It’s our ‘Yes to S’ promotion this week, so Tim Oldland chooses his top S cars…
The simple addition of the letter S can mean a whole world of difference to a car. Historically ‘S’ was a shortened version of ‘Sport’ but over the years has changed somewhat. On a Jaguar, S means one from the top performance models (XF-S, XE-S, F-Type S which sit below the R) but recently it has also been added to normal cars as a basic trim level (S, SE, Sport, Executive etc). Here we’re only interested in the fun stuff though, and I’m going to choose my favourite S cars both new and older…
5 – Jaguar XKSS (2017)
This may look like a classic but it’s actually a brand new car. Jaguar set its Classics division in 2014 and started off by creating E-Type Lightweights, but now they’ve turned their attention to the XKSS. Originally made in 1957 the XKSS was a beautiful roadster and 9 cars which were earmarked for the US were lost in a fire. They were never remade, so now Jaguar is using those 9 chassis numbers to create these 9 new cars. They will be hand made using the same materials, manufacturing methods and same 256bhp 3.4 litre straight six D-Type engine and will include over 10,000 man-hours in the build. Each one will also cost in excess of £1million but these are effectively a brand new 1957 car, which gets my vote!
4 – Porsche 911 Turbo S (2017)
The latest 911 Turbo S redefines what you call a supercar. The standard 911 is a sports car and the Turbo is a supercar, but is the Turbo S still a supercar? Given the performance it straddles the divide between supercar and hypercar, but adds in the practicality of a 911, so it really sits in a class of its own. With a staggering 574bhp from its 3.8 litre twin turbo flat-six, combined with the standard PDK dual-clutch gearbox and four wheel drive system, the performance is simply staggering. 0-62mph takes 2.9 seconds, while 124mph comes up in 9.9 seconds and there’s a 205mph top speed. It’s so quick that you wonder if you ever need any more than that, especially given that you can do those sorts of numbers in all weather. Add in the fact that the 911 also seats 4 and has a decent boot (or frunk as the Americans now call it) and you have a unique proposition in the 911 Turbo S.
3 – Lotus Exige S
‘Better than a 997 GT3 as a driver’s car’. That’s the statement I made when I drove the Exige S in 2012 and when the review went live (on Pistonheads.com) it caused a slight meltdown among the hardcore 911 fans. But I still stick by my statement as for me the Exige S is simply one fo the best, most fun cars you can buy. The lightness of the car, allied with Lotus’ incredible handling, direct steering and compliant yet controlled ride, plus that fantastic 345bhp V6 engine makes the Exige S a truly incredible machine to drive down your favourite twisty back roads. Sure it’s quick, but the numbers are only a small part of the joy you experience behind the wheel – you feel truly connected to the mechanical aspects of the car, you know every bit of feedback through the steering wheel is exactly how it’s happening. It may not be as practical or daily usable as the GT3, but for me it’s the best sports car on sale today.
2 – F-Type V6 S
The V6 S doesn’t get much attention in the F-Type range thanks to the brutally noisy and fast V8R, but many believe the V6 S is the better car. It may not be as quick as the R, but with 375hp from the supercharge V6 it’s certainly quick enough for most roads and it weighs less too, so there’s less weight over the front wheels and as a result has sweeter steering and less tendency to understeer. However these points are just a side-show the V6 S’s party piece – the noise. With those massive polished trumpets exiting the rear bumper, the sound that they release is pure, screaming and visceral while the pops and bangs on the overrun are hilarious and fun in a world where that is in very short supply. Plus the V6 S Convertible is in our sale this week!
1 – Pagani Zonda C12-S
As the Pagani Zonda aged throughout its 12-year life it gained more and more power, plus more body addenda and to my eyes it looked worse with every incarnation. Look at the beautiful C12-S above, with the simple front end and lovely low-level split rear wing, then look at a Zonda 760 with the winglets, central roof fin, massive rear wing, silly DRLs and roof scoop and you can see what I mean hopefully. The power unit isn’t too crazy either, with a Mercedes-AMG built 7.3 litre V12 producing 555hp and a truly delicious exhaust sound. The C12-S was quite an upgrade over the normal C12 though, which is why it sits in this list – the normal C12 had a 6.0 litre V12 producing 389hp and only 5 were built, mainly to test the waters. Pagani then set about making the C12 into the best supercar on sale with the S and they certainly succeeded. If you’re lucky enough to see a Zonda in the metal (or carbon) you can literally spend hours poring over all the exquisite details all over the car. From the weave of the exposed carbon and intricate bespoke Pagani-branded screwheads to the leather straps that hold the bodywork, interior and engine bay areas closed, there are beautiful details all over the Zonda and for me it is the best ‘S’ car ever.