Once in a while, you come across a car that catches your eye and you aren’t sure what to think. The Jaguar XK8 definitely fits that description. When I saw this one in the WalMart parking lot in Sandusky, Ohio, I wanted to take a picture but I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it’s because you don’t see them very often. Maybe it’s the interesting shape of the body. Or it may be the fact that Ford was involved with its production. I’m not sure why I am interested but I am. So, let’s take a look at the history of the Jaguar XK8.
The Jaguar XK8 was introduced to the world in 1996 as the replacement for the ancient XJS (1976-1995) (Wikipedia). The XJS was and still is a tantalizing car to me. There is nothing quite like driving a low slung, exotic coupe with a V12 engine. But two decades with only slight modifications wasn’t exactly a good recipe for sales. So, something had to be done.
The new Jaguar coupe did rather well, “and rapidly became the fastest selling sports car in Jaguars history and in doing so won numerous awards around the world” (History). So, what was so special about the XK8? “The original XK8 was launched in 1996 as a convertible or coupe. Equipped with the all new 290hp aluminum V8, 5 speed automatic transmission, and 17″ wheels, the successor to the XJS was very well received by enthusiasts and the press alike. The all curve styling was very different from the XJS but brought back memories of the E-Type” (Jag Lovers).
Most Jaguars were originally equipped with reliable inline six engines or the more exotic V12 on occasion. So, having a V8 in the new coupe was somewhat of a historical change. No doubt this was due to the influence of Ford Motor Company. But it doesn’t seem that anyone was complaining because of the increase in performance. The venerable 4.0L I-6 in the base XJS put out a respectable 237 hp. The new V8 put out 290 hp which had almost as much power as the 6.0L V12 (318 hp) but with better reliability. In fact, Jaguar took “1st place in the JD Power owner satisfaction survey” in 1999 (Jag Lovers). In 2000, Jaguar introduced the XKR edition which used a 370 hp super-charged 4.0L V8 to reach 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds (Yahoo).
Okay, the XK8 might just be a car worth considering some day. With better performance and an increase in reliability, the XK8 sounds like a fun car to own. But don’t get overly excited about the JD Powers award. Early XK8 engines had “Nikasil lining of the cylinder bores that was susceptible to wear from petrol with a high sulphur content. … Many earlier XKs had their engines replaced under warranty by Jaguar, so look for evidence of this in the history file or inside the engine bay where there should be an identifying plaque.” (Buyers Guide).