1997 Jaguar XK8

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1997 Jaguar XK8
Available in 2 styles:  XK8 2dr Coupe Base shown
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Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 1 of 9
1997 Jaguar XK8 4.1 14
$ 3,326-16,006
May 31, 1997

While down South recently, I talked to the owner of a racing team whosepersonal garage included a Jaguar XJ6, a 1970 Jaguar XKE, a new Jaguar XK8 anda Mini Cooper.

I asked him which Jag was his fave, considering the nice selection at hisdisposal.

`'The XKE, no question," came the reply.


"The XKE is a brutal sports car. The XK8 is more of a grand tourer."

After a week in the beautiful new XK8, I can surely agree.

Certainly, nothing is quite the same as the stunning XKE, even though theall-new-for-'97 XK8 certainly plays on the E's styling heritage. But then, theBritish Empire isn't the same as it was in the '60s.

When the E-type first appeared, it did battle with any number of Anglonameplates, in addition to American and European competition. Now Jaguarstands as a lonely remainder of a much grander past, like Britannia herself.Unlike its motherland, this car and car company are serious competition andvery much a world player.

The wide-mouthed opening on the XK8's front with its solitary chrome barrecalls its proud bloodline. Ditto the styling of the bonnet (that's Britishfor hood). If the rest of the car is more original, it's also more modern,with a touch of influence from Jaguar's latest competitors, the Japanese.

What's under the bonnet is as striking as the car's stunning styling. It'san all-new aluminum-block, 32-valve, double-overhead-cam V8, Jaguar's first V8and only their fourth all-new engine. It's 4.0-liter displacement (244 cubicinches to us Yanks) pours out a healthy 290 horsepower and 284 foot-pounds oftorque. It's mated to an equally new ZF five-speed automatic transmission thatclicks off the shifts quickly and smoothly.

So, faster than you can say tally-ho, this cat is sprinting down the roadat extra-legal speeds. Since this is only a third of the way through the170-mph speedometer, you might find it too easy to go fast.

There are normal and sport shift modes. Normal is almostfor statelycruising, for times when a quick burst of speed isn't always a top priority.But shift it into sport, and the car feels much more alive, taking to the roadlike paparazzi to Princess Di.

Aiding this cat's appetite for speed is a superb suspension with a delicatebalance that Jags always seem to have. It's sporty enough to make the carflingable, yet supple enough to tame the worst road surfaces. If you enjoyinsulation, you won't enjoy this Jag, but if you love agility with a dose ofrefinement, its fully independent suspension delivers.

The car claws through corners with an attitude that's flat and a tailthat's controllable. Turn off the optional traction control and you can havesome real fun. But do so at your wallet's risk. The car is equipped with meaty17-inch Z-rated Pirellis (for sustained speeds in excess of 149 mph).

Brakes are four-wheel discs with anti-lock, ensuring short, straight stopsabsent of nose dive. The steering is a speed-sensitive, variab le ratio setup,with decent heft and some road feel. It made walking this feline easy.

The inside is equal in its way to the outside. The dash recalls cars ofdays long gone, with a broad horizontal expanse of beautifully finished woodinto which the round gauges are set. Tachometer, speedometer, gas andtemperature monitors are in three round openings in front of the driver. Tothe right are a clock and two more gauges. Set below are the controls for thedual climate control, heated seats and audio system.

The transmission tunnel robs the front seats of some space, especially footroom around the accelerator, but it's no worse than most coupes. The parkingbrake is to the left of the driver. One odd omission: The windows are notauto-down, a feature found on the most mundane of cars. Otherwise, all thecreature comforts one expects in this league are present.

The front seats are as comfy as the Queen's throne, with one-piece seatbacks, an usual style. The rear seats arebe t used for stashing extra VHStapes of British sitcoms, since anything bigger than that won't fit.

The 11.6-cubic-foot boot (that's trunk in the Queen's English) will hold acouple of bags of golf clubs, maybe even a couple weekend bags. The trunkhinges don't interfere with cargo, but who cares about such practical concernswhen it's a Jag?

One bugaboo that always comes up about Jags from Jag wags is reliability.Nothing actually went wrong, although I'm not sure if the trip computeractually works -- I never got it to. But it never failed to start and neverrattled. Ford, which has owned Jaguar for four years, has done a good job ofimproving quality -- this is the best-built Jaguar I have ever driven.

Ultimately, what one remembers most is the fine styling with its beautifulwood and leather accents, and the fine drive train with its menacing growlemanating from dual chrome-tipped exhausts, all adding up to an unforgettabledriving experience that is unique to this sexy feline.

I certainly found the opposite sex very interested in this car. I asked myfriend if his Jags attracted that kind of attention from the fairer sex.

"Actually, they like the Mini the best," he said.

Go figure.

JAGUAR XK8 COUPEBase price: $64,900Options: Convenience Package, All Weather Package, CD ChangerAs tested: $68,630EPA rating: 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highwayTest mileage: 20 mpg

    Expert Reviews 1 of 9

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