Full 2008 Jaguar XK-Series Review
What's New for 2008
The audio antenna is now hidden inside the rear spoiler on the 2008 Jaguar XK and XKR, replacing the old-school power aerial. There are several cosmetic detail changes to the interior as well. Sadly (and surprisingly), British Racing Green is no longer available as an exterior color choice.
A new Jaguar doesn't come along every day, and even when one does, it's usually hard to tell since it looks just like a past Cat. While there are certainly cues here and there to remind of its prestigious genealogy, the 2008 Jaguar XK is clearly a new kitten -- and a sexy one at that. However, there's more to this luxury coupe and convertible than sleek and muscular styling. This is a Jaguar that drives as well as it looks, and although it's not quite a canyon-carving sports car, the XK and the high-performance XKR are sporty enough to please those looking for something more than just a pretty automotive fashion accessory.
The XK was fully redesigned last year. One major change over the previous XK8 is the car's all-aluminum body structure and body panels. Sure enough, the XK is a bit lighter than before and significantly less portly than its main competition. Jaguar also claims that the aluminum structure's extra body stiffness has improved handling, ride quality and crashworthiness. While we passed on testing that last assertion, we can say that ride and handling are certainly better than before and certainly competent enough. Just don't expect the XK to keep up with a Porsche 911 in the mountains.
Nor can the standard XK coupe and convertible match the straight-line pace of competitors like the BMW 6 Series or Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class -- 300 horsepower just isn't enough these days. The XKR's 420-hp supercharged V8 easily closes the performance gap, but when properly optioned, the coupe and convertible are suddenly six-figure cars and in direct competition with the likes of the BMW M6 and Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
In a recent comparison test with the BMW 6 Series, we ranked the XK coupe second due to its higher price and relative lack of performance and practicality. However, if you're one to place high value on style, heritage and prestige, the 2008 Jaguar XK and XKR won't disappoint. Enjoyable to drive and look at, the XK should be a very pleasurable vehicle to own.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Jaguar XK is a luxury sport coupe and convertible available in standard XK and performance-oriented XKR form. Standard equipment on the XK includes 18-inch wheels, adaptive suspension damping, xenon headlamps, rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, power heated front seats with driver memory, Bluetooth connectivity, a touchscreen navigation system and a six-speaker audio system with in-dash six-CD/MP3 changer. Besides its supercharged V8, the XKR adds 19-inch wheels, a firmer suspension with recalibrated adaptive settings, retuned steering, larger front brakes, adaptive headlamps, an aluminum mesh grille, quad exhaust outlets and more aggressively bolstered front seats.
Major options on all XKs include various wheel designs, adaptive lighting (standard on XKR), adaptive cruise control, upgraded front seats with higher-quality leather, satellite radio and a premium Alpine surround-sound system. The Enhanced Luxury Package includes 16-way power seats, leather-trimmed instrument and door inserts, a heated leather steering wheel and power-folding mirrors. The XKR's Portfolio Package adds unique 20-inch wheels, an Alpine sound system, performance brakes and specialized aluminum or walnut interior trim.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard Jaguar XK is powered by a 4.2-liter V8 that generates 300 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. In testing, we hustled the coupe up from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, while the convertible did the sprint in 6.3 seconds. The XKR features a supercharged version of the same engine puffed up to produce 420 hp and 412 lb-ft of torque. Our test of an XKR Convertible revealed a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds, with the coupe being a few ticks quicker.
The Jaguar XK comes with front-seat side airbags (that provide both head and chest protection), whiplash-reducing front seats, traction control, antilock brakes and stability control. The standard XK's stability control system has two stages, one of which gives the driver more responsibility for the car's handling before the system activates. The setup is similar on the XKR, though its system gives the driver even more leeway and allows him to disable it completely if desired. All XK convertibles have two aluminum hoops that auto-deploy in the case of a rollover accident.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2008 Jaguar XK's interior is a pretty dramatic departure from the traditional Jaguar look, with a modern dashboard design and the availability of aluminum trim in place of wood. This serves to bring Jaguar into the 21st century, though some might argue that a Jag without wood is like Tom Selleck without the mustache. Unfortunately, the Jaguar penchant for downmarket plastics continues, which contributes to an overall ambience that doesn't quite match its price tag. Also, the multipurpose touchscreen that controls audio, navigation and climate systems could use a little work. It's simple and intuitive in concept, but we've found it frustrating in practice, with a screen interface that's neither sensitive nor accurate enough.
On the other hand, the XK is much more accommodating than the old XK8, though the two-position rear seat is still suitable only for small children or emergency use (and even then, it had better be a pretty big catastrophe). The convertible's soft top does an excellent job of noise insulation when up, and it disappears underneath a hard tonneau cover in only 18 seconds with the push of a button. The XK coupe's trunk can hold about 11 cubic feet of cargo. With the top down, the XK convertible can still hold 8 cubic feet.
Accelerating hard through the gears, the standard 2008 Jaguar XK's V8 makes up for its relatively modest punch with an enjoyable intake and exhaust soundtrack. As you'd expect, the supercharged XKR feels much quicker, as the merest tickle of the throttle results in a determined surge of acceleration. In both cars, the six-speed transmission is impressive, delivering quick, firm shifts that keep the engines in the thick of their power bands.
Sent through corners, both the standard XK and the XKR display the advantages of aluminum construction, as both versions of the car feel more agile and precise than their predecessors. They're certainly not sports cars, though, and competitors like the BMW 6 Series and Porsche 911 are more fun. But those looking for a more comfortable suspension will be quite pleased with this Jaguar, as even the XKR delivers more of a luxury ride than a sporty one.