From The Australian
A supercharged V8 makes the S-type R a fast but not feral cat, writes Neil McDonald
Jaguar S-type R
Specs at time of test
Comment: Longer wheelbase than the Germans but styling compromises interior space. V8 is responsive and smooth. Secure, safe handling, prodigious levels of grip and that lush Jaguar ride. It's supremely confident through the twisty bits. Vastly improved ... build quality and interior fitout.P> Price: $162,000
Warranty: 3 years/100,000 km
Engine: 4.2-litre supercharged V8
Transmission: Rear-drive, six-speed auto only
Fuel tank: 69.5 litres
Fuel type: premium unleaded
Litres/100km: 14.5 city, 8.5 highway
Turning circle: 11.4m
ABS: Yes, with stability control
THIS big cat has just taken an angry swipe at the European performance car set. Like the Mercedes-Benz AMG E55 and BMW M5, the new S-type R is a stealth machine that delivers the automotive equivalent of viagra – hidden potency that blitzes when you least expect it.
In the R's case that's 298kW from its Eaton supercharged 4.2-litre V8.
At $162,000 R is the most powerful production Jag built and the range-topper of the vastly improved S-type range.
If your budget doesn't quite stretch to R territory there's a 2.5-litre V6 from $85,500 or normally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 at $112,000.
This big R follows the European line of thinking that mates enormously powerful and refined engines, meaty tyres and outstanding dynamics to sedans that don't need to visually remind you of their prowess.
It can rightly take its place beside the more expensive E55 and M5 – beefy V8s that go about their business with little outward fuss, save for subtle spoilers and wide tyres.
Jag's newcomer is also quite capable of keeping the Germans honest too.
From the outside it may carry all the quiet demeanour of a posh gentlemens' club, but unleashing the scorchingly quick tourer is like letting Ossy Osbourne loose at the club's annual general meeting.
At idle passengers are only vaguely aware of its potent bent eight as it gurgles a throaty melody through its chrome-tipped twin exhausts.
Once under way you've got a superbly smooth and responsive ZF six-speed automatic – shared with the BMW 7-Series – and a big fat torque band (a massive 553Nm at 3500rpm) to play with.
Around town the V8 is a pussy but once you plant the pedal it will leap aggressively to attention.
From 3500rpm the surge is tremendous. When pressed there's an aural sensation from the supercharger as it hums a purposeful tune.
For the speed demons the R will rush to 100km/h in just 5.6 seconds and has a governed top speed of 250kmh; academic really in all states except the Northern Territory.
There are few Euro sedans this side of the E55 AMG Merc or BMW 5 Series M that can match the Jag's confident linear pace.
The adaptive auto also boasts better engine response and almost imperceptible changes. It allows a "sport" mode for press-on enthusiastic driving, which cuts out sixth gear and stops hunting between shifts.
Conversely once cruising, sixth is reinstated for economy. Again it works without driver intervention, apart from pressing the accelerator.
Unfortunately Jaguar's J-gate selector doesn't offer the ultimate flexibility of a tiptronic system. Using the J-gate manually is a pain and ultimately it's best to leave the gearbox in D.
The R oozes subtlety.
The Coventry based luxury car maker has given it a mesh grille, bolder alloys and a very discreet rear spoiler. Understated "R" badging and huge new Brembo brake calipers further reveal its hidden potential.
The R also benefits from the substantial makeover of the Series II S-type.
There's 10 per cent stiffer body, more stylish dash and finally, a user-friendly centre console. New lightweight aluminium front and rear suspensions save weight but the R is still a porky 1800kg.
Complementing all this is a brace of adaptive front, side and curtain airbags, climate control, trip computer, six-disc boot-mounted CD player, anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist and the usual array of convenience electrics.
The R also gains plush leather sports seats with electric memory.
The S-type uses an electronic handbrake, operated by a console mounted switch. It is applied automatically when the key is removed and released whenever the J-gate is moved from Park. In short, it works brilliantly.
And if you think the R performance comes at the expense of a luxury ride, remind yourself that this is a Jaguar and certain standards must be maintained, ride quality being one of them.
Equally the raw power of the V8 never compromises the impressive chassis dynamics thanks to Jaguar's computer-controlled suspension system (CATS) and dynamic stability control.
CATS fine tunes the adaptive dampers according to road conditions. Under acceleration, heavy braking or hard cornering it firms up to reduce body roll and aid stability.
When cornering it allows the inner wheels to have a softer setting while the outer wheels remain firm, thus delivering a more stable, flatter ride.
The beauty of the system is that it all happens automatically and creates a near-neutral handling car.
Despite prodigious grip and meaty 18-inch Continental tyres, the suspension retains a level of suppleness and compliance that Jags are renowned for and rough roads fail to unsettle it.
The levels of refinement are complemented by well-weighted steering, which delivers plenty of feedback and pin-sharp response.
Overall it's hard not to be impressed by the R.
However, the same quibbles that afflicted the Series I models carry over. Rear head and legroom is still tight for adults and boot space is only average.
If you explore the R's potential fuel consumption will also take a hammering. Fortunately this time around the quality is flawless. Like the engine, the body feels strong and enduring.
The R is an impressive beast that packs an iron fist in a velvet glove.