It takes more than a brilliant new car to restore the fortunes of a company in decline, but if any one car can do that, then Jaguar's XK8 is such a car. Jaguar's brilliant revival dates back to 1989 when Ford acquired this beleaguered British company. Before tackling any new projects, Ford first set about restoring Jaguar's respectability. Contemporary quality control standards were put in place and Ford helped make improvements to Jaguar's factory in Coventry, England. When the XK8 program came it was the first new car under Ford's stewardship. Jaguar's heritage is built on sports car legends, and the XK8 is the kind of machine that is capable of acquiring a stature out of proportion to its actual capabilities. It's not quite an all-out sports car, not in the sense of the sainted XK-E or Jaguar's mid-'50s Le Mans winners. But it has the personality, style, and performance to become a legend in its own right. Jaguar's XK8 coupe is one of the most sublime pieces of automotive sculpture on the road today. But we chose the convertible for our test because we were in Santa Barbara and wanted to put the top down and have some fun. Just one year old, the XK8 rolls into 1998 unchanged, save for the addition of an auto-on/off headlight feature and some welcome new colors. Even the base prices are the same: $65,480 for the coupe, $70,480 for the roadster.