Jaguar's XK8 convertible makes its world debut April 4, 1996, at the New York auto show. The XK8 coupe was introduced a few weeks earlier at the 1996 Geneva auto show. Billed as "a new breed of Jaguar" -- under a new owner, Ford Motor Co. -- the XK8 replaced the aging XJS, the British company's longest-running and best-selling sports car at the time.
In styling the XK8, chief designer Geoff Lawson was most influenced by Jaguar's E-Type, the famed sports car that debuted at the 1961 Geneva auto show and later was just the third car to be acquired by New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Lawson's design for the XK8 and other Jaguar automobiles "displayed sensuous, feline grace and elegant British refinement," The New York Times said in July 1999, when Lawson died suddenly of a stroke at age 54.
The XK8 coupe and convertible shared the same 102.0-inch wheelbase and part of the central tub with the XJS. The rest of the XK8's monocoque structure was new, along with the body panels and glass.
Under the hood was Jaguar's first V-8 engine, replacing the XJS' inline-six and V-12. The 4.0-liter engine -- developed by Jaguar rather than Ford -- was rated at 290 hp and was paired with a five-speed electronic automatic transmission.
The front suspension was a modified version of the XJS' double-wishbone setup while the rear underpinnings were similar to those used on the flagship XJ sedan. Antilock four-wheel disc brakes and traction control were standard.
The model was redesigned with more aluminum in 2006 -- and dropped the 8 from XK8 in favor of the simpler XK nameplate. With the introduction of the F-Type, Jaguar discontinued the XK for the 2015 model year. But there have been rumors and reports Jaguar is working on a new 2+2 that could revive the XK badge, though it remains a long shot as consumers continue to migrate from cars to crossovers and SUVs.