German magazine auto motor und sport conducted an emotional comparative test between the Mercedes SL 500, Jaguar XK8 and the Maserati Coupe, all equipped with V8 engines. Here are their impressions.
I am 53 years old but I consider that the golden age of the car industry was between the 90’s and the beginning of the 2000’s. What could be more beautiful and elegant than driving a sports luxury coupe with an aspirated V8 engine?
It’s hard to enjoy the same pleasure behind the wheel of a car today. These three V8 coupés teach you how sensual and glamorous life can be. Sports cars with V8 engines and a classy body that once cost well over 100,000 marks and which are in good condition today cost a maximum of 30,000 euros.
The Jaguar XK8 from the test is 22 years old, has only 64,325 km on board, and the price of 24,900 euros is a bargain. And went through all the inspections according to the service book. The Jaguar XK8 shows itself to be astonishingly rust-resistant and also technically solid.
Jaguar XK8 offers a noble ambiance with the central area of the dashboard dressed in walnut wood veneer, the six round indicators illuminated in subtle green and the analog clock is enchanting.
The Jaguar purrs at 2,500 rpm in the fifth gear of its ZF automatic, manual intervention is not necessary, there is always enough power, the pace is kept casually even without a kick-down.
The Jaguar XK8 has the proportions of a classic coupe with a long hood behind which the driver feels safe in armchairs upholstered in fine leather.
The V8 engine with four camshafts and 32 valves is incredibly refined. I only heard a sonorous grumble, as if a thunderstorm was approaching far away. Only when the gearbox is manually downgraded does the sound become more intense. The 284 HP are available at 6,100 rpm but I did not force more than 5000 rpm, a sufficient speed to feel a catapult effect that pushes forward the heavy 1.6-ton coupe.
The Maserati Coupe is not powered by the 3.2-liter twin-turbo V8 engine but by its successor, the 4.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 from Ferrari, which develops 390 hp at 7,000 rpm.
The test model is equipped with the Cambiocorsa gearbox which is an automated manual transmission without torque converter that uses a Formula One-type gearbox with hydraulic operation and electronic management operated by F1-style paddles behind the steering wheel, similar to the system used in Ferrari sports cars.
The specimen painted in metallic carbon black has 63,500 km on board and costs 29,500 euros. The owner mentions that the clutch, a typical Cambiocorsa weak point, is new.
You can drive in Automatic mode which offers more confort and protect the gearbox. An automatic clutch takes care of the start-up process, which I manage smoothly thanks to little gas. If you press hard the acceleration in automatic mode, the shifts are still quite gentle but manual surfing through the six gears requires a certain amount of practice in order to catch the right moment of frictional connection.
The V8 engine feels completely different from the Jaguar due to the high speed characteristics. And it impresses aesthetically with the red cylinder heads. Although it has only 248 cc more than the Jaguar engine, it has 106 hp more and a literal power of 91.9 hp compared to 71.2 hp. due to the high speed we could think of an engine torque available very high but in manual mode in the third gear from 2000 rpm, the response is very spontaneous, the maximum torque of 451 Nm being available relatively quickly at 4500 rpm.
The interior is elegant with leather upholstery from the Poltrona Frau which still smells nice and feels very soft. The elaborately built transaxle sports car also represents an Italian GT in the best tradition in terms of form. Designer Giorgio Giugiaro created a classic, balanced line with little experimental drama, but a lot of style.
Mercedes SL 500 (R230)
The Mercedes SL 500 in the test came in the traditional silver color of the Silver Arrows and stands out for its unique bivalent character of roadster and coupe with rigid vario-roof.
It is a model of the R230 generation produced in 2002 and has a respectable mileage of 190,589 km. It costs 14,900 euros and impresses with its rust-free and very well-kept condition. The then Mercedes chief designer Peter Pfeiffer succeeded in creating a wide and low-proportioned compact sculpture with the brand-typical four-eye face.
As a two-seater with luggage rack, the massive SL is even ten millimeters longer than the Maserati, and at the front it offers me the generosity that I expect from a luxury coupe.
Compared to the elegant atmosphere with a lot of wood inserts from Jaguar, Mercedes SL has a high-tech interior and the carbon look inserts give the feeling that you are behind the wheel of a car from our times. And draws attention and the start button on the gearbox.
The V8 engine always delivers enough power and harmonizes perfectly with the 5-speed automatic transmission. Chassis, brakes, steering, everything is perfect. As a glamorous everyday car I would immediately take the SL, its functionality is unmatched, and the trust in its reliability is immense.