A limited-edition 100 version of the sleek, rear-wheel-drive XK coupe and convertible is new for 2002 and commemorates the 1902 birth of the late William Lyons, founder of Jaguar. Succeeding last years Silverstone models, the limited-edition XKR 100 coupe and convertible feature 20-inch BBS modular wheels, Brembo brakes, Connolly Autolux Recaro seats and Anthracite paint. Only 300 models will be offered in the United States, and only 30 of those will be coupes.
Jaguar last redesigned its XK coupe and convertible for the 1997 model year and dubbed them XK8 to denote the V-8 engine that replaced the former six-cylinder. A supercharged XKR version arrived in 2000. The XK8 uses a 4.0-liter V-8 power plant that develops 290 horsepower. The supercharger boosts the ante to 370 hp in the XKR.
The legendary British Jaguar organization is now part of Fords Premier Automotive Group, which also includes Aston Martin, Land Rover and Volvo. The styling, platforms and engines are designed and manufactured strictly by Jaguar, which is headquartered in Coventry, England. A considerable amount of handcrafting still goes into their assembly, and Jaguars compete against such costly European marques as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
In recent years, the Ford connection has had a positive impact on construction details, which dramatically reduced the quality problems that plagued Jaguars of the more distant past. But sales have dropped sharply. During 2001, Jaguar sold 5,137 XK8/XKR models in the United States, down from 6,729 units tallied in 2000, according to Automotive News.
Sensual and alluring in any form, 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 adds a functional louvered hood, rear spoiler, and 18-inch wheels and tires, instead of the usual 17-inchers. It is also equipped with Jaguars Computer Active Technology Suspension, which features computer-controlled shock absorbers that adjust ride firmness according to changes in the vehicles speed and road conditions.
The XKR sports a wire mesh grille instead of the usual bar design. The convertible has a power soft-top and a glass rear window with a defogger, and all models have headlight washers.
These Jaguar models are theoretically capable of holding four occupants; in reality, however, theyre 2+2 models and suitable for only two passengers. Backseat riders would have to be the size of a child or have legs no bigger than twigs in order to fit comfortably. 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/XKR, 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.
Like their XKR counterparts, XK8 coupes and convertibles have heated front seats and a premium Alpine Audiophile audio system with a six-CD changer. Jaguars navigation system is standard in the XKR and optional in the XK8.
Under the Hood
Jaguars 4.0-liter dual-overhead-cam V-8 engine produces 290 hp in the regular XK8 coupe and convertible. Stepping up to the XKR brings a supercharged edition of that engine, which churns out 370 hp. A five-speed-automatic transmission is used on all models, but theyre different units: The XK8 transmission is built by the German firm ZF, and the XKR unit is manufactured by Mercedes-Benz.
During the 2001 model year, Jaguars Adaptive Restraint Technology System (ARTS) was added to the XK8, which includes head and thorax side-impact airbags mounted in the front-seat backrest cushions. Deployment is based on input from a group of sensors that determine whether occupants are in position and belted. Ultrasonic sensors in the roof pillars and overhead console also provide signals to help gauge the deployment level.
Traction control and all-disc antilock brakes are standard. A Reverse Park Control feature 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 Jag ranks as a sensual and memorable experience. Simply knowing that youre cocooned in such a lusciously shaped vehicle adds to the satisfaction. An appealing assortment of luxuries and conveniences makes up for a few drawbacks including high sticker prices.
The Jaguars modern V-8 engine comes in regular or supercharged form. Both deliver a high level of refinement, gentility and 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, while fanciers of low-volume models have the commemorative XKR 100 for this season only.
Handling has always been a Jaguar strong point, even if its still categorized more as a boulevard sports car than a racetrack-ready model. On the other hand, if you drive an XK on a track, youre likely to be impressed with its talents through curves and dips when moving at high speeds. Although the ride can get a bit jittery on rough pavement, the suspension is beautifully absorbent on most highway surfaces. The XK8 convertible looks snug at first glance, but it offers a reasonable amount of room for front-seat occupants. Unfortunately, the rear seat is tiny even for children.