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Jaguar XK8

Published: 11th Jul 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Buyer Beware

  • The XK8 is still a relatively new car so a service history is very important. Look for a fat wad of main dealer or specialist stamps to confirm mileage and maintenance.
  • A HPI data check (or similar from the RAC or AA) is money well spent to confirm the car’s honesty. You can also call Jaguar Customer Services on 02476 402121 and verify the model and whether any of the recalls were carried out simply by listing the car’s registration number.
  • Recalls involved mods to the engine’s throttles, gearboxes and driveshafts – although the biggest damage limitation exercise concerned the engines where early (pre 2000 year) V8s suffered from excessive bore wear due to the special Nikasil lining of the bores breaking down and resulting in loss of compression.
  • The unofficial way of determining any bore problems is to remove intake breaker pipes and listen to any undue wheezing. Also cars that are reluctant to start after a long period of standing idle is another good pointer.
  • But the real worry with this sophisticated quad cam engine is the timing gear where the tensioner assembly can break up with dire consequences and a potential £1000 bill to put right using improved4.2 parts.
  • If the recalls have been carried out then the transmission should be sweet and smooth although do run the car in manual mode to check that all is well.
  • Running gear is virtually identical to that of an XJ-S. The main wear points are the wheel bearings, which can be knocked out in less than 30,000 miles. It’s a dealer job to repair.
  • A good XK8 will drive like a dream, feeling swift and smooth – but even a rough one will feel good. So try a few to gauge the car – or seek out a specialist to confirm your opinion.
  • Rust can be a problem on early cars. The paint is known as being pretty ‘soft’ meaning chipping and damage is common.
  • Check behind the bumpers where electrolytic corrosion can set in between the alloy mounts and steel bolts – especially at the rear causing the bumper to fall off. Floors rot through now so check the chassis thoroughly.
  • Inspect the tyres. Penny pinching with cheapbrands usually means similar meanness elsewhere. Early cars ran on 17-inch rims but most folk like to see the fatter wheels.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 5/5

    Deeply satisfying, pace and grace to spare. XKR scorching yet smooth

  • Usability: 4/5

    If you don’t mind 22-24mpg then the XK8 is a desirable daily driver

  • Maintaining: 3/5

    Specialist cut costs as do Ford parts but can still be dear to keep

  • Owning: 3/5

    Can classify for classic insurance cover, usual support from Jag clubs

  • Value: 4/5

    Look astonishing bets but cheap ones can be dodgy. Buy with care

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Jaguar’s XK8 is now an amazing 15 years old, and is one of the best up and coming modern classics. It’s time to let this cat out of the bag reckons Alan Anderson

How time flies – is it really a staggering 15 years since Jaguar launched the real replacement for the E-type, to put us all out of our XJ-S misery? The XJ-S may have followed William Lyons’ philosophy of looking ahead but it always lived in the shadow of the 50-year-old classic, plus those ungainly looks hampered the XJ-S’s desirability, no end, as did the poor build quality, before the car finally came good late in the day. What Jag fans really wanted was a cat to drool over once more, as well as being fun to drive, and the XK8 supplied it, resulting in this particular Coventry Cat becoming Jaguar’s best selling sports car ever. Today a good XK8 makes a brilliant bargain buy for those after a modern classic that can only appreciate in value over time, while still being used as a regular driver. Prices now start from under £5000, so there’s really no better time to buy one.

Which model to buy?

After the once unloved XJ-S enjoyed a bit of Indian summer for sales, the XK8 was launched at the Geneva motor show, following in the footsteps of the E-type 35 years previously. Cost constraints meant that the new car had to use an existing platform, which was a development of the old XJ-S platform, itself a direct descendent to the XJ6 of 1968! The major differences lied in the new double wishbone front suspension set up and grafting on the famous IRS assembly, first designed for the E-type, but this time the modified, improved XJ40 one. However, the power train was all new – an excellent V8 four-cam 32-valve engine it was too, also used in the XJ300. For reasons best known to Jaguar, only the top 290bhp 4.0 unit was offered in the XK8, while rivals such as Mercedes or BMW were marketing a broader choice to entice buyers. Why the sweet and swift enough 3.2 engine wasn’t also considered remains a mystery to us. On the other hand, despite the XK8’s adequate pace, it wasn’t long before cries for more power were heard, answered in the shape of the XKR, in spring 1998. Thanks to its Eaton M112 supercharger, no less than 370bhp was now on tap and its torque was so massive that a sturdy Mercedes automatic gearbox was the only one deemed strong enough to handle the vast reserves of grunt delivered. Roadholding was courtesy of standardised CATS chassis (Computer Active Technology Suspension) that was optional on the standard coupe but sensibly standard on Convertibles. Apart from the brawnier 300bhp 4.2-litre V8, (with six-speed auto ‘boxes in 2002), the XK8 range remained largely untouched during its decade-long production run, save for detail changes to the trim and appointments. Always available as a coupe or convertible, either a Classic or Sport trim could be specified with the former comprising of traditional wood and leather, while Sport added leather seat facings with embossed centre panels and a charcoal-look dash layout. Naturally, they are sumptuously equipped, with all the modern toys you’d expect.

Two limited-run models worth seeking out are the Silverstone and 100 Special editions. The Silverstone came out in April 2000, as a normal Coupe or XKR convertible, with platinum silver paint, leather trim, 20inch BBS wheels shod with Pirelli P-Zero tyres, racing Brembo brakes and bespoke badging. Only 100 were made in total. Ditto the 100 Special, launched a year later, featuring nine-spoke BBS alloys, Brembo brakes, anthracite paint, Charcoal trim, R-Performance Recaro seats, racer-look gearshift and instrument surround, DVD/sat nav, reverse park control and more. Comparisons with the E-type aren’t fair, but are nevertheless unavoidable. What’s the better classic is arguable but, you can’t knock the sheer value of an XK8. Prices have dipped to £4000 or even less, according to trade guides, and while we’d advise you to avoid a mangy cat (they can be sadly unreliable but not as bad as past Jags), £10,000 will buy an excellent example worth pampering. Rag tops hover at around £2-3000 more, while the first of the 4.2s start from a paltry £12,000! XKRs normally command an extra £1000 on average but they’ll probably have been driven harder and, besides, do you need all the extra performance anyway? Compare the XK8 to its cousin, the DB7, that’s also featured in this issue of Classic Cars For Sale. On average a Jag is almost half the price of the DB7, but the Aston sure isn’t twice as good.

Behind the wheel?

Jag is half the price of a DB7 but the Aston isn’t twice as good

This Jag is a beauty – that’s a fact, and it goes as good as it looks. Like all Jags it can fit your mood, being fast and sporting when demanded, yet smooth and serene if desired. Now that premature bore wear and timing gear maladies is a thing of the past, the V8 is as good as any XK engine and even in standard form has more torque than the old V12 masterpiece! The more powerful XKR is fast enough to beat the Le Mans-winning D-types, but bear in mind that even a standard 4.2 isn’t far short of the old 4.0 XKR in terms of pace and power plus is cheaper to buy and easier to maintain. The Jaguar XK8 excels as a quality, if heavy GT, rather than a lean and mean Porsche 911-eater. It handles better than the old XJ-S that’s for sure while the CATS system really tightens things up further, although it does spoil the ride somewhat, especially if the ever-popular wider 20-inch alloys are fitted. It’s a stiffer car than the old XJ-S with a stronger shell but even so the convertible models can suffer from traces of scuttle shake. However the sheer sense of occasion that only Jaguars impart isn’t diminished one bit.

The Daily Option?

There’s not a lot you can do by the kerb to an XK8!

Like all moderns, the XK8 is ultra user-friendly and daily driving is both possible and pleasurable – if you can afford the petrol that is. Actually overall economy is not too bad on fuel considering that the Jaguar is a performance V8 – expect an entirely respectable 22-25mpg during normal rather than heavy pedal use, perhaps better on the 4.2 models as they feature sixspeed transmissions and longer gearing. At 15ft 6ins long (about the same as an E-type) and 6ft wide, it’s pretty big, and can be tricky to use in town – not helped by poor visibility. The hidden nose and tall alloys may take the odd biff if you’re not particularly careful parking. The XK8 just about qualifies as a practical 2+2 although rear seat space is minimal, and storage space virtually non-existent – but it’s no worse than an E-type 2+2 or XJ-S. There’s a typical luxury feel about the Jag’s cabin as you’d expect, although the dashboard isn’t a exactly thing of beauty compared with past Browns Lane furniture in our view.

Ease of Ownership?

Like all moderns there’s not a great deal that you can do to an XK8 by the kerb, apart from oil, filters and perhaps a brake pad change. But that’s all that most of today’s cars need anyway! Bear in mind that the 60,000 mile service interval is a biggie, involving belt changes and more, costing some £700 from a specialist. So, check that the service history is intact or factor in the hidden cost of this service if it’s coming up or has been skipped. Also, find out whether the recalls on bore wear and timing gear failure have been dealt with. The former was caused by certain fuels reacting to the metals and many engines were replaced under warranty. The timing gear failure was only cured when Jaguar replaced plastic for metal tensioners back in 2001. Doing the entire job relieves you of £1100 – and stress. The XK8 is a mix of good and bad – the former because it uses a fair number of Ford parts, which if you know your components can save you a packet. On the other hand, consumables such as tyres cost a small fortune, especially 20-inch rim types. Don‘t skimp on quality either, as cheap rubber can spoil this Jag. In fact penny pinching is a problem on older cars that will only get worse. And you seem to get what you pay for with this Jaguar. Mega milers are temptingly cheap on the face of it, but the Jag lacks the stamina of its German counterparts. Interiors, for example, can look very shabby quite quickly and rust on early XK8s can be bad enough for the rear bumpers to actually fall off! Also there are now reports of neglected XK8s failing the annual MoT due to terminal chassis rust, although repair panels are now produced. Flat batteries aren’t unknown (it’s usually simply the connections to be fair) and hoods are known to leak so keep a watch on both. Some specialists also reckon that, while the car is virtually identical under the skin (apart from engines), Aston Martin parts, such as suspension bushes, are made of better quality. As the car is now 15 years old XK8 will qualify for classic car insurance with some companies but don’t take it for granted and check with your company first. The real stinger could be the horrific cost of taxing post 2001 cars thanks to the emission VED bands. That magnificent V8 is considered to be a ‘dirty’ engine and you’ll pay accordingly.



XK8 introduced; XJS-derived with E-type style looks and 4.0-litre V8 driving through a standard automatic. Computer-aided CATS suspension optional but standard on the Convertible.


Supercharged XKR introduced using Eaton supercharger for 370bhp and 387lbft of torque, now fed via Mercedes-auto box and CATs chassis with 18in rims. Interior has sports pack.


2000 (2)

Silverstone special edition (normal Coupe or an XKR convertible) with platinum silver paint, leather trim, 20-inch BBS wheels (Pirelli P-Zero tyres), Brembo brakes and special badging.


100 Special launched (like Silverstone, just 100 were made) featuring nine spoke BBS alloy wheels, Brembo brakes plus anthracite paint/warm charcoal interior trim.


Larger, lustier 4.2-litre engine installed; 300bhp for standard car and 400bhp quoted for XKR with torque up to 408lbft. Facelift includes 19inch alloys and
classic leather pack.

We Reckon...

You can’t really compare an XK8 to the E-type as they’re decades apart. However, the XK8 was the closest Jag ever got to a true replacement. And what bargains they are – just like the E-type 30 years ago, in fact! If you missed that boat then this could be your second chance. Just buy a good one, that’s all.

Classic Motoring

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