2008 Jaguar XK


2008 Jaguar XK Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Jaguar XK was new.


Performance: 8.5

In a comparison test, Edmunds ranked the XK coupe second to the BMW 6-Series "due to its higher price and relative lack of performance and practicality." Yet while the review notes that the XK is "not quite a canyon-carving sports car," it's still "sporty enough to please those looking for something more than just a pretty automotive fashion accessory." Plus, the XK enjoys an advantage over its quicker rivals -- its smooth ride gives it a luxurious, sports-tourer feel.

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Jaguar XK comes with a 4.2-liter V8 engine that makes 300 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 310 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm. According to Jaguar, the XK coupe can reach 0 to 60 miles per hour (mph) in 5.9 seconds and has a maximum speed of 155 mph.

Several test drivers take issue with the XK's available power. AutoWeek notes that the "V8 should produce more than 300 hp. For this money, you shouldn't feel cheated on the power," and adds, "There are plenty of smaller-displacement engines putting out more power (but not always as much torque)." Consequently, Edmunds reports that the XK simply can't 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." Likewise, the Detroit News finds the XK is "not nearly as muscular as a Corvette, which pulls a lusty 400 horsepower from its beefy 6.0-liter V-8." Bottom line: If you're purely interested in off-the-line power, you may want to look elsewhere.

Despite these criticisms, many find the V8 plenty adequate. USA Today notes that its "unimpressive on paper," but reports that the Jag's drive-by-wire system "rapidly cranks on the revs and power, and you're shooting ahead at a very satisfying and exciting rate. The power is more than enough for sporty endeavors, owing to a car that's lighter than the one it replaced." In the same vein, Cars.com notes that "there's more to acceleration than test times. How a drivetrain does its job is critical, and here the XK is exceptional." CNET admits that the XK "is not the fastest or most powerful car in its class, but its relatively lightweight body means that a squeeze of the accelerator at 2,000rpm will push driver and passenger back into their perforated soft-grain leather seats."

Reviewers also love the sound of the V8, which Edmunds describes like this: "On South Africa's smooth, sweeping roads, we reveled in the throaty roar from the two-stage muffler. At idle, it purrs; under hard acceleration, there's a yowl reminiscent of the thrilling note from the parallel exhaust pipes of Jag's classic XK120. Time after time, we ran the XK through its gears just to hear their symphony." Cars.com calls the exhaust note "intoxicating," noting it's "just audible enough in normal driving, and it becomes a roar befitting the grandest jaguar of the four-legged variety." However, Automobile Magazine -- one of the few detractors -- says of the sound, "We could deal with something a little rootier, tootier, and fruitier, but maybe that's just us."

Fuel economy is a definite plus for the XK. In fact, the New York Times calls it "laudable, class-leading." According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the XK coupe is expected to net 16 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway -- "not bad for a performance car with a V-8 and automatic," says the Detroit News. Premium fuel is recommended.

The V8 is paired with a six-speed ZF electronic automatic transmission that gets very good reviews. A Sequential Shift feature allows the driver to manually change gears via the gearshift or steering wheel-mounted paddles (a first for Jaguar). Drivers can choose between several modes: Drive, Sport Auto or Sport Manual. Cars.com says the transmission is "excellent," adding that "it has the absolute best Sport mode I've ever driven."

The Cars.com review continues: "First off, the upshifts and downshifts are very quick -- a basic characteristic that's taken a backseat in recent years to additional gears and technological 'advances.' I've driven many automatics that are claimed to adapt to your driving style, but never has a transmission read my mind like the XK's. When I wanted quick acceleration, it stayed in a lower gear exactly the right duration." Likewise, Road & Travel Magazine says the Sequential Shift "feels smooth and steady -- and completes a shift from touch to turn in approximately 600 milliseconds, making it the fastest automatic transmission available, and quite possibly the fasted Sport shift around." But AutoWeek, one of the few to offer criticism, says, "I found myself dreaming of a manual gearbox, or at least a paddle-shifted double-clutch setup. This six-speed automatic is not bad, and the paddle-shift operation works pretty well, but it upshifts too slowly."

Handling and Braking

Though the XK's acceleration and power gets some negative reviews, the Jag's handling is a completely different story. Test drivers love its stiff yet smooth ride, nimble cornering and excellent road grip. Kelley Blue Book says "the most fun for serious drivers comes through the twisty bits as its big, meaty tires virtually velcro the XK's lightweight aluminum body to the pavement. It feels smaller and lighter than it is. Steering and braking are equally outstanding." Likewise, Cars.com says, "The XK isn't a small car, but in short order I was driving it like one, flinging it into curves, powering out of turns and generally enjoying its capability and poise."

The XK's all-aluminum chassis, new in 2007, gives it a stiffer, lighter structure than the previous-generation model. It features unequal-length double wishbone suspension in the front and rear, plus coil springs. The Detroit News says the ride is "supple and comfortable, with none of the stiff or bouncy feel that you sometimes get in a sports car." Consumer Guide reports that the "well-controlled base suspension delivers a firm but comfortable ride devoid of jolts and highway float." The Chicago Sun-Times offers even more praise, saying, "The supple, advanced suspension delivers a ride that's so good you can feel each wheel smoothing out bumps."

Aiding ride feel is Jaguar's Enhanced Computer Active Technology Suspension (eCATS). According to the manufacturer, this system "automatically ensures the optimum balance between ride and handling -- under every kind of road and driving condition -- by continuously adjusting the vehicle's shock absorber settings." CNET reports that the system gives the XK "impeccable road manners on the twistiest of roads." Cars.com comments that eCATS "does a very good job, automatically," but adds that "it wouldn't hurt to add a soft/firm selector for the suspension, simply because if people pay for technology, they want to know it's there and that they can play with it." In addition to eCATS, the XK gets Trac Dynamic Stability Control (TracDSC), which, according to Jaguar, "uses the anti-lock braking and traction control systems to improve directional stability when cornering, helping to prevent skids and loss of control by reducing power from the engine, and applying the brakes to individual wheels as appropriate."

The XK's power-assisted, speed-sensitive, variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering gets some mixed reviews. While the Detroit News says it "helps you feel connected to the road." The Chicago Sun-Times describes steering as "plenty quick, and the car adroitly handles fast curves and sudden directional changes." Edmunds says the XK "corners like a racecar, with no drama."

However, others aren't as kind. AutoWeek says there's "almost too much steering response that makes it feel a little darty, like the front end is turning quicker than the rest of the car can handle. That may be something that just takes getting used to, after years of Jags that didn't provide such responsiveness." The New York Times also notes some opposition: "Early drivers have had notably mixed views about the speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering. Some drivers have described it as numb, and others as too heavy. I thought it was nicely weighted." The reviewer adds, "This new cat feels light on its paws. It sinks its claws into the pavement and springs eagerly out of the turns."

The XK features ventilated performance anti-lock disc brakes that allow increased airflow to improve stopping distance and reduce fade in hard use. They come with a passive brake booster, hydraulic brake assist, and Electronic Brake Force Distribution. An electronic parking brake engages automatically when "Park" is selected and disengages when the vehicle is in gear and the accelerator is pressed.

The brakes receive excellent reviews, with Edmunds calling them "incredible, powerful enough to stop the car in just over 113 feet from 60 mph." Cars.com explains, "Linearity, pedal feel and all that are decent, but the main thing is that the brakes are plain strong. The XK stops like a woman passing a shoe store." Finally, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, "Powerful new anti-lock brakes scrub off speed quickly and begin working with the first touch of the pedal."

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