Jaguar XJ Super V8

When Ford acquired struggling Jaguar in late 1989, no one could have predicted the modern-day Reformation that is now upon us. Jaguar had been cranking out luxury sedans along with the aged XJS for years under the management of British Leyland Motors, and more recently, as an independent company. Under the guidance of the Blue Oval, the XK was unleashed upon the world and heralded a new era for the British brand. When Jaguar introduced its XK coupe for 1997, hearts quavered and salivary glands went into overdrive as we witnessed one of the most beautiful vehicles ever introduced. Replacing the 21-year-old XJS, the XK harkened back to the sinuous lines of the spicy E-Type and XK120 (the former residing in the Museum of Modern Art as an example of the pinnacle of automotive design).

Also debuting was the impressive AJ-V8 engine, only the fourth all-new engine in Jaguar's history, which is the unit that powers the current XJ8 and S-Type 4.2. For the 2000 model year, Jaguar spiced up the already powerful XK8 by adding a supercharger to create the high-performance XKR. Available in both coupe and convertible form, the XKR offers a stiffer suspension, bigger brakes and nearly a 100-hp boost over the normally aspirated XK8. An XK Victory Edition package makes a limited-production run for 2006. The VE features upgraded leather appointments, special badging, elm wood veneer and a choice of four exclusive exterior colors. The XKR is still more of a grand tourer than a sports car, but it's perfect for quick weekend getaways for two.

Available as a coupe or convertible, the XKR comes fully loaded. Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, a computer-controlled active suspension, high-intensity discharge headlamps, leather upholstery, wood and aluminum trim, 12-way power sport seats with heaters and memory for the driver, automatic climate control, a 320-watt Alpine stereo with a six-disc trunk-mounted CD changer, and a DVD-based navigation system. A power-operated top is standard on the convertible. On the options list, you'll find an assortment of pricey 20-inch wheels, Recaro seats, adaptive cruise control, a Momo steering wheel and shift knob, drilled aluminum pedals and a handling package that sets you up with Brembo brakes (with visible red calipers) and firmer suspension settings. A Victory Edition package offers unique trim and badging, along with a choice of four exclusive paint colors.

The XKR's 4.2-liter V8 is energized by an Eaton supercharger, twin air-to-liquid intercoolers and minor structural changes over the normally aspirated version in the XK8. Output is rated at a prodigious 390 horsepower and 399 pound-feet of torque. A standard six-speed automatic transmission routes power to the rear wheels. EPA ratings are 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes supplemented by ABS and BrakeAssist are standard; a higher-performance Brembo set is optional. Other standard safety features include stability and traction control and seat-mounted side airbags for front occupants. Missing from the equipment list of this pricey vehicle is a rollover protection system in the convertible.