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Jaguar XJR

COOMB RAIDER Published: 22nd Nov 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XJR
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Supercharged version of Jaguar’s silky XJ saloon offers astonishing performance and value, yet costs little more than a standard XJ to buy and run. As a modern take on the classic Mk2 Coombs, the XJR has it all A GT Jag is always something special, but none come close to the Coombs Mk2. That may be true, but the XJR is a brilliant modern alternative. Introduced in 1994, it proved that whatever Messrs BMW, Audi and Mercedes could do, then so could Browns Lane – but with more character and at less cost. Devoid of the classic status of that monster Mk2, XJRs sell for normal XJ money – which is pennies by comparison. But, mark our words, a good XJR will become a ‘Coventry cat’ to collect over the next few years. So, why not get one while they are so affordable?


1988 The first XJR was a makeover of the normal XJ40, with the aid of Jaguar racing specialist, the late Tom Walkinshaw. This limited edition of the XJR had been fitted with a 3.6-litre six-pot that was barely different from the one found in the standard XJ6 3.6, but the handling was improved, if not appearances, with its rather slab-like body kit.

1994 With the advent of the new X300 revised XJ, came a fuller blooded XJR. Equipped with a supercharger, the first time Jaguar had ever offered a ‘blower,’ it also formed the basis of the Aston DB7 powerplant, albeit 4-litres and not a more race-bred 3.2 for the DB7. Nevertheless, that straight-six which put out 321bhp, and 378lb ft of torque, care of an Eaton M90 supercharger set at 10psi boost, it was enough to take the car to a limited top speed of 155mph, covering 0-60mph along the way in just five seconds. To put it in context, the XJR was more powerful and faster than Jag’s hallowed V12, yet could manage over 20mpg fairly easily!

1997 The second take on the XJR theme was a masterpiece, thanks to the fitment of a mighty 370bhp V8, in place of a straight-six. It was even more luxuriously appointed and not even the established Germans could offer such a combination of power with prestige, plus that traditional feel a good Jaguar enjoys. Effectively, the XJR was a saloon version of the XK8R.

The ultimate edition of the X308 XJR was the 100 special edition, which arrived in August. Fitted as standard with a DVD-based navigation system, the Brembo brakes, nine-spoke BBS alloy wheels and black leather trim were also standard, along with metallic black paintwork. You’ll be doing well to find one on the used market. Don’t ignore the more dignified Daimler, mind (see pic). To all intents and purposes, the Super V8 is essentially the same scalded cat but with even more luxury and a more restrained appearance. Less than 4000 were made, mostly LWB models.


Whatever version you choose, the Jaguar XJR is a real cat with a hot tin roof. Capable of 170mph, Jaguar had to limit it to ‘only’ 155mph, and, thanks to a supercharger rather than turbocharger, power delivery comes instantly with a bang, at the stab of the throttle, without any of the usual lag.

What’s the best beastie? Well, the supercharged straight six is glorious, but you can’t beat that V8. With silky smooth power delivery, oodles of low-down torque and a delicious willingness to rev, Jag’s V8 is fabulously fl exible, 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. There was never a manual version, but the standard Mercedes-sourced five-speed automatic is creamy smooth and works brilliantly. If you hate self-shifting, then go for an earlier ‘six’ as this had a stick shift.

The key thing, though, is that a wellsorted XJR is just so good to drive. Being more stiffl y suspended than the normal XJs, the XJR can suffer a bit too much from low speed harshness, more than you’d expect from a Jag, 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 genuine sports saloon, thanks to a carefully uprated chassis featuring Jag’s famed CATs suspension.

However, that perennial Jaguar fl aw of a too-light (variable) rate power steering, that’s also a tad vague compared to say a BMW M5, remains. Despite its kerbweight of up to 1754kg, the XJR pulls-up without fuss, even on standard brakes; those who wanted to regularly exercise their scalded cat could opt for a Brembo option that’s even more accomplished.

XJRs naturally boast the level of ambience and comfort that you’d expect from a Jaguar – the Daimler is even more plush, although rear seat room is barely good enough for adults, and the boot space no more than acceptable. Again, the Daimler scores by being based on the longer wheelbase model.

There’s not too much written about the XJR, surprisingly, given its credentials; most road tests reported on the XJ range as a whole, but the general view was that the XJR appealed with its performance, thanks to an engine which CAR called “one of the great engines” although said as a whole the car was compromised elsewhere. If anything the monthly thought that the S-Type R was the better, cheaper car.


Jaguars have always represented brilliant value for money and this is never so more apparent than with the XJR. High-mileage early cars sell for around £3000, but you need to take care here, as you can’t expect too much for that kind of money. Budget on around double this for a really nice example with a service history. Extraordinary XJRs can command up to £10,000, which is a pittance when you consider what you’re getting for TR6 money. Daimler models should be similarly priced. These were £50 grand cars when new, and need to be given the same cost considerations when running one second-hand, so don’t buy a shed just because it’s cheap. The wise buyer gets the best he, or she, can run to – even busting the budget if the car is deemed worthy because it will pay in the long run.


Enhancements to the engine’s breathing are readily available, as are superior stainless exhausts, while a smaller pulley fitted to the engine will allow the ‘blower’ to spin faster and so give more boost, but speak to a specialist first – after all, a good car should still feel fast enough! Likewise, if in good order, the stock suspension and brakes should suffice, although some like to uprate the latter. The XJR was well developed from the factory, so don’t go and spoil yours; rather just some tlc from a Jag specialist may be all that’s needed to make it pounce.

What To Look For


  • The V8 had problems with cylinder bores coated in Nikasil, which reacted with modern fuels. Quite a few early XJRs have had fresh powerplants fitted, under warranty. The cars to watch were built before 2000. From then 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 are installed.
  • If you want to be thorough, before parting with your cash (and it’s advised), you can get a specialist to do a special ‘blow-by test’ to make sure all is well with the V8.
  • 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. Expect to pay a little over £1000 to have both the primary and secondary chains replaced, along with tensioners. It’s cheap insurance.


  • 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. Subframes and their mounts can rot out, as do the cast iron rear suspension wishbone assemblies so check thoroughly.
  • 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.
  • CATs suspension is usually okay, but have it checked if you are unsure. XJR came with CATs computer suspension, 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.

Three Of A Kind

Jaguar learned its lesson with the XJR, and launched an equally potent performance saloon when it re-vamped the S-type in 2002, with the Type R as its fl agship. Again supercharged, but now 4.2-litres and 400bhp, it’s an even better bet than the XJR, although the cabin is more cramped and not quite so traditional – perhaps that’s a good thing? Monster performance and a devastatingly effective car that’s again dirt cheap for what it offers.
BMW’s seminal super-saloon is much easier to find than the Alpina alternative, and every bit as good to drive – although 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 will need replacing soon
At first you wouldn’t put a Vauxhall in such company, but there again we’re talking about the Lotus fl agship. With twin turbos, it has about the same power as an XJR, and is as fast – the quickest production saloon ever back in 1992. Incredibly docile mind, with controllable rear wheel drive handling (sans driver aids!). Another bargain classic, although prices are rising, but spares are also becoming scarce. Thankfully club support is very good.


The XJR is a brilliant performance saloon and dirt cheap for what it offers – just drive a good one and you’ll be convinced. Trouble is that, due to their low values, too many have become shabby cats. But, at Classic Motoring, we remain convinced that, in say five to ten years’ time, this cut-price Coombs will be a classic in its own right

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