- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2001

I've been down this road before. It is the third time I've been behind the wheel of Jaguar's sporty XK8 models including the coupe, the supercharged XKR, and this time the convertible.
And I've about run out of adjectives to describe the series. The first time I described it as "beautiful, gorgeous, ravishing, stunning, sensual, dazzling, sexy and wild." All those adjectives still fit. The XK series is in my book the best-looking production car in the world and I don't expect to find many who disagree.
Even neighbors and friends who consider cars nothing more than basic transportation joined in praising the appearance of the XK8 convertible.
I could spend paragraphs describing in detail the styling of the XK8, but you can save both of us the time by just looking at the accompanying photographs.
If the XK8 series was just beautiful it would not be enough. It is also a world-class car in performance, handling and comfort.
The body retains the advantages of the long wheelbase of its predecessor, the XJS, and adapted some portions of its floor stampings, but its monocoque structure is an entirely re-engineered unit.
For the first time since its 1977 introduction, there have been a number of subtle design changes. Immediately visible are the new jewel-effect taillights with chrome surround trim, a chrome trunk-lid plinth with embossed Jaguar lettering (and the deletion of the rear "Jaguar" name badge) and an extended rear-bumper cover. A revised front bumper enables a more flush fit for the fog lamps, and the grille "splitter" bar has been subtly modified.
Having been a Jaguar owner back in the 1950s, I remember some of the quality problems. Since Ford Motor Co. took over the firm, there has been a complete turnaround.
Jaguar now ranks among the leaders in reliability, service and quality, according to leading surveys.
Under the hood is Jaguar's all-new V-8 engine the first V-8 ever produced for the marque. Some may believe it is just another version of Ford's excellent modular V-8 series. Wrong. It is an entirely new engine and exclusive to Jaguar.
Best-in-class performance is made in a variety of measures. The 4-liter all-aluminum, dual-overhead cam, four-valve-per-cylinder engine provides a maximum output of 290 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 290 foot-pounds of torque at 4,200 rpm. The XK8 convertible is capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph. Those are company figures, not mine, I didn't come close.
I did find the acceleration and sound to be glorious. Economy is quite good for a car so powerful. The Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 17 mpg around town and 24 mpg on the road. My best figure was 18.5 mpg in combined city/freeway driving.
Like past test cars, the convertible was equipped with a slick five-speed automatic. The first four gears provide quick and effortless response, while the overdrive fifth gear allows increased fuel economy.
The electronic control system combines smooth shifts from gear to gear and allows the transmission to adapt to the driver.
The rack-and-pinion steering system is speed-sensitive, variable-ratio and provides wonderful road feedback. It quickly tells you what type of road is underneath the car.
Large 12.1-inch vented disc brakes at all corners with a four-wheel anti-lock braking system brings the car to a quick stop while allowing the driver to steer away from possible dangers.
I drove the XK8 over my favorite mountain road and it again impressed as one of the best-handling sports cars on the road. Standard equipment includes Automatic Stability Control and traction control. ASC is operational at all speeds and is a tremendous aid during bad weather conditions.
Inside the car, redesigned seats with power head restraints are featured along with new switches and a relocated backrest release.
In addition to the appearance modifications, the 2001 models benefit from enhanced standard equipment. The 320-watt Alpine Audiophile Sound System with digital signal processing and six-CD autochanger, heated front seats and headlamp washers are now standard equipment.
The navigation system is also standard and I found it one of the easiest to use.
The rear seat is much too small for all but toddlers and packages. Legroom is not existent.
Luggage space is excellent for a convertible. It will hold overnight bags and golf clubs.
I would be remiss in not mentioning the ease of using the convertible top. Just push a button and the top unlatches itself and folds down into the storage space. A push of the up button reverses the procedure. Nothing could be simpler.
Jaguar claims the top can be operated at speeds of up to 10 mph. My opinion is to operate the top with the car at a standstill.


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