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XK8 convertible fills both roles perfectly

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It's Beauty and the Beast — all in one.The 2006 Jaguar XK8 convertible plays both parts simultaneously, and with all the grace and presence of a Broadway diva.

First introduced in 1996 and undergoing only the slightest of cosmetic alterations since, the Jaguar XK is not only a true classic, but it remains one of the most elegant designs ever to ever grace the tarmac. And the test car, with its combination of basic black exterior with and rich cashmere interior, was downright gorgeous. A set of sparkling 19-inch chrome Atlas wheels provided the perfect accent to the profile.

It's a look unique to Jaguar and will be confused with no other vehicle design on the planet. Unlike others who have taken to copy-cat versions of the wedge shape, the XK8 remains a sultry piece of sculpture.

The interior shows the work of master craftsmen from the stitching of the glove-soft leather seats to the tester's polished elm veneer dash. The climate and sound system controls, along with the navigation system's color display, were incorporated quite nicely into the layout. Again, this distinctive design is unlike anything else in the industry.

So with all this beauty, where's the beast?

It's sitting right under the stylish hood in the form of a 4.2-liter, 294-horsepower V8 engine, and will gladly introduce itself to you the first time you lay into the gas.

Whisper quiet and sophisticated around town or cruising on the highway, the engine lets out a lusty snarl when the spurs are applied, letting you know this cat has some serious claws.

The current 4.2-liter V8, by the way, was added to the XK package in 2003, along with a six-speed automatic transmission that has both normal and sport mode that winds it out to around 4,000 rpm before shifting. For those wishing to drive in a more spirited mode, try the trademark J-Gate shifter.

In an age when others are placing their shift controls on steering wheel paddles or simpler single transmission gates, the J-Gate is perhaps dated. By placing the regular controls on the left side and the individual gear notches on the left, it allows you to work your way through the gears as though the car had a manual transmission.

The paddles and more contemporary gates on other cars are without question more effective in drag-strip type maneuvers, the J-Gate gives the kind of grand touring feel meant to please Jaguar's more sophisticated audience. Yes, it does have more of an old-fashioned feel, but it will indeed be a sad day when Jaguar forsakes its J-Gate for one of those setups.

The ride is a near perfect compromise between performance and comfort. The ride feels firm and the grip is tight through the turns, where you will feel no lean or body flexing, which is unusual for a convertible. At the same time, it's also quite forgiving on a bumpy road surface, making this the ideal setup for a long, relaxing ride through the countryside.

If you decide to push it, the Dynamic Stability Control will keep you going in the desired direction, and the low-profile Pirelli tires maintain a confident grip on the pavement. No, it does not exhibit the agility of a compact roadster, but it is quite nimble for a two-ton vehicle.

It's also incredibly quiet for a convertible. Even when taken to highway cruising speed and beyond, there isn't even a hint of wind noise. The top raises and lowers with the touch of a button. There are no hinges to unlock, everything is automatic. When down, the convertible top sits on the back deck. For those desiring a more buttoned-down look, you can manually put on the boot the cover it. Personally, I felt it looked quite fine without it, but a neater approach will be part of the package with the next generation of the XK comes out in 2007.

Technically, the XK is a four-passenger vehicle, but in reality the guest list is limited to a driver and one front-seat passenger. If both folks are around six-feet tall, the front seatbacks will inevitably wind up coming in contact with the rear seat cushions, meaning there is no leg room whatsoever. The front seats can be moved forward to provide a small amount of space in back, but it's still going to be tight, even for small children.

The test car had a base price of $74,830 and bottom line of $80,895 when the $3,000 limited edition package, $2,400 navigation system and $665 destination fee were added in.

I know, that's far from cheap, but keep in mind that this is one character playing two parts: both the beauty and the beast.


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Still, it's only half as expensive as a DB9 Volante. I didn't realize they released pricing yet.

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They're talking about the current one...


Oh. :blush: I should really read more before posting..

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