Facelifts – Winning the Battle, Losing the War

The 2004 facelifted S-Type had it all to do. Unfortunately for Jaguar, it came at least four years too late.

0298834-Jaguar-S-Type-4.2-V8-Sport-2004
(c) carpages

While the 2004 facelift to Jaguar’s S-Type could never fully excise the visual scars left by its predecessor, it did re-present them in a more broadly palatable form. Given that the original 1998 X200 remains something of a stylistic horror show; the result of an amalgam of three individual styling prototypes unhappily stitched together by Jaguar stylists under a reactionary Ford management, just about anything would have served to have improved matters.

During the car’s 1998 Birmingham motor show début, a reporter is believed to have been overheard describing it as looking “like a dog having a dump” and to be fair, the canine analogy, while undoubtedly crude, was apt.

0298498-Jaguar-S-Type-4.0-V8-Sport-2001
(c) Autoevolution

Given the budgetary and creative strictures he was most likely working against, the Ian Callum-supervised 2004 facelift, while retaining the existing centre section, door pressings and roof, tightened up X200’s flabby surfaces, limp tail section and weak stance, while imbuing the car with an soupçon of grace sorely lacking in the original.

jaguar-r-coupe3
2001 Jaguar-R-Coupé concept

Loosely based upon styling themes from the well-regarded 2001 R-Coupé concept, it demonstrated that Jaguar stylists still understood proportion, even if graphics continued to be something of a sore point. Callum later suggested he had wanted to go further, by removing the unfortunate drooping bodyside swage-line, but the Dearborn beancounters wouldn’t countenance such needless extravagance.

As one of the most visually successful facelifts of the modern era, had this been the form in which X200 appeared to the world in 1998, the S-Type’s styling might not be viewed with such pitiful disdain now. Unfortunately the facelift couldn’t really go far enough – little short of a full reskin would have sufficed.

x204rear
(c) Jaglovers

But more significantly for Jaguar, X204 failed to arrest the sales slide of the model, particularly in the crucial U.S market. By 2004, the die was well and truly cast. Too little, far too late.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

7 thoughts on “Facelifts – Winning the Battle, Losing the War”

  1. I have said elsewhere (and received no little derision as a result) that this is one of the most successful significant facelifts. As the author states, the car is still not desirable, but, given that almost all of the metalwork seems untouched, the car looks an awful lot better, and so a deft and skillful touch has been applied. This makes up for a more cack-handed effort applied to the X350 XJ’s update, which, although an attempt at a more modern look, just did not work to my eyes.

  2. As polished turds go, this one’s been treated to Swissvax’s products. Yet I can still relate to all those prospective executive saloon buyers who chose to buy German instead. Even with vastly improved front and rear, it remains a fundamentally flawed shape.

    As Steven pointed out, the X358 facelift really was Callum’s nadir. I understand the difficult of trying to substantially alter a car’s appearance without the budget to change any body pressings, but the end result was like casting Burt Reynolds as Oscar Wilde: it just wouldn’t work out, no matter how hard one might try.

    Strangely, I actually find the similar X400 facelift far less revolting – and the end result slightly more palatable than the original, Lawson style X-type. It’s still a car I wouldn’t mind being eradicated on a global scale, but if any examples needed to survive, they better be facelifted ones.

  3. Much as I dislike discord, I have to say that I rather like the facelifted 2004 Jaguar S-type. The most important change was to correct the rear lights which failed for the same reason the Citroen C5 did pre-facelift. I’d have no problem driving one of those. If memory serves the car did quite well in tests. By the way, if you look at the Lincoln Continental from 1998 you can see the same sort of rear window treatment. Overall, I’d rate the facelifted S-type as a pretty effective rescue of a basically sound car (even if the proportions and flanks were still unsatisfactory).
    For my next act of social suicide I will explain why the X-type was a rather nice car…

  4. Richard. In the other direction, I was once planning a piece on the XJ4 being the most ludicrously over-hyped and over-rated car in the history of automotive design. Unfortunately I made the mistake of mentioning this to Kris and Eoin. The casts come off next week.

  5. Did you receive the flowers, Sean?

    The situation back then unfortunately got out of hand surprisingly quickly. Meanwhile, I’ve also removed the first-generation runflat tyres I’d clandestinely put onto the SM in the wake of our little argument. Everything should be fine now.

  6. Yes, I received the flowers Kris. Was that Agent Orange you sprayed on them by the way? I admit I hadn’t noticed the runflat tyres since the whole SM became flat. How did you get that road roller down my street? Anyway, I have now taken out a subscription to the Jaguar Driver’s Club, purchased a small pub and joined UKIP, so I trust there will be no further unpleasantness.

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