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1997 Jaguar XK8 Coupe

2dr Cpe

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  • $64,900 original MSRP
Printable Version

1997 Jaguar XK8 Coupe

Printable Version

1997 Jaguar XK8 Coupe

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1997 Jaguar XK8 Convertible

Source: New Car Test Drive

Sumptuous. Sexy. Sublime.

By Tony Swan

When Ford acquired Jaguar Cars, Ltd., in 1989, a veritable Greek chorus of doomsayers lined up to forecast the demise of legendary make, which would surely follow its amalgamation into a great gray corporate monolith.

Events have obviously proved otherwise, and with the arrival of the stunning new Jaguar XK8, we think it's time for those gloomy prophets to turn in their robes. Not only is Jaguar back on track in terms of quality and reliability -- a turnaround directly attributable to Ford's stewardship -- it's also back in the sports car business, the wellspring of Jaguar legend.

Walkaround

Considered from the heroic perspective, the XK8 arrives none too soon, because the legend was becoming somewhat brittle. Not counting the ill-starred XJ220 supercar, Jaguar's last real sports car -- the sublime XK-E roadster -- went out of production in 1974. The subsequent XJ-S packed the prestige of a V-12 engine, but it left a lot to be desired in terms of agility and balance, as well comfort and convenience.

The XK8 isn't an XK-E. It lacks a manual transmission, for one thing. No matter how efficient automatic transmissions become -- and the XK8's five-speed automatic is one of the best -- shifting for yourself is a key element in the sports car experience.

For another, the XK8 is thoroughly civilized and elegant, inside and out. No one has ever called the XK-E anything less than beautiful, but it was downright primitive compared to its sumptuous descendant.

This is not a bad thing at all. Where in the gospel of sports cars is it written that you're supposed to suffer? That notion went away with the last Triumph TR-3.

Let's talk specifics. The foundation of the XK8 was the XJ-S, but the rear-drive chassis has been stiffened and tweaked almost beyond recognition. Two models are offered, a coupe and convertible, with an all-new V-8 engine --more on this gem later -- and, as noted, a five-speed automatic transmission.

Both versions are drop-dead gorgeous, but we were pleased to have the open-air option for some top-down touring in and around Santa Barbara, California.

The Inside Story

Coupe or convertible, the interior of the new XK8 is just this side of opulent with its walnut instrument panel, leather-trimmed wood-rimmed steering wheel and aromatic leather upholstery.

It's also generally roomy up front -- a little less headroom in the convertible than the coupe -- with seats that combine all-around comfort and lateral support as well as any in the sport-luxury realm.

The rear seats, though fabricated from the same excellent materials, are another story. Like most cars that characterize themselves as two-plus-two, the XK8's rear seat area is essentially a nicely upholstered parcel shelf.

The XK8 has rear seating because Jaguar product planners believe the demand for two-seaters is exactly equal to the market for eight-track cassettes. But whenever we hear that plus-two designation, it invariably makes us wonder: plus-two what? Jack Russell terriers? Ducks?

Never mind. The XK8 isn't about passenger capacity. It's about fast, elegant motoring, something it delivers with exceptional competence and zeal.

Ride & Drive

The zeal comes from Jaguar's all-new AJ-V8 engine -- aluminum block and heads, dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable cam phasing, 290 horsepower, 284 pound-feet of torque.

Let us stress the all-new part. This is a Jaguar engine, developed from scratch, and at 441 pounds the lightest in its class. It shares nothing with Ford's corporate 4.6-liter V-8, although Ford will probably employ the Jag V-8 in future Lincolns.

The AJ-V8 is a beautiful piece of work -- excellent thrust right from idle, sophisticated power music from the exhaust -- and it delivers enough punch to propel these sophisticated cars to 60 mph in less than seven seconds.

It takes just over 17 seconds to reach 100 mph, and top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. That's pretty brisk for a car in this weight class -- 3673 pounds for the coupe, 3867 for the convertible -- and the XK8's stopping power is just as brisk.

Stimulating acceleration is only half the story. The XK8 also delivers an inspired blend of ride and handling -- decisive response combined with limited body roll, excellent weight distribution and impressive grip from its 17-inch Pirelli P-Zero tires.

Jaguar's chassis and suspension engineers have done exemplary work here. The XK8 has the supple feel the luxury market demands, but it also has the right-now reflexes that separate sporting machinery from ordinary cars.

The key to this, as always, is chassis rigidity, and the index of how well the development team did its work is the convertible's handling performance. Although the soft-top version is a little heavier, the result of added structure to compensate for the absence of a steel roof, its handling is indistinguishable from the coupe.

In two days of touring, including a long, lonely stretch of mountain road that's one of California's best sports car exercise arenas, we were unable to provoke Jaguar's new cat into the slightest hint of unseemly behavior.

We tried all sorts of unlikely capers -- entering decreasing radius turns (turns that tighten up) too fast, tramping on the brakes in mid-turn -- until the co-driver finally said enough was enough. Through it all, the XK8 never missed a step.

If we could add one thing to the XK8's dynamic recipe, it would be a manual transmission. Jaguar's J-gate automatic shifter allows the driver to select specific gears, but like all automatics and semi-automatics, it's just not the same. On the other hand, Jaguar product planners feel there isn't enough demand in this market to justify the substantial investment required for a new manual transmission, and they're probably right.

For all its back road competence, high-speed stability and high-tech power, the XK8's number one appeal is its head-turning good looks, a factor that figures high in the driving experience. Even in Santa Barbara, a community that has a high percentage of automotive exotica, the XK8 stopped traffic and elicited questions from passersby: "How much? When can I get one? Can you pick me up after work?"

With its handsome proportions and smooth lines, this is a stirringly beautiful car. If there's any fault to be found, it's in the color pallette, which doesn't include a true red but does include a couple other metallic hues -- an electric blue and dark green olive -- that seem inappropriate to us.

Aside from that, though, the XK8 ranks as one of the best-looking cars on the road. Amazing grace on wheels.

Naturally, the convertible got lots of attention in sunny Santa Barbara, particularly when we raised or lowered the top with the car in motion.

The top -- a power-operated affair (with a glass rear window) that latches itself automatically -- will go up or down at speeds up to 10 mph. Why this is significant isn't clear to us, but it certainly attracts attention.

Final Word

The XK8 clearly belongs to the realm of high disposable income.

There are cars in this price range that are more agile -- the Acura NSX and Porsche 911 come to mind -- but they don't have quite the same elegance quotient.

There are other cars -- BMW's 8-Series coupes, the Lexus SC400, and the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class roadsters -- that are just as posh, but feel a little sterile compared to the XK8's uniquely British interpretation of sporting luxury.

That's the real genius of the XK8. Jaguar has done a masterful job of meshing the spirit of a legendary past with the high-tech present. Thanks to its Ford connection, Jaguar approaches the millennial frontier as a fully contemporary car company capable of competing with the world's best.

And as for all you defrocked Jaguar prophets, there's hope. Employment opportunities exist for people with your talent in the weather forecasting business.

Order our 200+ page magazine of reviews. Send $8.00 (S&H included) to New Car Test Drive, 2145 Crooks Rd. Suite 200, Troy, MI 48084

© Copyright 1997 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

Printable Version

1997 Jaguar XK8 Coupe

Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std
Traction/Stability Control Opt

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std

Road Visibility

Fog Lamps Std
Electrochromic Rearview Mirror Std
Intermittent Wipers Std
Variable Inter. Wipers Std

Security

Alarm Std
Printable Version

1997 Jaguar XK8 Coupe

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Miles

Months

Jaguar Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

Terms include up to 6 year/ 100,000 miles limited warranty.  
Age/Mileage Eligibility 5 yrs or less from inservice date/less than 60K mi
Lease Term Certified Yes
Point Inspection 150
Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance Yes
Special Financing Yes
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible No

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

1997 Jaguar XK8 Coupe

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