Jaguar wants the world to believe that the new XK expresses the brand’s new design philosophy. But, according to Automotive News Europe, those who have seen the next S-Type say it is the model that will return the brand to its former glory.

“Wait until you see the next  S-Type,” J Mays, vice president of design at Jaguar parent Ford Motor Co., told the paper. “It will express Jaguar’s daring design spirit again.”

A Jaguar source who has seen the first sketches called the new S-Type “innovative” and said that it is “without a trace of retro elements”.  The UK sports car brand was once renowned for its daring elegance, but critics have called Jaguar models such as the current S-Type “boring” and “dated.”

The automaker calls the latest XK “the most technically advanced Jaguar ever built.” But it is really an evolution of the aluminium monocoque design launched in 2002 on the XJ upper-premium sedan, a car that has been called too traditional.

“The XJ is a fantastic car with all its lightweight aluminium construction,” said Hein van Laarhoven, CEO of Dutch Jaguar dealer Cito Motors. “But it looks too much like its predecessor, which dates back [to] the early ’90s. So customers are disappointed that their neighbours don’t notice it as a new car.”

Jaguar clients expect dynamic elegance, not retro styling, said a German Jaguar dealer who asked to remain anonymous. “The Maserati Quattroporte and even the Mercedes-Benz CLS are more appealing,” the dealer said. “If these cars were wearing a Jaguar badge, we could have sold a lot more cars.”

Instead, Jaguar XJ sales are falling. During the first nine months of 2005, 2,572 XJ models were sold in western Europe, compared with 4,296 during the same period last year.

Production of the XJ also fell, from 12,245 during the first nine months of 2004, to 8,749 during the same period this year. In August, XJ production was stopped to reduce stock and gear up for a minor face-lift. One of the improvements is the introduction of a long-awaited diesel version of the car. A diesel was added to the S-Type’s powertrain lineup this year, but that has not stopped the ageing model’s volume from shrinking.

S-Type sales declined to 9,980 in the first three quarters from 10,735 during the same period in 2004. Production fell to 18,755 to the end of September, down from 22,087 during the same period a year ago.