A comparison of two beautiful cats There is nothing like whizzing along in the calm evening country air, taking in the sights and smells of our fresh clean countryside. With the crickets chirping, the air has that crisp late summer coolness to it.
Contributed by: Mark Rector
The Caledon hills are convertible drivers’ dream roadscape. Although it has been forty years since the intro of one of the greatest all time top-down automotive experiences, the hills are alive again with a cat on the prowl. Forty years and two generations of nameplates since, puts this feline into grandfather status. But grandfathers are cool. I speak of the original Jaguar XKE (or E-type if you prefer). Once one of the most sought after sports cars of the 60’s, it’s still a pricey and prized classic. The XKE now has a young grandson and great grandson that has single handedly brought Jaguar back to respectability in the past few years. The sultry and stunningly beautiful Jaguar XK8 (1997-2006) and its second gen XK (2006-present) come in coupe and convertible form. The convertible seems custom made to enjoy our lovely backroads. A lithe and nimble cat darting through the Caledon hills. Here are our impressions of a first gen XK8 thanks to a local owner.
Jaguar introduced the new kid on the block almost fifteen years ago with some daring design ideas that cost the company dearly. An all new Jaguar engine (the AJ-26) and a very bold striking body style, unlike anything from the boring lookalikes from Japan or the Big 3. It was designed from the ground up as an all-new car even though it used a heavily modified frame from the previous generation XJS. The body style was reminiscent of the E-type (or inspired by it) but if looked at side by side they are quite different; the XK8 is the much larger car. The costly investment was worth it for Jag’s new sugar daddy, the Ford motor company. Ford kept the best British-ness in Jaguar and eliminated the shaky reputation it was getting from a few years of poor reliability. Jaguar was regularly at the top of the JD Power reliability list in the late 90s thanks to Fords quality program, we shall see if the new Indian owners Tata Motors can continue that quality reputation.
On an open country blacktop like Heart Lake Road or Hockley Valley road, there are very few vehicles, indeed, that can give the feel of a Jaguar on the road. Years of Jaguar suspension expertise provides a comfortable ride by absorbing imperfections in the road almost imperceptibly, yet when you want to corner, this feline is very capable and up to the task. This is thanks to the CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension) computer system that monitors the road and your driving conditions then quickly adjusts the firmness of the dampers depending on those conditions.
The new 2012 XKR Portfolio comes with a range topping 542 hp / 502lb-ft of torque AJ-V8 3rd Gen engine (vs. the original 300hp/310lb-ft, how positively paltry!), larger 20 inch tires, traction control, stability control and Jaguar’s massive anti-lock brake system make this one sure footed cat. There hasn’t needed to be many improvements to this cats handling over the years. Even the earlier versions were well planted and still stand up to some of the finest German sport coupes. Many owners would find it sacrilege to drive this $110,000 sports car in a Caledon winter, but we talked to one local Bolton owner (not easy to find given the rarity of this cat… only a handful live in the Caledon area) who did drive his in all the fury a Caledon winter could muster and he felt it quite safe and surefooted thanks to the advanced driver aid systems.
The first Gen cars had a real British interior that was pure Jaguar opulence and quickly dispels the notion that a British sportscar convertible means cramped, damp and water-dripping uncomfortability. The post 2006 XKs somehow lost this opulence and instead went for cheap plastics and smatterings of chrome plastics and only enough wood to consume a few twigs. The earlier cars interiors were light years ahead in style. This is the type of interior built for British royalty. The polished walnut dash, beautiful leather all around you and posh styling gives you a feeling that this is not just a motorcar. What Jag was thinking to down grade all that beauty to the post 2006 XK “Acura Jap mobile” interior is beyond me.
There is nothing like whizzing along in the calm evening country air, taking in the sights and smells of our fresh clean countryside. With the crickets chirping, the air has that crisp late summer coolness to it. As you crest the rise at Heart Lake and Escarpment sideroads and see a breathtaking view of that great city we moved up here to get away from; the cat pounces over the next hill and you feel very lucky to be holding her reins. The only quible we could find was the $1.98 cup holder in this megabuck beauty. Then again if you want to drink coffee while driving, you shouldn’t be in a Jaguar.