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Jaguar XJR

Published: 3rd May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XJR
Suitably understated yet still managing to look the part, the XJR is without doubt the best XJ made Suitably understated yet still managing to look the part, the XJR is without doubt the best XJ made
Mesh grille and Growler - yours for £3k Mesh grille and Growler - yours for £3k
Electronics galore, see they all work… Electronics galore, see they all work…
Usual Jag refinements but interior not too hardy so tired trim and ratty veneers may be common. Usual Jag refinements but interior not too hardy so tired trim and ratty veneers may be common.
V8 is a fantastic performer but bore and timing gear woes sully reliability record. V8 is a fantastic performer but bore and timing gear woes sully reliability record.
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What is a Jaguar XJR?

Dare we suggest that it’s a modern equivalent to a classic Coombs Mk2? Well, the XJR is a sensational supercharged 155mph XJ saloon that, in the best Jaguar tradition, provides towering ability for amazingly little outlay. Today you can pick up an early straight six version for around £3000 and there can be few better ways to cover ground more quickly, quietly and especially more comfortably than this modern classic. If you buy wisely, you can even mothball it for occasional fun and also be spared any future restoration worries and costs. Is this your sort of classic cat?


Codenamed X300, the new Jag XJ range was launched in 1994 to replace the ageing and troublesome XJ40 model, which dated back to 1986 (but was first designed as far back as the early 1970s). That square-cut look was never popular, so the X300 brought back the traditional Jaguar twin headlamp treatment and more rounded styling - a modern interpretation of the Jaguar core values, in fact. However, the big news was the XJR supercharged model that became the new flagship. Jaguar used an Eaton supercharger at a nominal 10psi boost to give the six-cylinder 4-litre AJ16 engine a heady 321bhp (that’s some 100bhp over the standard 4.0) plus a mighty 378lb/ft of torque. It was driven via either a ZF four-speed automatic or a Getrag five-speed manual gearbox, but as is to be expected, the vast majority of cars were ordered with the auto (although the manual is well worth seeking out for its purity of driving and its rarity). Sitting on massive 17” rims with 255 section tyres, the XJR is a purposeful looking car with its black chrome detailing and lowered, tuned suspension.
In September 1997 the old six (which went on to power the Aston Martin DB7 - superbly!) was binned in favour of the brilliant new AJ26 4-litre V8, this time pumping out a tarmac-ripping 370bhp. At the same time the manual transmission option was dropped and a newly designed five-speed automatic became mandatory. For 2000 model-year cars, heated seats, reverse parking sensors and a cell phone kit were fitted as standard while in August 2001 a special edition 100 special was launched complete with nine spoke BBS wheels, superior crossdrilled Brembo brakes, DVD, Sat Nav and more. This particular model is finished in a special Anthracite paintwork.


Performance is rarely an issue with a Jaguar and it’s certainly not a worry with any XJR. With an easy mid-five second dash to 60mph and a top speed limited to 155mph combined with some blink of an eye overtaking punch this was - and still is - a serious mile-munching motor. With either engine there’s a huge flow of linear power from below 2000rpm right up to the red line. And yet like all good Jags, the XJR is happy to potter along on a whiff of throttle and a handful of revs. Straight six or V8? Well, while the latter is arguably the better engine - it’s usefully more powerful, too - all XJRs are fast enough and there’s something distinctive about the wail of a supercharged straight six! Also it’s probably a bit easier to maintain than the V8, which still has some running problems (see our What to Look For section) while if you dislike autos, then you have to go for the earlier car anyway.

Being more stiffly suspended than the normal XJs, the XJR can suffer a bit too much low speed harshness and while ride isn’t actually spine-jangling, it may not be to your taste if you like Jags to be comfy cruisers. The trade off, however, is a true sports saloon although that perennial Jaguar flaw of a too-light (variable) rate power steering that’s also a tad vague in the straight ahead position means it plays second best to something like a BMW M5. Still, these are mere details when faced with such a complete performance package. The driver of most of the German opposition wouldn’t see which way the XJR went, thanks to all that power and torque - and all wrapped in a discreet package that is somehow looking classier as each day goes by. Being such a new classic, the XJR can be a decidedly satisfying daily driver. Economy isn’t a strong point of course, but once the novelty of all that instant power has worn off then perhaps 22-24mpg is a reality. The XJR deviates from traditional Jag interiors in terms of appearance, but that unique ambience remains undiluted as does the sense of occasion that only a Jaguar can provide. Pity rear seat space and boot capacity still disappoints.


Costing over £40,000 when new, early examples can be found from £2000 according to Glass’s Guide trade bible, but be careful out there. There is a world of difference between a good XJR and a cheap one and we reckon £4500 is the point at which you are more assured of buying a decent example that’s been properly cared for with a solid service history from a main dealer or specialist. You just try getting a good Mk2 for that… The V8s are now about in fairly plentiful numbers; specialists have most at this age and these can be picked up under the eight grand mark, while the last post-2000 models are only ‘booked’ at £15,000, again according to Glass’s Guide. Great value considering what they cost when new and prices won’t fall much more before they start to climb, so our advice buy sooner rather than later! But only go for a good car, preferably from known Jaguar specialists who know these XJs and offer warranties worthy of your hard earned cash.

What To Look For

  • High mileage doesn’t mean a horror story with Jaguars any more, as Ford pumped in over $200 million to get this model right and it shows. However the modern Jaguar still doesn’t wear as well as a BMW or Merc and tatty, uncared for cars will probably look it.
  • Skipped servicing is a worry. Remember although cheap, cars like the XJR were 50 grand motors when new and so demand the servicing demands of a £50k motor (although specialist prices start from just £150). A fat stamped service book is a vital sign for this very reason.
  • Rust shouldn’t be a problem even on early cars, although the paint was deemed to be ‘soft’ and stone chip damage to the nose was pretty common, so look for mis-matched pain which will show up more in daylight than in a plush showroom. Just the usual rot checks should suffice, but pay particular attention to the wheel arches, boot lid, valance panels and the tops of the wings around the front and rear screens.
  • Brakes are okay in standard trim although don’t provide true confidence for a car of this potential, many feel. Brembo brakes were an (expensive) option that were fitted to the special editions and are well worth seeking out, if given the choice. Other than this, look for worn discs which manifest themselves in juddering and an uneven brake pedal feel.
  • Tyres should be inspected for wear and damage. A new set costs nearly a grand and the alloys should be free from kerbing too. Beware of a car that runs on cheap rubber. Apart from probably being unsuited for such a performance car where else have pennies been pinched by a skinflint owner (or even high street trader)?
  • These big heavy cars give a pounding to the suspension, so check carefully on the test run. Listen for knocking shock absorbers and be aware of soggy handling if these (and the ton of compliance bushes) are tired, which is not unknown. Talking of the suspenders, some XJs can suffer from a list to the driver’s side. Jag knows about this and it looks worse than it is, but have it checked by a specialist if you are unsure.
  • Early V8s from 1997/98 could suffer premature bore wear due to the Nikasil coating breaking down, but it’s thought most would have been sorted under warranty by now. Still, don’t tolerate any smoke from behind, especially on the overrun and beware of poor starting after days of being left standing. It can be due to the bores losing compression because of heavy wear! There is a special Jaguar workshop kit to check for this and it’s well worth having this carried out as a pre-purchase check. Most specialists, rather than ordinary traders, will oblige here although you can get a rough idea of the engine’s state by removing a lot of the inlet ducting and listing for wheezing maladies while churning the unit over.
  • With a new or rebuilt engine running into five figures, you need to ensure the V8 is okay. Even if the bore problem isn’t evident (and Jaguar replaced many units under warranty, anyway), these units are known to break their timing gear and cost a fat £1000 to rectify.
  • The straight six is perhaps a tad more robust although head gasket failure isn’t unknown. Look for the usual clues such as water in the oil and vice versa, an exhaust impersonating a hose and general lack of guts. Remember that if the head gasket lets go, penny to a pound that the head will suffer damage and require skimming or even pricey replacement.
  • The Eaton supercharger is generally bomb-proof - indeed some Jag specialists have never even touched one! You’ll feel it coming on song - smoothly. If it is suspect, remove drive belt and see if there’s any difference in power. Slightly cheaper is a replacement drive belt, which should ideally be replaced as a service item around every 30,000 miles. Don’t worry if it breaks though as the only damage will be lack of supercharger power.
  • Underbonnet temperatures get very high on these cars, especially when used hard. Check all hoses for heat fatigue (replace any that look dicky asap) and substantiate the radiator water level and anti-freeze strength - you don’t want to see any evidence of overheating, especially with the alloy V8. But it happens…
  • Transmissions should be okay but they are not Merc bomb-proof. Check all the dash idiot lights; management problems with Jag auto ‘boxes aren’t unknown and also ensure that the gears engage smoothly and swiftly. On the rare manual XJRs, check for failing synchromesh and tired clutches. Not the end of the world it has to be admitted.
  • Bumpers on the pre-V8 cars have a continuous chrome strip along the top edge, which is the first thing to bend in even the slightest knock to the bumper. They’re not cheap to replace, either. V8s have the strip cut in quarters so don’t suffer the same problem.
  • Jaguar interiors can become shabby if not treated with care, especially the seats. Look for scuffed, worn hides, split trim, tarnished veneers and flagging headlining. Try to buy with as many goodies as possible as these will help future resale.


The XJR is all the car you’ll ever need and for the money is probably the best performance all rounder on the road. But make sure you buy from a good specialist with a worthy warranty. It’s easy to be tempted to buy a cheap car, but in the long run it pays to buy the best you can afford as repair costs can be “md expense account” pricey. And never, ever entertain an XJR without a cast iron service history. Follow these golden rules and you’ll have arguably not only a modern Coombs Mk2 - but the best value modern classic around.

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