2003 Jaguar XK
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The latest XK Jaguar sports car retains the ultrasexy styling of its predecessors. With no need for cosmetic changes, the venerable Ford-owned British automaker has given the 2003 model major mechanical upgrades that make it smoother and faster.
Why tamper with success? The XK has been the fastest-selling sports car in Jaguar history, with more than 70,000 global sales and more than 33,000 sales in America since the car's debut in 1996.
Subtle exterior changes for 2003 include new high-powered Xenon headlights and new badging. Jaguar took the same approach with its alluring 1960s E-Type Jaguar, which inspired styling of the current XK. That early Jaguar commonly was called the "XK-E" in America because its predecessors were the XK-120, XK-140 and XK-150. With the most-desirable 1961-67 E-Type models, Jaguar didn't touch the styling, but made the engine larger and provided a better transmission.
The 2003 XK continues to come as a coupe and convertible in base XK8 and supercharged XKR trim. As with other Jaguars, surveys show that reliability and customer satisfaction aren't negatives anymore.
The XK8's engine now generates 294 horsepower, and the mighty supercharged version provides 390 horsepower. Previous power ratings were 290 and 370, respectively. And the last model year's 4-liter V8s provided less punch during typical U.S. driving partly because power and torque kicked in at higher rpm levels.
Both engines give the new 155-mph XK very fast acceleration, with the supercharged version providing especially thrilling acceleration.
Responsive New Transmission
Fuel economy with the XK8 is an estimated 18 mpg in the city and 26 on highways, while the figures for the XKR are 16 and 23.
No manual gearbox is offered for the XK because Jaguar U.S. chief Mike O'Driscoll says demand for such a transmission would be low in America. In fact, that's been the case with Jaguars sold here for decades because most Jaguar buyers in this country consider the car more of a luxury model than a pure sporty one, such as, say, a Porsche or BMW. And you're not supposed to shift gears in a luxury car.
Even the XK-120, which arrived here about 1950, had leather upholstery and a soft ride when sports cars were expected to be uncomfortable with a trucklike ride and no-frills interior.
The fast XK-120 became an instant hit with prominent Hollywood movie stars, such as Clark Gable, who grabbed the first one in the L.A. area.
That "R Performance Handling Pak" provides a revised, sportier setup for the XK's electronically controlled Computer Active Suspension System, with uprated springs and anti-roll bars, lower ride height and retuned steering assistance—besides the 20-inch wheels with ultralow profile tires and cross-drilled Brembo brakes.
Not that most XK buyers are expected to order their car with a bunch of available high-performance (and high-priced) items—or even in supercharged form. But it's nice to know that Jaguar isn't about to let fast sports cars kick sand in the face of its 2003 XK.
The XK's impressive agility is enhanced by larger standard 18-inch standard wheels. The car feels lighter than it is during most driving, although it weighs from 3,779 to 4,042 pounds because it's loaded with comfort and convenience equipment. The XK8 feels a bit softer than the XKR. But even the XKR with "R Performance" items has a supple ride.
Prime Safety Feature
No Price Changes
Prices for the XK continue to go from $69,330 to $86,330. The regular XK8 coupe and convertible top out at $74,330 while the XKR starts at $81,330.
Newly standard across the board are Dynamic Stability Control and Emergency Brake Assist systems for better stability and more effective braking during emergency stops. Also, race-bred Brembo brakes now are standard on the XKR.
Automatically Avoiding Accidents
If the XK senses another vehicle crossing into its lane, the car's speed is adjusted to suit, overriding the set cruise speed to maintain the gap and erasing the need for the driver to adjust or cancel the set speed. As a further development, the system uses Forward Alert, which provides an audible warning of slowing traffic.
Fairly Roomy Interior
The control layout is generally good, although sound system controls are rather small and should be atop the climate system controls. The deeply recessed gauges are hard to read in bright sunlight.
The coupe's trunk is rather large and nicely shaped, and the convertible's smaller trunk has fairly decent room, considering it must accommodate a lowered top.
Fast and elegant, with that old Jaguar charm, the XK should continue to be a hit.