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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Jaguar XK8 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Jaguar XK8 Overview

Age Has Not Tamed This Cat's Attitude

In the high-end world of luxury sport coupes, attitude is everything. These cars are far more than just mere transportation, they are statement makers, announcing to all who see them that there is a success story behind the wheel. Though there are only a handful of these coupes on the market, there certainly are more than enough clients to snatch up every one produced. It is one thing to be the hot new kid on the block but quite another to avoid fading from favor when the next big thing hits the showroom; perhaps this is why it is so remarkable that after 7 years in production, the XKR still manages to elicit lustful stares from young and not so young alike. With its timeless shape, powerful Jaguar styling and thundering supercharged V8, it is no wonder the XKR is still a favorite amongst those who love fine automobiles.

The XKR is available as both a coupe and a convertible; neither have much in the way of a back seat, so realistically you might just as well think of them as two-passenger coupes with a nice leather padded storage area behind the front seats. You'll find the interior appointments beyond reproach, with an all-new set of marvelously contoured Recaro seats clad in fine leather to hold you firmly in place as you dart around corners. The dash face is covered by a huge burl walnut wood appliqu that appears as if the instrument cluster and navigation screen were carved out by a skilled hand before being placed in the car. The XKR also features a custom Momo steering wheel and shift knob that further enhances its sporty nature. Convertible models feature a one-touch power roof that self latches and can be operated while the vehicle is in motion at speeds up to but not exceeding 10 mph. For you discerning audiophiles, Jaguar has given the XKR a really fine 320-watt Alpine audio system that features a cassette deck in the dash and 6-disc CD changer in the trunk.

The XKR's age does reveal itself in the area of passenger accommodations, especially in the leg and headroom department. The car's large transmission tunnel and low roof line make a tight fit for anyone over six feet; if this applies to you, try sitting in both the coupe and convertible to see which fits you best. In the coupe, you'll find the snug fit and small side windows can create a rather cramped feeling, with limited side and rear visibility; the convertible fares much better so long as the roof is down. You'll also find that the few oddly placed controls still linger in the XKR, such as the emergency brake that resides on the left-hand side of the driver's seat and the instrument panel dimmer switch that is located at the bottom of the steering column. We are told that in 2004, the XKR will get an electronic parking brake release that will alleviate the awkward manual handbrake. Trunk space in both the coupe and convertible is larger than what you might expect for this class— but don't expect to be carrying two sets of golf clubs and still have the trunk closed.

From the outside, the XKR distances itself from the more luxury-oriented XK8 with a bold new set of 18-inch wheels, louvered hood flairs, a mesh grille and special R badges. Just behind the big alloy wheels rests a set of Brembo's four-piston brake calipers with optional cross-drilled pads. The Brembo's feel great, stopping the car almost as quickly as it accelerates; and acceleration is what the XKR is all about. Under the hood you'll find an improved 4.2-liter supercharged V8 that produces an earth- shattering 390 horsepower. If you love all-out top speed combined with neck-snapping acceleration, this is the car for you. We think the most fun you'll have in the XKR is rocketing it from a dead stop, hearing the low rumbling growl of the V8 and experiencing the seamless acceleration. What the XKR's sheetmetal does for the eye, the car's engine and transmission will do for your soul. The supercharged V8, combined with the all-new ZF six-speed transmission is one of the best drivetrains ever built by Jaguar and the ZF six-speed is arguably the best automatic transmission in the world. You'll quickly come to understand why as you experience the ZF shift from first to sixth with little more indication of gear change than a subtle drop in the engine's rpm; downshifts are crisp and quick and you'll never find the ZF hunting around for the right gear.

The XKR can handle curves with little fuss, though the big body does flex a bit and the heavy steering makes left to right steering input a bit of work. Jaguar offers an optional performance suspension that, in combination with the enormous performance tires, help keep the big coupe locked firmly on Terra Firma. The price you pay is a stiff ride that can be jarring over rough pavement, something most Jaguar customers may find out of character for the brand. Still, if you love to drive hard—and that's probably why you're buying an XKR in the first place—opt for the most aggressive package offered and really take advantage of what the XK platform can do.

We might sum up the XKR as an aging super model that can still make you feel young again; for an automobile in this league, it's an attribute that is almost priceless.

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