Proper old-school V8 performance can be yours from just £3500
How would you like to save £43,000 on a £47,000, 155mph, rear-wheel drive V8 sports saloon? Well, you can do exactly that by paying as little as £3500 for a Jaguar S-Type R.
The S-Type was the last old-fashioned curvy Jag. It came onto the market in 2002 and was discontinued just five years later, in 2007.
The R derivative was a genuinely quick as well as luxurious car. Its Eaton-supercharged 4.2-litre V8 churned out 390bhp and 399lb/ft of torque through a six-speed ZF automatic gearbox, good for a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds. Specialist tuners like Tom Lenthall can boost the midrange power by around 20bhp by supplying and fitting a modified supercharger pulley (£360). You can also liberate more power by doing an ECU remap (from £432).
The R looked especially mean in black, with 18-inch alloy wheels, green brake calipers, a sporty mesh grille, plus subtle aero body bits and red and green ‘R’ badges on the boot and wings.
The luxury was provided by electrically adjustable leather front sports seats, cruise control and air conditioning, with commonly fitted options including parking sensors and a sat-nav that was cutting-edge at the time.
As mentioned, you can find early examples of the R with more than 100,000 miles for just £3500. The last 2007 cars can be as much as £9000, which gives you some idea of the determined fanbase that still exists for S-Type Rs, but you don’t have to spend that much: somewhere between £5500 and £6995 will open up a lot of choices of good cars with full service histories and, often as not, not that many owners.
Cars at the bottom end of that bracket are unlikely to feel quite as taut or powerful as a brand new car but you’ll still be pleasantly surprised by the degree of R refinement, clout and handling dynamics on offer. BMW’s M5 and to a lesser extent Mercedes’ E55 AMG were both better cars, but the Jag had a unique appeal all of its own.
And you should forget any preconceptions about shoddiness: this is a well-built and reliable Jaguar. The only obvious weak points are the torque converter and the sills and wheelarches, which rust. The prominent whine that accompanies acceleration is quite normal and comes from the supercharger. A rattle is not so good, as it might indicate wear to the nylon cog wheel and spring that are mounted at the front of the supercharger.
Barny Jones is an S-Type R expert. Here are his thoughts on the car.
“The R is a great car. It’s not just a faster version of the S-Type – it’s another car entirely. The R is focused and much better engineered.
“I’ve run one for five years with no issues worth mentioning. It’s now done 108,000 miles and has never let me down. The acceleration is – how shall I say – exciting. The ride is firm but the car is grippy. It looks mean, in the way only a performance Jag does. I get 16-18mpg. but it’s a price I’m happy to pay.”
What to watch for
On the engine, Barny recommends scrutinising the service history for 30,000- mile spark plug changes, 12,000-mile engine oil changes and ideally a 50,000-mile gearbox oil change. The coolant header tank has the potential to split, while an engine warning light throwing the P2119 fault code suggests ECU software that needs an update. A P1794 transmission warning light/fault code means you need an update for the gearbox software. Any suspicion of the gearbox ‘hunting’ for gears might mean trouble in the torque converter.
The R is hard on suspension components, especially the rear lower and upper arms and the front control arms. A geometry check could extend tyre life and sharpen up the steering.
The Brembo brake discs are built to take punishment and last well, but if the parking brake light is on but the car isn’t holding on inclines the electronic parking brake may need recalibrating.
Electrics can be affected by water leaking through the boot seal and tail-lights. Fault code B1342 relating to numberplate lights could be down to a faulty diode bridge.
Inside, check that the seat motors, door locks all the controls work, especially the ones for the ventilation and electric windows. Some rattling from the trim is normal.
Earlier cars are prone to sill and wheelarch corrosion behind the bodykit sections. Rear wheel drive and big power can cause spins so check both the car and the paperwork for any evidence of rear-end damage. Windscreen wiper mechanisms can fail and headlights mist over and break as they age.
What to pay
£3500-£5495: Early Rs: we found a 2002 car with 95k miles and FSH for £3800.
£5500-£6995: Some 2003-07 Rs: we found a black 2003 R with FSH and 112k miles for £5995, and a facelifted 2005/55 car with 76k miles for £6995.
£7000-£7995: Some 2006 cars, but also earlier lower-mileage cars: we found a 2004 model with 88k miles and FSH for £7995, and a one-owner 2002 for the same money.
£8000-£8995: The best 2005-07 cars.