Jaguars rear-wheel-drive XK8 and XKR which is covered separately in this Buying Guide get some substantial re-engineering for 2003, including new 4.2-liter V-8 engines and a six-speed ZF automatic transmission. Generating 294 horsepower, the new V-8 replaces last years 4.0-liter engine. Jaguar last redesigned its coupe and convertible for 1997, dubbed XK8 to denote the V-8 engine that replaced the old six-cylinder. Supercharged XKR models arrived in 2000.
All 2003 XK models have Dynamic Stability Control to prevent wheelspin and Emergency Brake Assist to produce the shortest possible braking distance in emergencies. Jaguar claims the XK8 coupe will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. Convertibles account for nearly 90 percent of XK sales in North America. The legendary British Jaguar organization is owned by Ford, but the vehicle bodies, platforms and engines are designed and manufactured strictly by Jaguar in England.
The XK8s badging and headlights are new for 2003, and the alloy wheels have been restyled; otherwise, the XK8s dramatic appearance has not changed. Both body styles continue to provide a cross between what Jaguar calls a true, high-performance sports car and luxurious, elegant grand tourer. Sensual and alluring in any form, the projectile-shaped XK body is comparatively tame in the XK8 trim.
The XK8 has 18-inch tires and leads off with a bar-type grille that is unlike the XKRs wire mesh rendition. Convertibles have a one-button, automatic-latching power soft-top with a glass rear window and defogger. All XK models have headlight washers.
In theory, these Jaguar models will hold four occupants, but in reality, theyre 2+2 models that are suitable for just two passengers. Even the fortunate pair up front can expect to employ a certain level of dexterity when climbing in and out of the low-slung XK8, and space is at a premium once theyre seated. Once inside, passengers can enjoy the lush Connolly leather and abundant wood trim that decorates the Jags cockpit.
The XK8 coupe has heated front seats and a premium, 320-watt Alpine audio system with a cassette player and six-CD changer. Jaguars navigation system is optional.
Under the Hood
Jaguars new 4.2-liter dual-overhead-cam V-8 engine produces 294 hp in the regular XK8 coupe and drives a six-speed-automatic transmission.
Jaguars Adaptive Restraint Technology System (ARTS) includes head and thorax side-impact airbags mounted in the front-seat backrest cushions. Deployment is based on input from sensors that determine whether occupants are in position and belted. Traction control and all-disc antilock brakes are standard. Reverse Park Control emits a warning when you approach an obstacle while backing up.
Heritage counts, especially when it comes to British-built motorcars. Even if performance lags behind some competitive sports cars, driving a Jaguar ranks as a sensual and memorable experience. Simply knowing that youre cocooned in such a lushly shaped vehicle adds to the satisfaction.
Handling has always been a strong point for Jaguar, even if the XK is more of a boulevard sports car than a racetrack-ready model. The ride can get a bit jittery on rough pavement, but the suspension is beautifully absorbent on most highway surfaces.