WHITLEY, UK - Jaguar is counting on the S-type sedan to nearly double the marque's traditional customer base.
To compete with the Mercedes-Benz E class, BMW 5 series and other mid-luxury rivals, the vehicle must hold true to the company's tradition of refinement and elegance. But at the same time it must provide the features that appeal to a new kind of high-tech buyer Jaguar has never before targeted.
Many of those customers will be people who daily surf the Internet, make dinner reservations on mobile phones and organize their lives with electronic diaries. Jaguar needs these buyers if it is going to mount a realistic challenge to its established German rivals.
Jaguar can rightly present its new entry as a kind of technological tour de force. Prior to the S-type - which shares a platform with the Lincoln LS - Jaguar has been renowned for elegant styling, supple ride, agile handling and luxury leather and wood interiors.
When a driver slides behind the S-type's wheel, he or she will be able to issue voice commands to the vehicle. The driver can set the desired temperature, select a radio station or track from a CD, or dial a number on the integrated car phone - all just by saying the right words.
Jaguar is claiming the voice-activated controls - optional initially only in the UK and USA - are the first of their kind in mid-luxury sedans. They are among several innovations Jaguar claims are firsts in class, and there is a longer list of features never before found in its cars.
The S-type also offers an on-board satellite navigation system, a six-disc CD changer in the glovebox and rain-sensitive wipers. Automatic dual-zone climate controls will be standard.
But Jaguar recognizes electronic creature comforts alone will not be enough. 'A set of high-tech features on the inside of a car does not make it a Jaguar,' said David Szczupak, the S-type's chief program engineer. 'Much more fundamental things are important to making it a true Jaguar.'
Jaguar designers believed several key elements were needed to make the S-type line-up worthy of the breed.
One important factor was development of Jaguar's new AJ V-6 engine, the first V-6 in the manufacturer's history. The cylinder block is derived from Ford's modular V-6, modified to Jaguar's north-south, rear-wheel-drive format. The 3.0-liter aluminum engine, developed from Jaguar's AJ V-8, develops 240hp at 6,800rpm. It has many of the same features as the 4.0-liter V-8, including electronic throttle, combustion system, valve gear layout and precision-cooled cylinder block and heads.
Customers opting for the V-6 will also be able to choose between an automatic or Getrag five-speed manual transmission. The V-8 engine has been modified for the S-type and is available only with automatic transmission.
Jaguar wanted the S-type to be able to cruise all day at autobahn speeds, so the company set up a new driveline balance machine in the plant at Castle Bromwich, UK. The assembled rear axle of every S-type will be put on this machine and run for several minutes at autobahn speeds to ensure it is vibration-free before installation. Jaguar claims this procedure is an industry first.
For the first time, Jaguar customers will be able to choose Dynamic Stability Control, similar to systems offered by Mercedes-Benz and BMW. It links the anti-lock brakes together with the traction control and steering systems to help the driver maneuver safely in slippery conditions or during emergencies.
The S-type rides on independent double wishbone suspension. Weight is distributed equally between front and rear. An optional sport handling package will feature Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension, which electronically adjusts the ride to existing road conditions.