Facelifts – Winning the Battle, Losing the War

The 1999 Jaguar S-Type was Jaguar’s stylistic nadir, so the 2004 facelift had it all to do. Shame it came at least four years too late.

0298498-Jaguar-S-Type-4.0-V8-Sport-2001

While the X204 facelift to Jaguar’s S-Type could never fully excise the horror of its truly frightful predecessor, it did re-present it in a slightly more palatable form.

It remains reasonably safe to say the original 1998 X200 was something of a stylistic dog’s dinner; hardly surprising when you consider that it is said to have resulted from an amalgam of three different styling themes stitched together by Geoff Lawson’s team under a overly conservative Ford management. At the car’s 1998 début, a reporter was said to be overheard describing it as looking ‘like a dog having a dump’ and frankly, the canine analogy was apt.

jaguar-r-coupe3

On this basis, almost any alteration should have been an improvement, but the Ian Callum-led 2004 facelift, while retaining the overall form and a good deal of the existing panelwork, tightened up the flabby surfaces, and gave the thing an element 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.

0298834-Jaguar-S-Type-4.2-V8-Sport-2004

Had this been the form in which it appeared to the world in 1998, the poor old S-Type’s styling mightn’t now be viewed with such pitiful disdain now. Unfortunately for ‘Jaguaristes’, the facelift didn’t really go far enough – could anything short of a re-skin really manage that? But more pertinently 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.

x204rear

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. [Dis]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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