2003 Jaguar XK Series


2003 Jaguar XK

By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

No styling changes needed, so Jaguar focused on mechanical improvements.
  • Sexy styling
  • More power
  • New 6-speed automatic transmission
  • Difficult entry and exit
  • Tight rear seat
  • Gauges recessed too deeply for easy read

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.

More Power
The new XK gets a larger 4.2-liter V8 with more power and torque in regular and supercharged form, and a new 6-speed automatic transmission with an improved version of Jaguar's traditional J-Gate shifter; it allows manual control modes, but still isn't as user-friendly as manual shifters of other automatics.

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
The responsive new 6-speed automatic transmission also enhances performance. Many higher-line automakers still use just a 4-speed automatic.

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.

Porsche Fighter
A 240-mile test drive of the quiet, comfortable XK coupe and convertible with both versions of the V8 over twisting mountain roads and fast straightaways in the LA area disclosed that the XKR with such items as Recaro seats, big 20-inch wheels and a sports handling package (coupe only) can give even the Porsche 911 a good run for the money.

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.

Good Roadability
Steering is quick, although some may feel it's got too much power boost. The brake pedal is rather soft, but easy to modulate.

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
Safety features include world-leading Adaptive Restraint Technology, which uses sensors to help determine if the two-stage airbags are deployed at all—or inflated fully or only partially, depending on such things as the position of a front-seat passenger's head and upper body.

No Price Changes
Despite improvements, XK prices haven't changed from 2002—following another Jaguar tradition of offering a lot of car for the money.

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
A clever new feature is an Adaptive Cruise Control option for the XKR. Using microwave radar technology to sense slowing traffic, it interacts with the throttle and, if necessary, the brakes to pick an appropriate speed.

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 low XK has wide doorsills, so can be difficult getting in and out. The posh wood-and-leather interior has a large console that eats up a good amount of room, although there is decent room for two tall adults. The rear seat of the coupe, however, is for children and pets.

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.


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BB03 - 9/22/2014 11:39:21 PM