Charisma, style - oh, and let's not forget the car.
by Eric Peters
Cars like the Jaguar XK8 are all about charisma and style; practicality and cost issues are clearly distant considerations. What counts is whether other people eye you with envy; whether the car gets respect from the valet at snooty restaurants. Will it get parked out in front? Or does it go around back with all the others? And is my hair on straight?
Using these criteria, the 2001 XK8 (in either coupe or convertible form) passes the test. And it's a good thing, too - because if considered solely on its objective merits, the Jaguar would have some explaining to do. It is cramped inside and not especially comfortable. Leg room is fine, but shoulder and head room are tight if you are over six feet tall. The steering wheel obscures the instruments, but they're easier to read than the miniaturized screen for the now-standard GPS navigation system. As for trunk/interior storage capacity, the Jag has about the same room for stuff as a moped with saddlebags. And the thing is massively expensive: $69,155 for the base coupe and $74,155 for the convertible.
But it has style. And that, friends, has been the Jaguar ace in the hole for years.
Even during the awful days before Ford Motor Co. bought the company and injected some much-needed quality control, cars like the XJ6 sedan and XJS coupe (the XK8's predecessor) sold decently and were admired, even if they were being admired with their emergency flashers on while waiting for a tow truck by the side of the road. That's a powerful testimony to the allure of these still-exotic British machines.
Just saying "Jag-you-are" (that's how the Brits say it) conveys a sense of what we're dealing with here. Even the tubular key is different, oddly stylish. The door-knocker Jag-head on the key fob and "leaper" emblem complete the ensemble.
Today's Jaguars have the added merit of being decently put-together, too. Purchasing a new Jag is no longer evidence of lunatic devotion to the brand, all other considerations notwithstanding. The new "AJ" 4.0 V-8 used in both XK8 models, for example, is an excellent and thoroughly modern powerplant. At 290 hp, it's also nice and snappy, though it would be much better if Jaguar allowed buyers the choice of a manual transmission. This is a sports coupe, after all. But for now, the car is only available with the standard automatic and weirdly-gated, "U"-shaped shifter, another Jaguar calling card.
Pretty much everything imaginable is standard, including a free, four-year/50,000 miles maintenance agreement. The DVD-based satellite navigation system is an improvement over CD-based systems, which require you to swap discs for different geographic regions.
New for 2001 are seat mounted side airbags, object-sensing park assist, a six-disc CD-changer (trunk mounted) and heaters for the front seats. The car also has a high tech, "ultrasonic" occupant detection system that adjusts airbag deployment force accordingly, or turns off the passenger-side bag entirely.
Minor revisions have been made to the front end and taillights, but the overall body shape is mostly the same as last year's car. Another nice quality about Jaguars is that styling changes tend to be evolutionary rather than abrupt, so that older cars don't look "old" before their time.
Another advantage: those desirous of serious oomph can upgrade to the high-performance XKR, which adds a supercharger that beefs up the V-8 to 370 hp. The base price of the XKR is $80,155 for the coupe and $85,155 for the ragtop.
Still insufficient? Perhaps the Silverstone limited edition model of the XKR will meet your needs. This new for 2001 package tickles six figures at $96,905 for either the coupe or the convertible. In addition to special paint and interior trim, these models are fitted with 20-inch BBS wheels and high capacity Brembo disc brakes. Still, no manual transmission, though, even in this ostensibly ultra-performance version of Jaguar's only two-door model.
Though it's expensive compared to most of its competitors - the Mercedes CLK series, for example, or even the Chevy Corvette - the XK8 has that special, hard-to-define something not many cars have these days. It is this quality alone that justifies the Jag's price, and makes its few shortcomings tolerable.
2001 Jaguar XK8 coupe/convertible
Base price range: $69,155-$74,155 (coupe/convertible)
Engine: 4.0-liter V-8, 290 hp
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 101.9 in
Length: 187.4 in
Width: 70.1 in
Height: 50.5 in
Curb weight: 3726 lb
EPA (cty/hwy): 17/24 mpg (V-8 automatic)
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, side airbags, traction control, stability control, ABS
Major standard features: Six-way power heated driver's seat w/lumbar support, rain-sensing wipers, leather trim, six-disc CD audio system, climate control, power windows and locks, cruise control
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles
© 2001 The Car Connection