What's New for 2001
For 2001, there are standard child seat-anchor points for the rear seats and a reverse parking-control system. The premium audio system with a six-disc CD changer and the GPS navigation system are now standard equipment on XK8s. Topping things off are minor exterior styling changes and a new no-cost scheduled maintenance program that covers four regular service visits under the four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty.
Now into its fifth year, the XK8 comes in four distinctive styles: the curvaceous XK8 Coupe and Convertible and the high-performance XKR Coupe and Convertible. Convertibles features a power-operated top that lowers, raises and locks into place with the push of a button, as long as the car is moving at speeds under 10 miles per hour.
Stylistically, the XK8 is one of the best-looking luxury coupes available. Headlights slope off with a feline's squint and lead to lines that hark back to earlier Jaguars. The hood's subtle contours form two long, graceful indentations that, from inside, conform nicely to the driver and passenger positions.
Like most coupes, legroom for the front passengers is excellent, but rear-passenger accommodations are quite minimal. The XK8's luxury materials are impressive, with Connolly leather used on the seats, center console, door panels and steering wheel. The leather is matched up with extensive use of burl walnut wood. Another nice touch is the interior chrome door handles that also have integrated power door locks. Much of the plastic is disappointing, however. It reeks of Ford's influence, and often looks like it was lifted from a Crown Victoria.
The XK8's main option (standard on the XKR) is a GPS navigation system. The navigation system is fussy to operate, but it is DVD-based, which means it can store considerably more point-of-interest information than a CD ROM-based system.
Both the XK8 Coupe and Convertible come with a 4.0-liter V8 engine. This is the same engine that is used in the XJ8 Sedan. It produces 290 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 290 foot-pounds of torque at 4,250 rpm. A smooth-shifting and intuitive five-speed automatic is the only transmission available. The V8 is docile during cruising, but it is also capable of producing surges of power when asked. Acceleration from zero to 60 takes about 6.5 seconds.
Need more? The XKR's calling card is its DOHC, 32-valve 4.0-liter V8 engine. With a huge Eaton M112 supercharger, twin air-to-liquid intercoolers, and minor structural changes, the XKR's engine cranks out 370 horsepower at 6,150 rpm and 387 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm. To handle this extra power, Jaguar gives the XKR an upgraded suspension and 18-inch wheels.
On the road, both XK8s and XKRs provide impressive grip during hard cornering. This does not come at the expense of ride quality, as the Jag is comfortable and quiet on high-speed cruises. The speed-sensitive steering is slightly overboosted, but it will nevertheless guide you through turns with precision. Automatic Stability Control (ASC) is standard.
The XK8 and XKRs are fine cars in either coupe or convertible form. This is about as close to a classic GT car as you can get. With the Lexus SC 400 discontinued for 2001, the Jaguar's closest competition comes from Mercedes with its CLK430, CLK55 and SL500. The German cars are likely to be better values, but they can't match the Jaguar's level of class and grace.