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