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2005 Luxury  Buyer's Guide

by Martha Hindes

2005 Jaguar S-Type
2005 Jaguar S-Type

Take a line of cars awaiting a valet at a red-carpeted entrance. Despite their heady prices, some can be hard to distinguish without glancing at the identifying badge, front or rear. Not so with the Brit-proud jungle cat, Jaguar, that in nearly all modes seems instantly identifiable. Sinuous haunches, scoop nose, supple skin that covers undulating crests that "V" back vertically from rounded, chrome-rimmed headlamps. Passion. Some Jag owners claim ownership of the word in the "Where does car end and driver begin?" spirit.

Yes, there are Jaguars that skim the six-digit price range, especially when loaded with all the goodies that are second nature to such a premier class luxury sedan. But a nice surprise for '05 is the mid-term update of the S-Type that brings true opulence and the lunging feline hood crest to a broader group of aficionados, at about half the outlay.

True luxury got full attention in the S-Type's latest revision, with more leather, wood veneer or available "technical" (and classically Jaguar) aluminum trim inside. They complement the cleaner-lined dash, subtly muted or two-toned interiors, optional adjustable foot pedals and two message centers to eliminate searching for information. Longer, stronger exterior lines give a more assertive look. The lower, broader grille -- now on an even plane with headlamps -- demands respect, and raised rear fenders lend a sense of speed to match the S-Type's swift zero to 60, and beyond, capability.

At heart of S-Type's rear-drive performance is the now standard super-smooth, six-speed ZF transmission that responds to both road and driver inputs. (Say it properly "Zed Eff," to win knowledgeable driver points.) Mated with a tweaked suspension and 3.0-liter V-6 or 4.2-liter V-8 (plain or sport package supercharged), it improves low-end grip true to its cat-heritage. All versions have available 18-inch wheels.

Jag has used an aluminum hood to shave weight, improve balance and enhance performance. The Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) means more supple, yet aggressive handling, particularly on the ribbon curves of narrow cliff-hugging roadways that seem to have been designed to show off this cat's prowess. ("Poise" under pressure to use Jaguar's descriptive word.)

Safety features include brake assist, ultrasonic occupant sensing, ultra-strengthened passenger cage and deformable fuel tank. Loads of technologically advanced features would outpace our space to list.

Bottom line: This is one "growler" with the instinct to hunt down the competition.


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