engine (base 3.0 liter V6) is about as smooth, quiet, and powerful as you would ever want. Most of the time the engine is nearly silent, except when you step on it and then you hear a muted, but powerful “growl”. The transmission is not as smooth as I’d like it to be, especially the 1-2 shift; but it has six speeds which gives you the kind of performance and economy you want, and most of the time it’s OK.
The ride is firm yet supple–I would call it an excellent “touring suspension”. The power steering is taut and responsive yet very easy–this was the greatest contrast with the ’91 Imperial, which required constant little corrections on the highway and the steering felt rather “numb”. In short, this Jaguar is a precision instrument with a high degree of refinement.
Ford owned Jaguar at this time, and many components are sourced from Ford. However, the car was made in England and has decidedly different looks and personality from contemporary Fords. That Ford DNA is probably the reason I have not had too much trouble with this Jag. I’ve had to spend a fair amount to get the Check Engine, ABS, and Traction Control lights to go out, and I needed all new brakes, but that’s not too bad for an 18 year old car with 122,000 miles. Good kitty!
The problem is, eventually this car may become too old for daily driver use. What will I replace it with? My previous DDs include a 1987 Pontiac Grand Prix (in black), the ’91 Imperial, and this Jaguar. What recent cars have that same kind of classical elegance and élan?
Some candidates I’ve been considering:
2008-2013 Cadillac CTS. It has a definite Cadillac identity. One thing I don’t like is the way the sheet metal is formed around the rear wheel. Looks ill-proportioned somehow. Harley Earl’s GM would never put out something like this!
2010-2012 Lincoln MKZ. I’ve never owned a Lincoln before. The grille evokes the first Lincoln Continental. The interior seems quite nice. And there are three chrome stars on the front clip!
2017-2020 Lincoln Continental. May be out of my price range. Coach doors would be nice, but probably unobtainable. The “Butt-Head mouth” grille is not the prettiest thing ever. Is this as good an investment as buying a $13,000 1957-58 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham in 1964 for $950?
Those are the only ones I can think of right now. Any other suggestions? Too bad Packard went out of business–I’m sure they’d be building something I’d like. Or would they?