An open-top Jaguar is for many drivers the ultimate expression of their automotive lust. The purr of a powerful motor, the sublime beauty of the vehicle's exquisite sheet metal and the feeling of exclusivity that comes with driving one of the world's most sought after cars is a strong attractant and one that has allowed Jaguar to build a strong base of loyal buyers.
There was, however, a period in Jaguar's history where it seemed as though convertible lovers may have had to move on to another marque in order to get their customary rag top fix. While Jaguar convertibles had been a fixture of the 1960's, in 1975 the company halted production, preferring instead to direct their attention towards sedans and coupes. This was a reflection of the general attitude of uncertainty regarding the future of open top cars present in the industry at the time. It wasn't until 1983 that fans of the company were able to purchase a two-door Jaguar with a removable roof again, albeit one which was more of a targa than a true convertible. While aftermarket conversions of this vehicle, dubbed the XJS, were available to hardcore Jaguar lovers who demanded no compromise when it came to their fun in the sun, it wasn't until the end of the decade that the automaker themselves provided a factory rag top.
When it came time to re-design the venerable Jaguar two-door in the middle of the 1990s, new parent corporation Ford were determined not to make the same mistake that had occurred with the XJS and made sure that both a coupe and a convertible version of the car would be made available simultaneously. By paying special attention to the needs inherent in building an effective, modern convertible (stiff chassis, solid suspension), Jaguar was able to unveil the XK8 and XKR drop tops, vehicles which were at least as competent in the performance department as the coupes they were sold alongside of. In addition to their excellent engineering, the Jaguar XK convertibles were also designed to look good without the roof being present, in direct contrast to the somewhat hacked-up appearance of the older generation of vehicle.
This article examines the best used convertible produced by Jaguar, the 1998 - 2007 XK, and makes a case for it being one of the hottest premium rag tops available on the secondhand market.
1998 - 2006 Jaguar XK Convertible
When seen side-by-side with its steel-roofed sibling, the 1998 - 2007 Jaguar XK convertible seems to capture a different aspect of the platform's character. While the coupe is all muscle and sinew ready to explode out of the gate towards the finish line, the convertible has a much more refined appearance that instead suggests long and splendid drives through the countryside. This is not to say that removing the roof has a somewhat emasculating effect on the XK - rather, it adds a layer of prestige to an already upscale-looking car.
Matching this regal air is a well-sorted mechanical package that leaves nothing on the table when compared to the German luxury convertible competition. Standard XK8's are powered by a 4.0-liter V-8 engine that provides 290 horsepower (upgraded to 4.2-liters and 294 horses in 2003). For drivers who require the wind to race through their hair that much quicker, a 370 horsepower (390 in 2003) supercharged V-8 is available in the XKR. Depending upon the model year, both vehicles use a 5-speed or 6-speed automatic transmission to send all of that power to the rear wheels, and the XKR convertible can launch itself to 60 miles per hour from a standing start in just over 5 seconds. With a heavy-duty suspension to match, this overpowered cat is a big ball of fun on even the most challenging of roads.
With features such as adaptive cruise control, dynamic stability control, xenon headlights and DVD navigation available, the 1998 - 2006 Jaguar XK convertible conceals a fair amount of technological sophistication underneath its inviting skin. The vehicle's passenger compartment is a well laid out array of simple controls and buttons, surrounded by upscale wood trim and discrete interior accents. The Jaguar does not overwhelm the driver with luxury features, but settling behind the convertible's wheel feels like sinking down into a warm bath of comfort and delight.
The 1998 - 2006 Jaguar XK convertible is one of the classiest used convertibles available, and driving one will help buyers make a reserved and dignified splash wherever they choose to go.