2003 Jaguar XK Series
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, but the minute I got inside the 2003 Jaguar XK8 convertible, I felt like I was in a cocktail dress.
The sleek lines of the sheet metal, the long, dominating hood and the rich, English-tailored interior just made me feel elegant.
If only this elegance could be complemented by some badly needed updates.
To be sure, the XK8s—coupes and convertibles—get more powerful engines and a new 6-speed automatic transmission for 2003, which make the cars overtly sporty, much more so than they were when the XK8 debuted in the U.S. market in 1996.
The sound of the powerful V8 was intoxicating even if I accelerated from a lowly 25 miles per hour. Jaguar not only improved engine performance this year; it worked to produce more engine growl through the rev range.
The 4.0-liter AJ-V8s—one is naturally aspirated, the other is supercharged—that have been in the XK8s all along have evolved into 4.2-liter units this year.
The bigger engine size plus the new transmission help give the naturally aspirated powerplant that was in the "base" XK8 test convertible 294 horses and 303 lb-ft of torque at 4100 rpm. Last year's model had peak torque of 290 at 4200 rpm.
As a result, this sleek convertible can zip from standstill to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. Last year's car took 6.7 seconds, according to Jaguar officials.
Supercharged XKR models are even more powerful. Horsepower here is up to 390 from 358 a year earlier, and torque is 399 lb-ft at 3500 rpm. A supercharged coupe can travel from standstill to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
The supercharged XKs drink down the gas at an almost-SUV rate, with city driving rated at just 16 miles a gallon.
I recall this before . . .
This was the same problem we had with the first XK8s in 1996. I either had to sit at an angle in the driver seat to make use of the pedal or I had to move the driver seat so far forward I was sitting uncomfortably close to the airbag in front of me.
It wasn't the only flaw from the early cars that's still in the XKs. The smallish inside door handles continue to pinch the side of my hand on occasion as I pull on them to open the door.
Don't expect to get much use out of the XK8 back seat, either. Despite the size of this car—187.4 inches long, which is nearly the same length as a Mazda MPV minivan—the XK8's back seat has nearly nonexistent legroom.
I couldn't even squeeze into the leather seats back there because there was no room for my legs. No wonder Jaguar left legroom out altogether of the 2003 press kit spec sheet for this car.
At least Jaguar officials saw fit this year to make stability control and emergency brake assist standard on all XK8s. These are technologies that have become commonplace on many other luxury cars.
Not keeping up with Joneses
The CD changer wasn't the only thing that required me to get out of this Jaguar.
The XK8s have power-operating fabric tops, but the cover, or boot, that goes over the folded-down fabric still must be installed and snapped down manually.
The power roofs on the SC 430, SLs and A4 Cabrio all include power boots that automatically cover and seal over the folded tops. I have to say, it's a much more elegant process.
After all, no one wants to be fussing with a CD changer or power top when she's wearing a cocktail dress.