SEE ALSO: Jaguar Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS: Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 74,155 Price As Tested $ 77,150 Engine Type DOHC 32-valve 4.0 Liter V8 w/SMFI* Engine Size 244 cid/3996 cc Horsepower 290 @ 6100 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 290 @ 4250 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 101.9"/79.3"/187.4" Transmission Five-speed automatic Curb Weight 3962 pounds Fuel Capacity 19.9 gallons Tires (F/R) 245/50R17 all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Four-passenger/two-door Domestic Content Two percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.36 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 17/25/21 0-60 MPH 7.0 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 16.0 seconds @ 94.5 mph Top-speed 150 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
When Ford took ownership of Jaguar in 1989, purists were concerned that the world's best-known British car maker would be desecrated.
Instead, Ford took a hands-off approach that worked wonders in the development of our test car for the week, the XK8 convertible.
OUTSIDE - When the newest version of the XK went on sale in 1997, it represented the first new sports car from Jaguar in 21 years. Its sleek, sexy shape evokes memories of classic Jags such as the XK120, the E-type, and more recently, the XJ220 supercar of a few years back. A dose of modern flair has been thrown into the mix, with an integrated rear spoiler, one-piece bumper caps and large 17-inch, 50-series high- performance tires. Although the XK8 has been out quite a while without exterior changes, it still turns heads wherever it goes. Recently, a supercharged XKR was introduced that offered larger, 18-inch wheels. For 2001, another, hotter version called the Silverstone (which hearkens back to early Jaguar racing victories) has 20-inch alloy wheels and tires.
INSIDE - Soaking up the ambiance of the interior is a pleasure. Highly polished burled walnut trim on the dash surrounds a set of deeply recessed analog instruments. Our tester had a small TV-sized built-in global positioning satellite map in the dash that made getting lost virtually impossible. On the console is a the familiar J-gate shifter which allows semi-manual shifting. This feature is handy in traffic, where a flick of the wrist will downshift from 5th to 4th gear, slowing the car just enough to reduce the amount of necessary braking. The seats are covered in Connolly leather and are wide and relatively flat, without too much side bolstering. They're very low on the floor, which makes the driving position very "sporting." The insulated power top is snug and is fitted with a glass rear window. Lowering or raising it is a 15-second affair but like many drop-heads on the market, its wide C-pillar cuts in the driver's view to the rear.
ON THE ROAD - Jaguars of old were powered by either in-line six-cylinder engines or by big V12s. When the new model appeared, a dual overhead-cam V8 was fitted beneath its hood. Its an all-aluminum 4.0-liter unit, with 32 valves and variable intake cam timing which help it produce 290 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. Eighty percent of this torque is available from as low as 1400 rpm, so off-line launch is very impressive. It uses advanced drive-by-wire throttle technology, and a unique split-block cooling system assures longevity. Power is abundant and just cruising around town produces a purr that is music to the ears. Stomping the throttle brings a muted growl from the twin exhaust pipes and an increase in the driver's pulse rate. An electronic five-speed automatic transmission from the German transmission builder ZF, is the sole gearbox available. It features a computer program that communicates with the engine management program to smooth shifting and maximize fuel efficiency. All-speed traction control is standard.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - With all that's new with the Jaguar, it's a curiosity that the company used a much-modified version of the 20-year-old chassis from the previous XJS. However, it now feature 30 percent fewer panels and is 24 percent more resistant to twisting. The company moved the drivetrain well back in the chassis to achieve a near 50/50 weight balance, which dramatically helps handling. Its independent suspension system consists of unequal-length A-arms anchored to an aluminum crossmember, and coil-over shocks acting on lower A-arms in back. The rear axle half-shafts act as the upper control arms to complete the geometry. Handling is very good for what the car is supposed to be - a Grand Touring sportster. There is very little body roll or tire scrub in corners, thanks to the fitting of thick anti-roll bars at both ends, and the sticky tires. The springing is firm but not jolting. Braking is handled by huge ventilated four-wheel discs with a standard four-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS).
SAFETY - Dual-stage dashboard airbags, side-impact airbags, side-impact door beams and ABS are standard.