Facelifts – Winning the Battle, Losing the War

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

(c) carpages

While the 2004 facelift to the Jaguar 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.

(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.

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 extravagance.

As one of the more visually successful facelifts of the modern era, had this been the form in which X200 appeared to the world in 1998, the S-Type 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.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

12 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.

  7. Ford just cannot stop repeating history. A history of failures, which makes it impossible to look away, as from a bloody, shocking accident. While I agree this was a sharp facelift, particularly the recessed headlights, the OTHER facelift Jaguar did continues to disturb me in on so many levels. I am referring of course, to the 2008-09 XJ Facelift. Jaguar received mixed reviews on the X350 and their “decision” to carry through the historically themed styling. Unlike a common auto industry ploy of putting new styling on an aging platform, Jaguar, with Fords investment created a world class sedan in almost every aspect, most strikingly the move to an all aluminum (aluminium to the Brits) monocoque. Unlike the Audi A8 Aluminum panels on Space Frame, the monocoque is MUCH lighter. Obviously both cars vary in weight hugely depending on equipment, SWB vs LWB etc., but a quick search of auto databases shows a comparable version 2004 (second Gen D3) A8 weighing 4399 lbs., where a LWB 05 XJ8 begets 3806 (there was no LWB in 04 as Jaguar ramped up the Castle Bromwich Aluminum Pressing Plant) – a difference of just under 600 POUNDS! To be fair, the range I found was from 340 lbs. to 700 lbs. – every case showing a huge difference, but lets be fair and note that A8 is AWD. Another astonishing spec iss that the XJ LWB body (body in white, not counting equipment) is only 45 lbs heavier than it’s 5 INCH shorter brother.

    As to repeating history? That is demonstrated perfectly with the X-Type. Ford appeared to believe that a “Mini XJ” with Wood, leather and all the Jaguar luxury and Style was all that mattered, and handling, a driveability were insignificant and mettered little, if at all. I agree that the “aura” of a Jaguar at just over $30k was attractive to folks who thought they could never afford a Jag, but basing it on the pedestrian Mondeo, adding AWD (the world was not ready for a FWD Jaguar then, and probably still)

    The logic was sound. Take a solid but otherwise unexciting car, apply Jaguar materials, style and image and offer the pubic a reasonable low cost of entry to the marque. It was a tried and true Ford formula for success. Can anyone remember Lee Iacocca telling the team “Take a Thunderbird and put a Rolls Royce Grill on it? Or The entire Mercury division? Those are the GOOD examples. Shall I dredge up the Lincoln Versailles? And that’s sort of what happened here, in much milder way. There are many reasons Ford never turned a profit at Jaguar. Applying their “tried and True” methods contributed mightily. Been down to your local “Sign of The Cat” Dealer lately?

    But I still feel that the XJ Facelift was the most bass-akwards, non intuitive move just about ever. The XJ was not “Retro” -Retro is as RETURN to a classic style. Good or bad, love it, hate it, or plain indifference (the common reaction) The x350 was CONTINUATION style of a car that had similar lines dating to it’s 1968 release. In reaction to criticism that the car didn’t look modern enough, Jaguar decided to “modernize” a classic styled car. The best of it, the front lower grill looked good. For a while. The blocky bumpers that would have fit the XJ40 to a tee look awkward, and inappropriate. The huge single width chrome arch across the decklid looks straight off a Ford Crown Victoria or a Mercury Grand Maruis. And the Blade on the from fender? In body color paint it is tolerable. In chrome, I am almost certain hallucinogenic were consumed during that exercise. So Jaguar decided to try and recover sales while the X351 was in final development, and attempted to do so by turning the X350, a nicely styled Jag – albeit with some proportional challenges (the taller, larger passenger cell combined with shorter front/rear end sections produced a bit of stumpiness from certain views, even if the setup was much more “logical” and offered people space at the expence of a bit of grace. (Pace was never in question for the x350)

    As to the current X351, I’m STILL not sure Jaguar did right REPLACING THE XJ with completely different design language. The current X351 is based on the X350 platform, aknoledging how truly world class it was in 2003 and remains mostly so today, and Ian Cullum’s clean sheet design shows it off in as different a light as imaginable. It is an amazing car, and dramatic in a whole new way. But perhaps the XJ moniker should have been dropped along with the classic lines. Its truly a fantastic design, and stands out in a cookie cutter design environment, but it does not have the feel or presence of what “XJ” means to most people. XF, taken, XE… Used for the X-Type’s phenomenal replacement. Perhaps just Sovereign or Portfolio? WHo knows… I just see it as something else than an XJ.

    By the way, full disclosure reveals me an an 07 XJ owner by string preference for the last clean, classic styled XJ, that overcomes the x308’s 1980’s platform weaknesses, while maintaining the presence of the long running XJ. I love a nice X308, particularly an all black XJR version, but that slightly squared off roofline above the rear passengers gives away its really ancient heritage as it’s identical to a mid 80’s XJ40; a car that consumed huge resources during a time of Jaguars near demise, only to deliver a seriously flawed car to the public. Who knows how much better it could have been with serious capital available. At least Jaguar wasn’t alone in 1980’s flops. GM and Ford , Chrysler and MOST British makes were all struggling. Cars like the Ford Taurus stand out, if not for brilliance (the Taurus WAS brilliant, but perhaps mostly in contrast to the absolutely dreadful competition.) then at least for absolute competence. Ford was willing to spend millions and millions in delays, all in the name of investing UPFRONT, to avoid LOSING millions should it fail. It was truly brave, and the work of some of the best in the industry at the time. THAT team should have enaged with Jaguar in the 90’s, but instead we got middle managers and “Packaging Gurus” Ugh…

    OK, I guess I’ve written a book. But Jaguar holds a dear place in my heart, and Monday morning quarterbacking is so easy vs true vision. Hopefully Jaguar has, and continues to get and cultivate those type of visionary minds.

    1. John, thanks for your comment – good to welcome another Jaguariste to DTW. As you may have discerned, there is a lot of leaping cat-related material littered about the place. I can’t seem to help myself.


      As perhaps the only sentient human extant who is not rendered apoplectic by the appearance of X358, I may not be considered best placed to adjudge its X350 predecessor (and some have expressed this opinion in writing), but the latter remains for me, a deeply unsatisfying car design to behold. You may have seen it, but a comparatively recent interview with former Jaguar designer, Fergus Pollock, cast a lot of illumination upon that car’s design process and the reasons it turned out as it did.

      Regarding XJ40, a car we have covered in immense detail on DTW, I would suggest that to describe it as a flop is to deny history, insofar as it was and remains by some margin the most commercially successful XJ-series in that nameplate’s half century career. Obviously, I’m biased on this score – the ’40 remains a car I admire tremendously.

      X351 is a subject I will return to in more detail later in the year.

    2. Hi John. I absolutely agree with you regarding the X350 generation XJ and regard it as a future (if not current) classic. I think the minor loss of “grace” was a price worth paying for a much more roomy interior. I suspect that it will never enjoy the sort of affection felt for earlier XJs, but so be it. Comparisons are odious, it is said, and you can appreciate the X350’s qualities without disrespecting the others.

      The X358 facelift was, however, an abomination, akin to seeing your distinguished looking grandfather in fluorescent Nike hi-tops. Yuck!

  8. To each his own. Some people complain cars today all look the same. But the point most seem to ignore is, cars must look the same. Any time something different is tried, the people with more following bones than originality ones will bash it. Anything which tries to be more stylish and less conventional gets mauled by the mob.

    I for one think the S-type is a very good looking car. I can never understand why people bash it but praise something like a Veyron, any Tesla or the childish snarling BMW M cars. As far as this type of car goes, how does any modern Lexus, over designed to point of nausea look better? Or a Camry? I could go on with the excess which car design has become. But what is the point?

    The S-type has aged very well. The vertical lined grill are a tad too conservative to go well on all versions. But the mesh gill and the S-type R, facelift or not, is a very classy, understated and beautiful design. Sport but not snarling like BMW. No childish bodykit either. Not over designed. Just flows. Its sin is looking different. The criticism of the dropping rear is a great example. I think it looks good. Every other car has a bumped up rear. The S-type dare to be different. Looks way better than all the XJ cars before it in my opinion.

    Yes, I just called a S-type beautiful. No I don’t have one. Perhaps one day, when I can justify a classic car and don’t have to stick to something more modern for practical reasons.

    1. Adam: Hello and welcome. You are indeed a brave man to make such an admission in public, but DTW is a broad church and contains a number of fellow-sufferers when it comes to X200 (and other automotive pariahs). You will have gathered that I am not a fan of the car’s styling – certainly not in launch specification. The facelift was a huge improvement – one of the most effective ever I might suggest. I have attempted to explain why I view the S-Type as I do in another article, (that one’s in the archive) and to contextualise its broader significance in another, here…
      Despite my own view of the car, I am pleased that it has aficionados, such as yourself. However, if you are thinking of pressing the button on an early X200, I would council you to hurry. They are disappearing at quite a rate.

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