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A BONDING EXPERIENCE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Dec 11, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

A BONDING EXPERIENCE

By JOHN GRAFMAN

It's good to be James Bond. And why not, he has all the best toys, girls, a license to kill, and of course cool cars. While the Jaguar is not an Aston Martin, it is a car with deep British roots, power, style and sex appeal. What's not to like?

The XK8 coupe stands apart from the usual suspects in Southern California. While the convertible sibling is seemingly more plentiful, the coupe generates greater attention than I expect. The swoopy lines created by the flowing roofline are reminiscent of the time when autos were styled with design being the priority, and functionality took a back seat. More often than not, I spy several SUV drivers looking rather enviously at this machine.

The body style on this Jag is far from new, yet it's holding its own. Maybe the scarcity of this cat keeps it looking fresh. The 2005 offers a little change to the front fascia and some minor changes elsewhere, but the heart and soul soldiers onward. The interior retains the now familiar design. There are those who still favor the very Jaguar-like wood dash, others have some harsh criticism of this. Perhaps the longstanding Jag owners are getting ready to see some evolution to the flat, and conservative layout. With so many current cars having some rather trick veneer panels with complex shapes, some new dimensionality to the rather staid layout might be welcomed.

The eight-cylinder motor with 294 horsepower can get this two-door moving fast enough. The overwhelming XK8 R does take ones breath away, while this garden variety is merely thoroughly stirring. Stirring is a good thing, though. I start to look for any excuse to get behind the dark wood steering wheel. No reason is too small, even a coffee run to Starbucks is reason enough. The styling of the body says elegance, the growl from the engine says, "Let's rock"!

While this Jaguar design might be put out to pasture in the near future, it's hard not to get an emotional attachment to this vehicle. This attachment goes far beyond the other makes and models that haven't seen nearly as many years of service. While the exterior has grown old very gracefully, the interior is in need of a little massaging. In particular, for a car of this caliber, the entire interior surface should be trimmed in nothing but the best. Some of the seat and door trim is not of premium material and speaks of Ford rather than Jag. The GPS is easy enough to utilize. However, the screen size is somewhat on par with a Palm handheld PDA. I do notice the vacant passenger seat going through minor epileptic seizures over rougher roadways, which is (to say the least) distracting from the driving experience.

The six-speed transmission does a brilliant job. However, as noted by us and many other magazines, the J-gate shifter is not the best solution. Alas, it is uniquely Jaguar. The car handles itself well over most surfaces outside of the seat situation. I am surprised that the seat heater doesn't have several various settings. The heater does its job, but the seatbacks never achieve a blowtorch-like temp that can nicely unknot aching muscles. The car is fit with some of the latest speed-controlling gizmos. The speed sensitive and distance variable cruise control is a blessing in the city of the angels, which is home to highways that are almost never desolate. The system keeps the car at a proper driver calibrated distance from the vehicle it's following even if the other car is slowing down. The electronic maximum speed limiter for the cruise control answers a question few really ask. However, in this instance I applaud Jaguar for offering more rather than taking a minimalist approach.

The cassette player in dash instead of an in-dash CD player is too far behind the times. Time to put those favorite, well-worn tapes out to pasture. Unlike clothing styles, I don't think we will be seeing a cassette tape revival, at least not in our lifetime. Oddly, as retro as the tape player is, this sound system is anything but retro and deserves kudos.

All this grousing is really petty ante once the engine is fired-up and the transmission is slid into drive. This car is all about the vibe! Few autos can make one feel the way the 2005 XK8 does. This car is about as far from conventional as it gets. Thankfully so!

Getting more than one passenger in this can be a squeeze. The luggage space is nominal for a short getaway. Gas mileage is fairly decent for a powerful eight-cylinder motor, but mileage usually isn't an overwhelming factor in purchasing of a high end-sporting machine.

If Jaguar had made compromises, the XK would have lost much of the flavor that sets it apart. If the roof height were more accommodating for the occupants, the slippery shape would have been lost. While many gripe over the cookie cutter shapes of many cars, this slick cat will never fall into that group. The development team certainly had their work cut out for themselves. Retain all the classic, timeless elements and at the same time keep the car up to date and modern. Not an easy job!

Even the briefest of jaunts to a local restaurant is made into a special, rosy affair by our cat. This car sets the mood. Sure, so do most cars and trucks. Unfortunately, the mood set by many trucks and SUVs is one of working hard or hauling around someone else's household belongings - not my idea of fun. And comparing it to other similar vehicles, the Jag is still in its element with a persona developed over decades. How many car companies can say that!

Pretending to be a James Bond or whoever you want to emulate is perfectly acceptable behavior in this car. The Jaguar, on the other hand, is good-to-go being what it is and makes no apologies along the way. How cat-like!

More information can be found at www.jaguar.com

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: Base $69,830, as tested $75,770

Engine type: 90 degree V8 aluminum cylinder head/block, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder

Horsepower: 294 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 303 lb.-ft @ 4,100 rpm

Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive

Transmission type: ZF (6HP-26) automatic six speed

Suspension: Front: Sport-tuned suspension. Fully independent twin wishbones. Coil springs with telescopic dampers. Anti-dive geometry providing longitudinal stability under heavy braking. Anti-roll bar. Rear: Sport-tuned suspension. Fully independent with lower wishbones and driveshafts acting as upper links. Coil springs with telescopic dampers. Anti-roll bar. Dynamic Stability Control

Wheels and tires: Front: 18 x 8-in. (f) or 18 x 9-in. (r) cast alloy, Aris Continental 245/45 ZR18 Rear: 18 x 8-in. (f) or 18 x 9-in. (r) cast alloy, Aris Continental 255/45 ZR18

Brakes: Front: Vented discs 12.8" X 1.02" diameter fixed, cast iron calipers Rear: Vented discs 12.0" X .79" diameter fixed, cast iron calipers

Teves Mk25 electronically controlled 4-channel anti-lock brake system with yaw control, Active brake booster, Independent front/rear split hydraulic, circuits incorporating fluid loss warning sensor

Overall length: 188"

Overall width: 70.8", 81.7" w/mirrors

Overall height: 50.5"

Curb weight (lbs.): 3,779

EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 18/26

Top Speed, mph: 155 (electronically limited)

0-60 mph: 6.1

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