The classic concept of a Jaguar owner being refined and stodgy was turned on its ear in 1996 when Jaguar introduced the XK8 in coupe and convertible models. Suddenly refined and stodgy became jet set and fast paced with this smooth, powerful new member of the Jag family. If you look up a description of the Jaguar in the animal world you will often see the words compact and powerful, a perfect description of the XK8 in the automotive world.
This was Jaguar’s Renaissance car, the first of its line to use a V8 engine, and with new technology and refinements to the engine like alloy heads and block, electronic throttles and variable valve-timing, this car could stand up to any German engine and hold its head high. Turning out 290 horsepower and capable of 155 mph, the XK8 handled extremely well and the ride was very, very smooth. One of the hallmarks of Jaguar vehicles has always been smooth and quiet rides and the Jag XK8 continued that tradition. Riding in an XK8, you can hear the big cat purr and feel its power, a constant reminder of the raw muscle that surrounds you, but it is such a quiet purr, such a gentle hint of power, that you come away feeling refined and relaxed rather than amped up on an adrenalin rush. This is the feeling that Jag owners have loved for decades, the feeling that a lion tamer must feel every time he steps into the cage. Control the beast but never tame it.
On the downside the chassis is not very impressive due to its excessive length and weight, and interior luxury and room is lacking. Think spacious like Lexus and Mercedes-Benz and then cut back considerably on your daydream and you have the Jaguar XK8 interior. There is also nothing new about the styling of this European import car so don’t look for any new revelations when you first look at it. In appearance it looks much like the Aston DB7 or the classic Jag E-type.
Having said all that, this is one impressive car. Possibly the only car on the market that comes close is the Mercedes-Benz SL500, a car that truly does have the edge in quality over the XK8. But if you factor in price, smoothness of ride, and quiet comfort, the Jaguar XK8 is every bit the equal of the SL500.
The classic refinery of Jaguar meets the computer age and survives the transition quite nicely. Find out what it is like to hold onto a large predator and slip behind the wheel of an XK8.