Jaguar’s rear-wheel-drive XK8 and XKR got some substantial re-engineering, including new 4.2-liter V-8 engines and a six-speed ZF automatic transmission, for 2003. Generating 294 horsepower, the new V-8 replaced a 4.0-liter engine.
Jaguar last redesigned its coupe and convertible for 1997; these models are dubbed XK8 to denote the V-8 engine that replaced the old six-cylinder. Supercharged XKR models arrived in 2000.
Few changes take place for 2004. All 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.
Even though Ford owns the legendary British Jaguar organization, the vehicle bodies, platforms and engines of these models are designed and manufactured strictly by Jaguar in England.
The badging and headlights were new and the alloy wheels restyled for 2003, but the XK8’s dramatic, projectile-shaped appearance did not change. Both body styles provide a cross between what Jaguar calls “a true, high-performance sports car and a luxurious, elegant grand tourer.”
Riding on 18-inch alloy wheels, the XK8 leads off with a bar-type grille that is unlike the XKR’s wire-mesh rendition. The convertible models 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, they’re 2+2 models that are suitable for just two passengers. Even the fortunate pair up front must employ a certain level of dexterity when climbing in and out of the low-slung XK8, and space is at a premium. The passengers enjoy the lush leather and abundant wood trim that decorates the Jag’s cockpit; a wood- and leather-covered steering wheel that tilts and telescopes electrically is included.
The XK8 has heated front seats and a premium, 320-watt Alpine audio system with a cassette player and six-CD changer. Jaguar’s navigation system is optional.
Under the Hood
The XK8 coupe’s new 294-hp, 4.2-liter dual-overhead-cam V-8 engine drives a six-speed-automatic transmission.
Jaguar’s Adaptive Restraint Technology System (ARTS) includes head and thorax side-impact airbags mounted in the front-seat backrest cushions, and their deployment is based on input from sensors. 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 that of some competitors, driving a Jaguar ranks as a memorable experience. Knowing that you’re 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 beautifully absorbs imperfections on most highway surfaces.
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