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Jaguar XJR

Common Sense Coombs Published: 5th Jul 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XJR

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Anything cherished
  • Worst model: Anything abused
  • Budget buy: No chance
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): mm L5024 x W2074
  • Spares situation: Good
  • DIY ease?: Not for DIYers
  • Club support: Okay
  • Appreciating asset?: Not really
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Cut price Coombs?
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Can’t afford that iconic Mk2? Then try this modern alternative that ticks all the right boxes

Pros & Cons

Fast, luxurious, great value, discreet super saloon, classy Daimler alternative
Thirsty, no manual option, needs specialist maintenance, too many doggy cars out there

As fuel prices climb inexorably towards the two quid a litre mark, buying a big, thirsty, powerful saloon may be the last thing on your mind. But the supersaloons of a decade ago now represent spectacular value. Fast, capable, spacious, beautifully built and luxuriously appointed, if you want to cross continents in a hurry or just enjoy some seriously effortless luxury every now and then, few sports saloons do the job as well as a Jaguar XJR.

Introduced in 1997, the third-generation XJR was introduced to compete directly with the Audi S8, BMW M5, Maserati Quattroporte and Mercedes E55 AMG. With a softer edge to it than those supposedly more driver-focused cars, the XJR’s body control was still superb – and especially impressive when the car’s relatively supple ride was taken into account. Despite its seemingly limitless talents, as is typical with such large cars, depreciation has taken its toll on the XJR to the point where it’s now nothing less than spectacular value. But predictably, you need to buy with your eyes open if you’re not to buy a beautiful fast feline four-door that’s an equally rapid money pit.


This edition of the XJR wasn’t the first to come from Jaguar; the X300-based model that came before as well as the XJ40 before that were both available in XJR form. While the fi rst of the breed, introduced in 1988, had been fi tted with a 3.6-litre six-pot that was barely different from the one found in the standard XJ6 3.6, the powerplant in the X300 (actually dubbed the X306) edition that debuted in 1994 was a much more enticing beast by far.

Fitted with a supercharger – the first time Jaguar had ever offered such technology in its cars and the basis of the Aston DB7 powerplant – the second take on the XJR theme was a seriously big hitter. At last, here was a performance saloon that could take on the best from Germany, while offering more comfort mixed with olde worlde charm. Of course this counted against it for many would-be buyers, who wanted something scalpelsharp to drive and didn’t look like it had just driven straight out of the 1960s.

That first supercharged XJR featured a blown 4-litre straight-six that put out a mighty 321bhp and 378lbft of torque, care of an Eaton M90 supercharger set at 10psi boost – enough to take the car to a limited top speed of 155mph, covering 0-60mph along the way in just fi ve seconds. To put it in context, the XJR was more powerful and faster than the hallowed V12 Jaguar XJs and yet could still manage more than 20mpg fairly easily and that’s important in these times!

While that initial blown XJR was a joy to drive and own, the model that followed in September 1997 was even better. More modern, even smoother thanks to the fi tment of a V8 in place of a straight-six, and even more luxuriously appointed, the X308 edition of the XJR was a pure masterpiece.

Costing over £50,000 when new, this XJR was the most powerful car Jaguar had ever offered – and also one of the most technically advanced. Effectively a saloon version of the XK8 – at least mechanically – the XJR used the same AJ-V8 powerplant as its coupe and convertible siblings.

However, when the XJR made its debut, there was no XKR then available, which meant that this unassuming saloon packed a healthy 80bhp more than the XK8 – making it much faster.

As soon as it appeared the X308 was feted as a masterpiece. More comfortable than its German rivals, its interior was also more cossetting, even if it was rather old-fashioned. But it was also better value, and for those who wanted something more modern, there were various packages offered that reduced the amount of traditional Browns Lane wood and chrome.

The ultimate edition of the X308 XJR was the 100 special edition, which arrived in August 2001. Fitted as standard with a DVD-based navigation system, Brembo brakes, nine-spoke BBS alloy wheels and black leather trim were standard along with metallic black paintwork. You’ll be doing well to fi nd one of these editions on the general used market, but that’s no big deal. When the standard product is as accomplished as this, you don’t need to go any further.

Finally there’s an XJR that you may not know about – the slightly more dignifi ed Daimler Super V8. It’s essentially the same scalded cat but with even more luxury and a more restrained appearance. Less than 4000 were made the vast bulk being the far roomier LWB models.


This was Jaguar’s first ever production car with a V8 – and straight out of the box the engineers got it right. With silky smooth power delivery, oodles of low-down torque and a delicious willingness to rev, the V8 is fabulously fl exible. Capable of taking the XJR up to around 170mph, Jaguar opted to fi t a limiter to stop the fun at 155mph – they reckoned that was plenty quick enough to keep owners happy!

Thanks to the fitment of a supercharger rather than a turbo, the XJR’s power delivery is linear and seemingly unending – on tap there’s a seriously enticing 370bhp along with 387lbft of torque @ 3050 rpm. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that there’s ample shove on offer at any speed and in any gear. On that note, the standard fi ve-speed automatic is creamy smooth and works brilliantly, which is just as well because there was never any manual option.

From a standing start the Jag could hit 60mph in just 5.3 seconds; keeping your foot buried in the carpet would see 100mph showing in just 12.8 seconds. Kickdown at 30mph to overtake and after just 4.7 seconds you’d be travelling at 70mph – that’s proper supercar territory. Indeed, there was so much torque on offer that the standard transmission couldn’t cope, so Jaguar had to use the same unit fitted to Mercedes’ V12-powered S600.

It’s not just about the car’s power and pace though, because while it would be easy to think of the XJR as a one-trick pony, the depth of this car’s talents is much greater than that, as there’s ample space for four, or five if those in the back get on well with each other.

The key thing though is that a well-sorted XJR is just so good to drive. Despite its 1754kg kerb weight, the XJR pulls up without fuss even on standard brakes; those who wanted to regularly exercise their Jag could opt for a Brembo option that’s even more accomplished. However, while it’s worth having, it does cost signifi cantly more to maintain, thanks to higher pad and disc costs.

It’s a price worth paying though; why have a car as capable as this, then settle for anything less than the best anchors you can buy?

Based upon the top trim, the XJR naturally had the level of ambience and comfort that you’d expect from a Jaguar – it really is a special place to travel in even if rear seat room is barely good enough for adults and the boot space no more than acceptable for the XJ’s considerable size.


Perhaps the best improvement you can make is to convert to LPG, for which you’d need to budget around £1500-1800? While you’ll have to do a fair few miles to get your money back, running on LPG should reduce fuel bills by around 40 per cent, so your costs will be recouped faster than you might think. Not only that, but if you decide to sell the car on at any point, you’ll be able to get more for it than it the conversion hadn’t been made – although you’re unlikely to get back the whole of the cost of the conversion. Improvements to the engine’s breathing are available, as are superior stainless exhausts while a smaller puller on the engine will allow the blower to spin faster for more speed but speak to a specialist fi rst on this.


This is where things get really silly, because a quick scan of the classifieds throws up highmileage early XJRs for little more than £2500. You can’t expect too much for that kind of money – you’re better off spending from £5000 on something that hasn’t been to the moon and back and which has a decent amount of history. However, anything priced at this level will still have covered at least 100,000 miles – which isn’t necessarily a problem as these cars aren’t as fragile as earlier XJs. Low-mileage XJRs are hard to fi nd, but those out there can still command up to £10,000; not an insignifi cant sum, but you’re still getting a huge amount of car for the money. The Daimler models should be similarly priced.

The thing about the XJR is that even without options it’s exceptionally well equipped. Standard kit included cruise control, adaptive suspension, leather trim with electrically adjustable front seats, air-con, anti-lock brakes, traction control, alloy wheels and a fi ve-speed automatic gearbox. As a result, there’s no need to worry too much about fi nding a car that’s dripping with options. As is usual with a classic of any age, condition is generally more important than specifi cation. 

What To Look For

  • On such a modern, rampant rust should not be a worry although XJs can fail the Mot due to terminal rot, usually the front chassis legs – fl oors and inner wings rust away too. More cosmetic are wings, doors, boot lids rear wheel arches and bumper supports but they don’t fall off like an XK8.
  •  A service history filled with dealer or specialist stamps is critical and be wary if the ‘passport’ is incomplete. The supercharger is generally reliable and the engine not really anymore stressed than a standard X300s but care with top lubricants is vital.
  •  The XJR features a V8 with bores coated in Nikasil, to reduce friction and hence improve fuel economy. However, if there’s too much sulphur in the petrol, the engine can end up self destructing when the Nikasil gets eroded by the combustion process. Even after very low mileages this could lead to loss of pressure in the bores, but as low-sulphur fuel has been available since 2000, any cars that suffered from this problem should have had their engines replaced by now.
  •  Quite a few early XJRs have had fresh powerplants under warranty. The cars to watch were built before 2000; affected cars have a tag on the nearside of the block. From 2000 Jaguar moved over to conventional steel liners; the VIN indicates what type of cylinder liners the engine has. Anything with a six-digit sequence at the end means Nikasil liners while an A followed by five digits means steel liners. If you want to be thorough before parting with your cash (and it’s advised), you can get a specialist to do a blow-by test to make sure all is well.
  •  A build up on carbon on the valves is not unknown, causing loss of performance and promoting pre-ignition calling for a good fashioned decoke.
  •  The other key thing to listen out for is rattling from the engine bay as the V8 is revved. Timing chain tensioners let go, wrecking the engine, so it’s worth fitting new chains and tensioners if the car is still on its originals – especially as the engine can sound healthy right up to the point where it implodes. Expect to pay a little over £1000 to have both the primary and secondary chains chains replaced along with the tensioners. If that’s too much in one hit, it is possible to have just the secondary chains and tensioners replaced as a precaution – but you’ll still need to get the primary ones done later.
  •  The cooling system needs a watchful eye although this is a Jag unit that’s not really prone to running hot. Corrosion around the thermostat housing and water pump is common and even cause the latter to fail. Hoses can also be problematic while a Jag-approved mod can mean that the electric cooling fans run continuously. 
  •  This car is a grand tourer in the true sense rather than an out and out sports car, and the slush ‘box is perfectly suited to the torquey V8. Bizarrely, there’s no way of checking or changing the fl uid in the transmission, although it can be topped up. As a result, you need to ensure that changes between ratios are seamless. Problems are pretty much unheard of though – as with the rest of the transmission.
  •  The auto box (Powertrain) is generally sturdy as it’s also used in the V12 although can while a little although it’s rarely serious. XJRs with manual transmissions need a watch as off the shelf spares are pretty scarce now while the fl ywheels can fail and are not even available, meaning you need to use one from an XJ40 to keep you mobile.
  • The rear axle was carried over from the XJ40 and a limited slip diff was standard on the XJR – but is it still fi tted? Noise and sloppy couplings are the main concerns and check play in the propshaft
  •  Some people buy a Jaguar just for its magic carpet ride, but if things have started to fall apart underneath you could end up having the rug pulled from underneath you. Worn out shock absorbers and sagging springs can give problems – the former are typically £100 each while the latter cost from £130 each depending on spec.
  •  It’s also worth looking to see what state the bushes are in, as units that are past their sell-by date are also common. Front suspension bushes perish and a complete rebuild is around £500 – if just the A-frame bushes have gone you’re looking at around half that. Subframes and their mounts can also rot out as do the cast iron rear suspension wishbone assemblies. A clunking noise from the stern is due to shot damper/ wishbone bushes.
  •  Wheel bearings are a known XJ/XK failure so corner with a bit of spirit and with the windows down, listen for any noises suggesting all isn’t well at either end of the car. Wheel bearings often get neglected to the point where the whole stub axle may be destroyed as a consequence. 
  •  Anti-lock brake warnings can appear on the dashboard, claiming the system isn’t working. If that’s the case, bear in mind it’ll be an automatic MoT failure if the system isn’t operating as it should. Other than that it’s a question of making sure there are no untoward vibrations under heavy braking – at least there are no inherent problems with the XJR’s braking system.
  •  XJRs came with 17inch alloys – check they are in serviceable state as they are peculiar to the car and see that the tyres are of good quality and brand – penny pinching here suggests other aspects have been neglected. Incidetnally XJ-S rims won’t fit the XJ properly…
  •  Most of the exterior brightwork is made from stainless steel, so corrosion isn’t an issue. The most likely cause of problems is accident damage, such as bumpers on cars that have been driven by people who park by touch. If the front and rear bumpers have been dented, you’re looking at hefty bills to replace or repair them.
  •  Even the most basic XJR will have plenty of electrics as well as electronics – many of which can give problems – although nowhere near as bad as the XJ40. Check absolutely everything on the car and if there’s anything that’s not working, offer less for the car and work out if you can manage without it. If an interior light is a bit dicky you could probably live with it, but if there are no wipers or headlamps that could be a bit trickier…
  •  XJR came with CATs computer syspension, Automatic Stability Control and traction control; see that all the operative and warning lights do what they ought to as electronic repairs can be extremely expensive.
  •  The inviting interior appears a lot more durable than the XJ40 although shabby seats and collapsing headlinings still occur. Some cabin parts are particular to the XJR so check it’s all there and okay.

Three Of A Kind

Alpina B10
Alpina B10
We’d never steer you away from a BMW M5, but if you want a less obvious Q car the Alpina B10 might suit. Introduced in 1997 and costing £64,000, the 540i-based B10 packed a 340bhp 4.6-litre V8 that gave a 175mph top speed. Beautifully built, luxuriously equipped but rather hard to fi nd, the B10 is sublime but can be costly to run. You’ll need at least £5000 to buy anything worthwhile, and more like £8000 for something nice.
BMW’s seminal super-saloon is much easier to fi nd than the Alpina, and every bit as good to drive – allthough it’s also quite different too. It’s the E39 version that’s up against the XJR – expect to pay from £7000 for something not too leggy, although you’ll need at least £10,000 to buy something really nice. As with any of these cars, you need to check for non-functioning kit, poor crash repairs and thrashed mechanicals that’ll need replacing soon.
Mercedes E55 AMG
Mercedes E55 AMG
When it comes to Q cars, few are as discreet as the E55 – it looks barely different from the cooking diesel editions. Just £4000 secures one of these 354bhp leviathans, with really nice cars still worth double this. Introduced in 1998, these big Mercs can rust badly; check the doors, roof, wheelarches and sills. Engines can overheat and steering pumps fail, while the brakes, suspension and tyres will need overhauling on high-mileage or thrashed cars.


We’d be stretching the point if we were to try to convince you that you could ever buy one of these cars as a certain investment, either in the short or the long term as there’s too many around just yet. But as a modern to mothball and use occasionally an XJR makes huge sense and gives huge satisfaction. As far as we’re concerned it’s a cut price Coombs but faster and more in tune with today’s motoring and at prices we can all afford.

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