- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

The Jaguar XK8 was first introduced in convertible form at the 1996 New York Auto Show. Its styling and performance made it an instant success.

Three years later, the supercharged XKR joined the XK8, delivering even more impressive performance. Now, for the 2003 model year, comes a much revised successor to the coupe and convertible.

The classic XK styling hasn't changed much with this new generation. Instead, revised styling details inside and out offer a subtle variation on a very popular theme. But under the skin is a very different story. New engines, transmissions, and a host of enhanced electronic and other equipment options focusing on safety, comfort and drivability make the XK even more satisfying to drive than the original.

At the heart of the next-generation XK models are two new 4.2-liter V-8 engines, one naturally aspirated, the other supercharged. The increase in displacement from 4 liters might not seem like much, but becomes significant when combined with other improvements, such as continuously variable camshaft phasing. The 4.2-liter XKR engines use a rotor-type Eaton supercharger, belt-driven from the front of the crankshaft. With outputs of 294 and 390 horsepower, the new engines add respectively 14 and 32 horsepower to their predecessors.

The original XK8 introduced Jaguar's first-ever five-speed automatic. For 2003, the XK's stronger engines are coupled to a state-of-the-art, electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission the same one that was introduced recently in the 2003 S-Type sedan. Finally, the rear axle is an all-new design; one that, according to Jaguar engineers, is beefed up considerably to handle the increased torque from the new powertrain.

The traditional Jaguar J-gates carries over to the new-generation XK, but with the addition of an extra shift point. On the right side of the gate is the traditional park, reverse, neutral and drive pattern. By moving the lever to the left side of the gate, the driver can shift sequentially down through the gears to second by moving the selector to the appropriate position. The transmission will continue to operate automatically to shift up and down, but will not shift into a gear higher than the one selected. A sport mode selector causes the shift points to be raised, making full use of the engine's power.

The normally aspirated XK8 has ventilated disc brakes all around that provide excellent braking power. However, considering how the supercharged XKR is likely to be driven, its brakes are upgraded to provide exceptional performance. The XKR features Brembo ventilated front and rear discs with four-piston aluminum calipers. The Jaguar "R" logo on the Brembo calipers is visible through the spokes of either 19-inch or 20-inch wheels.

A new feature for 2003 is Adaptive Cruise Control, a system that takes the function of cruise control one step further. Through the use of microwave radar technology, ACC can detect slower vehicles ahead or can even sense another vehicle crossing into "your" lane. If this happens, speed is adjusted to suit the situation, overriding the set cruise speed to maintain the gap and removing the need for the driver to adjust or cancel the set speed.

A car with the power and performance of the new-generation XK needs the best in mechanical and electronic driving aids, and this car gets some of the best. First is Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension system. Available only on the XKR, CATS works by continuously adjusting the suspension's damping characteristics to suit driving conditions, optimizing both ride and handling. The system switches to a softer setting when the car is traveling on a smooth, straight road. When the XKR encounters bumps, or during cornering and braking, the settings switch instantaneously to firm mode, reducing roll and increasing stability.

With all Jaguar's new hardware under the skin, designers haven't forgotten about comfort and convenience. The usual array of luxury features is still available, so now XK owners can continue to travel in comfort and style and have a lot more fun, too.

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