Last year, Jaguar had two versions of its rear-drive four-passenger coupe and convertible at dealerships, the XK8 and XKR. The XKR is powered by a supercharged engine, and for 2001, a new model joins the flock: a Silverstone limited-edition of each body style, which is basically an XKR with some unique styling touches, Platinum Silver paint, 20-inch tires and bigger Brembo brakes. Silverstone coupes also feature a performance/handling package. Only 250 XKR Silverstone models have been earmarked for delivery in North America. Named for the racecourse where the Jaguar XK-120 earned its first victories in 1949, the XKR Silverstone celebrates Jaguars entry into Formula One race competition.
The seats have been modified a bit. XK models have earned several styling revisions, including new jewel-effect taillights, a chrome trunk-lid emblem with embossed Jaguar lettering and an extended rear bumper cover. A revised front bumper permits a flusher fit for the fog lamps, and a new Reverse Park Control emits a warning when you approach an obstacle while backing up. Jaguar also introduced a new Adaptive Restraint Technology System for all models, including head and thorax side-impact airbags mounted in the front-seat backrest cushions. Ultrasonic sensors provide more accurate triggering of both the front and side-impact airbags that protect front occupants.
Like their XKR counterparts, XK8 coupes and convertibles now have headlight washers, heated front seats and a premium Alpine Audiophile audio system with six-CD changer. Jaguars navigation system is now standard in the XKR but an optional for the XK8.
Jaguar launched the current XK8 sports car generation for 1997 with V-8 power. Previous XJ-S Jaguars had six-cylinder or V-12 engines. Ford has owned the famed British automaker for years, but the styling, platforms and engines are designed and manufactured strictly by Jaguar, which is headquartered in Coventry, England. A considerable amount of handwork still goes into their assembly, and Jaguars compete against such costly European marques as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Sleek and alluring, the projectile-shaped XK body is comparatively tame in the XK8 trim, though its basic appearance harks back to the stylish Jaguar XK-E sports cars of the 1960s. The XKR models add a functional louvered hood, rear spoiler, and 18-inch wheels and tires instead of the usual 17-inchers. They also have Jaguars Computer Active Technology Suspension, which features computer-controlled shock absorbers.
XKR models sport a wire mesh grille instead of the usual bar design. Silverstone models go a step further with BBS Detroit-style 20-inch alloy wheels and a unique Platinum Silver finish, Silverstone hood badge and Silverstone inscription on the door-opening tread plates. Convertibles have a power soft-top and a glass rear window with a defogger.
Allegedly capable of holding four occupants, these Jaguars are built basically for two passengers. Backseat riders need to be the size of a child or have legs no bigger than twigs in order to fit comfortably. The fortunate two up front can expect to employ a certain level of dexterity to climb in and out of the low-slung XK8, and space is at a premium once theyre seated. Once inside, passengers get to enjoy the lush Connolly leather and abundant wood trim that decorate the Jags cockpit.
Under the Hood
In the regular XK8 coupes and convertibles, Jaguars 4.0-liter dual overhead cam V-8 engine produces 290 horsepower. Stepping up to the XKR or Silverstone brings a supercharged edition of that engine, rated at 370 hp. A five-speed-automatic transmission is used on all models, but theyre different units: built by the German firm ZF for the XK8 or by Mercedes-Benz for the XKR. Computer Active Technology suspension adjusts ride firmness according to changes in the vehicles speed and road conditions and comes standard on the XKR and XKR Silverstone. Jaguar claims that a Silverstone coupe can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
Dual front airbags, traction control and all-disc antilock brakes are standard. Side-impact airbags now are mounted in the seatbacks rather than the doors as part of the new Adaptive Restraint Technology System.
Heritage counts. Even if performance lags behind some competitive sports cars, driving a Jag is a special sort of experience. Simply knowing that youre cocooned in such a lusciously shaped vehicle adds to the satisfaction. An appealing assortment of luxuries and conveniences make up for a few drawbacks, including high sticker prices.
Whether supercharged or regular, Jaguars modern V-8 engines deliver a high level of refinement and gentility along with impressive acceleration, even if theyre not the fastest cars of their kind. Those who crave a greater degree of raw speed can step up to a supercharged XKR or the limited-edition Silverstone.
Handling has always been a Jaguar strong point, even if its still a bit more in the boulevard sports car category rather than ready for the racetrack. Drive an XK on a track, however, and youre likely to be impressed with its talents through curves and dips at high speeds. Although the ride can get a bit jittery on rough pavement, the suspension is beautifully absorbent on most highway surfaces. Though it looks snug at first glance, the XK8 convertible offers a reasonable amount of room for front-seat occupants, but the rear is tiny even for children.