Your first clue that the 2003 Jaguar S-Type R is no lap kitty is the red and green "R" discreetly positioned just behind the front wheel, the same decoration that graces Jaguar's Formula One racer. Jag did far more than slap a racing insignia on its popular S-Type-it re-engineered a vast assortment of powertrain, chassis, and interior parts to give the midsize R the claws to catch BMW's revered M5. Boosting the V8 engine from 4.0 to 4.2 liters and bolting on a supercharger raised output to a hearty 388 horsepower.
And a new 6-speed automatic, fortified suspension, larger wheels and tires, and massive Brembo disc brakes give this cat legs of steel.
Whereas the BMW is taut, the S-Type R is supple. Instead of lurching over the bumps and hammering into curves, it's fluid and graceful. Careful tuning of the speed-sensitive steering sharpened the link between the low-profile front tires and the driver's fingertips. And sliding the shifter to the short side of its J-shaped gate lets the driver orchestrate gear changes with a maestro's touch. Going racing, Jaguar style, is not for the meek of heart . . . or pocketbook. The R starts at $62,400.