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MOTOR MAX: Used Jag is the cat's whiskers.

Byline: MIKE TORPEY

CURVY, retro yet futuristic and a car that most folk would love to drive - Jaguar's sporty S-Type is becoming a real hit on the used market.

Against executive rivals like Audi, BMW and Mercedes, S-Type prices are becoming increasingly competitive as more company examples grace the auctions and buyers trade up to the latest models.

S-Types come with a choice of 3.0-litre V6 and 4.0 V8 engines. There's also now a 2.5-litre version.

Expect to pay around pounds 15,000 for a high-mileage T-reg 3.0 automatic at a non-franchised dealer and be prepared to shell out an extra pounds 2,000 for one featuring upgraded SE trim.

A fully loaded V8, also on a 1999 plate and kitted out with satellite navigation and park distance control, will set you back close to the pounds 22,000 mark.

The V6 is highly recommended and in manual form has a top speed of 146mph and will do 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds - add another 1.2 seconds for the self-shifter.

Very much a driver's car, it has a refined and free-revving 2,967cc engine which develops 240bhp. The gearbox is slick, the ride and handling nicely balanced and body control at speed superb.

And while you do need to apply some serious revving to get going, the Jag really flexes its muscles in the mid range.

Suspension, too, is magnificent.

Inside, the environment has the quality feel you would expect of the marque, though some of the instruments are a bit too plasticky for my taste.

And while the seating is comfortable and sufficiently spacious, the handbrake is too close to the driver and is a nuisance when trying to put your seatbelt on. The boot is also on the shallow side.

But these are minor niggles to level at an essentially outstanding range of cars. An extensive standard spec list includes audio, phone and climate-control systems which respond to the driver's voice.

Other features are a rear-view mirror that deflects glare and darkens itself, side airbags and a bench-style rear seat which, for the first time in a Jaguar, has a 60/40 folding backrest.

Automatic climate control, eight-way front power seats, electronic traction control and ventilated anti-lock brakes are also standard.

You'll never confuse the S-type with any other car. It has style and class but, as with all prestige cars, the colour and spec influence used values, so look for leather trim and automatic transmission.

FAST facts

MODEL: Jaguar S-Type

DRIVING: Smooth ride, responsive steering and slick gearchange.

PERFORMANCE: First class in all models; V6 gives 0-62 in 6.8 secs and V8 a fraction quicker. Top speed is 146 (V8 150mph).

ECONOMY: Not fantastic with mpg in the mid-20s.

SAFETY: Strongbodyshell, multiple airbags, standard traction control and anti-lock brakes.

RECOMMENDED BUY: 3.0 V6 auto.

PAY FROM: pounds 15,065 (99T3.0 V6 auto).

ALTERNATIVES: BMW5-Series, Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6 and Volvo S80.

CAPTION(S):

STAR BUY... the S-Type makes a stylish second-hand investment
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 8, 2002
Words:503
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