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Jaguar S-Type

The middle sibling in the Jaguar family is the rear-wheel-drive S-Type, which enters the new model year with several changes of note. Although most of the exterior changes are virtually unnoticeable, changes under the hood of the 4.2-liter and inside the cabin of all S-Types are much more palpable.

First of all, the 4.2-liter V-8 engine has been massaged to produce more power, up to 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. A new six-speed automatic transmission (the same unit found in the new BMW 745i, for one) promises to find the right ratio for any occasion. More frugal types may be drawn to the less expensive 3.0-liter V-6 model, which has 240 hp (plenty), better gas mileage and your choice of the new six-speed automatic or even a five-speed manual transmission.

Inside the cozy cabin, the goofy, cluttered dashboard of S-Types of yore has been replaced by one whose design mirrors that of other Jags: a better looking, more ergonomically correct design by all accounts. As befits a Jag, there is plenty of polished wood, creamy leather and shiny chrome to impart that dripping-in-luxury feel.

Big news this year, though, is the arrival of the meanest kitty in the litter, the S-Type R, which has a supercharged version of the 4.2-liter V-8 that produces 400 horsepower and 408 lb-ft of torque. Priced in the low $60K range, the R also has the 4.2's sophisticated 6-speed automatic transmission, but the lack of a true manual means that the M5 can keep its crown as the ultimate sports sedan of 2003. But the R sure looks the part, with 18-inch wheels, a wire mesh grill and blackened headlight and taillight surrounds.