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Jaguar XK8

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

Fast Facts

  • Best model: XKR Convertible
  • Worst model: Anything tatty/unloved
  • Budget buy: Early coupes
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L4760xW1874
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • DIY ease?: As hard as any modern
  • Club support: Good
  • Appreciating asset?: Give it time
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Former - if you buy wisely
Typical Jaguar wood and leather cockpit gives a luxury feel although it’s strictly a tight 2+2 Typical Jaguar wood and leather cockpit gives a luxury feel although it’s strictly a tight 2+2
Trim doesn’t wear too well, hard worked cars may look tatty Trim doesn’t wear too well, hard worked cars may look tatty
V8 can suffer bore and timing gear worries so vet well V8 can suffer bore and timing gear worries so vet well
XKR is a real scalded cat and is a great drive - even in auto only guise. XKR is a real scalded cat and is a great drive - even in auto only guise.
Early coupes are best value so long as they have been looked after. Paint can be soft and chip easily Early coupes are best value so long as they have been looked after. Paint can be soft and chip easily
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Now a decade old, Jaguar’s top treasure trove - the XK8 - is a classic on the cusp and all for less than six grand. So what are you waiting for?

Pros & Cons

Style, pace, value for money, XKR, proven mechanicals, potential classic status
Cramped cabin, engine woes, build doesn’t wear too well, still depreciating
£5000 - £29,000

The XK8 was Browns Lane’s fi rst real stab at replacing the iconic E-Type and quickly became the best selling Jaguar sports car ever thanks to a happy and successful marriage of retro styling and modern dynamics - just what Jaguar enthusiasts had dreamed of for years. Today a good XK8 makes a brilliant buy for those after a true modern Jaguar classic that, if preserved, will appreciate in value over time yet can also be used as a regular driver without worry. With values suffering due to the new XK and with so many good value cars around, an XK8 looks great for 2008!


XKRS are as fast as le mans d-types

Ford gave the Jaguar XK8 the green light in 1992 to replace the antique XJ-S which, ironically, was enjoying a bit of an Indian summer in terms of popularity after years in the wilderness. Ford wanted the new cat to evoke fond memories of the E-Type, plus also set new class standards for driver appeal. Various designs were put forward, but it was an in-house proposal that won the day. Called project X100, cost constraints meant that it was based upon a modifi ed XJ-S platform which in itself was a direct descendent of the XJ6 of 1968. Even older was the E-Type/Mk10 rear suspension design employed that was still doing the business - brilliantly - 35 years on by the time the XK8 hit the showrooms! Thankfully the power train was the all new, excellent Jaguar V8 four-cam 32-valve engine; a 4-litre powerhouse yielding a healthy 290bhp - more than enough to outpace the lighter It wasn’t long before the cries for more power where heard and this was speedily answered in the shape of a scalded cat XKR in spring 1998. Thanks to its Eaton M112 supercharger, no less than 370bhp was on tap and such was the torque available that only a Mercedes auto box could handle the power in unison with a standardised CATS chassis and 245-225/45 ZR 18 tyres. Although top speed was governed at 155mph, a road going XKR could out gun a Le Mans winning D-Type, such was the progress…Apart from the fitment of the brawnier 4.2-litre V8 with six-speed auto ‘boxes in 2002, the XK8 range remained largely untouched during its decade production run save for detail changes to the trim and appointments. Always available from the outset as a coupe or convertible, either Classic or Sport trim could be specifi ed; the former comprising of the traditional wood and leather while Sport spelt leather seat facings with embossed centre panels and a charcoal look dash layout. Naturally all XKs are sumptuously equipped with all the modern toys you’d expect, but two limited run models that will always be worth more are the Silverstone and 100 Special editions. The Silverstone came out in April 2000 as a normal Coupe or an XKR convertible with special platinum silver paint and leather trim, 20inch BBS alloy wheels (shod with Pirelli P-Zero tyres), racing Brembo brakes and special badging. Only 100 were made. Ditto the 100 Special, launched a year later, featuring nine spoke BBS alloys, Brembo brakes, Anthracite paint/Warm Charcoal trim, R Performance Recaro seats, racing-looking gearshift and instrument surround, DVD/sat nav, reversing park control and rain sensing wipers.


It’s a beauty - fast and sporting yet smooth and serene. If Jaguar had badged it the F-Type, the XK8 would be immortalised already. That V8 is as good as any XK engine of the past and in standard form has more torque than the old V12, meaning that it’s fast enough for most even in standard auto guise (the XKR is heroically quick) while the handing, if not Porsche perfect, is also more than satisfying. The CATS system really tightens things up but spoils the ride, especially if wide 20inch tyres are fi tted. Really this Jag excels as a GT rather than a 911 eater where the comfy if cramped cockpit and supreme refi nement make the miles fl y majestically by. Fairly economically too; expect 22-25mpg in normal use. The XK8 just about qualifies as a proper 2+2 although rear seat space is at best minimal and storage space is virtually non-existent. Boot space is fair, though.


This is the best bit. XK8 prices have sunk if not without a trace, then comfortably under the fi ve fi gure mark and the trade books high mileage P-reg cars from as low as £5000! Mind you, whether it’s wise and prudent to buy a sad example is debatable because there are plenty of good ones around the £13-£15,000 mark which won’t require any work other than a service before turning the key to enjoy. Think about it for a second: what sor t of E-Type can you get for this sort of money? Convertibles command on average £2-3000 more depending upon year while the fi rst of the 4.2 V8s kick off at around £22,000 on the forecourts. XKRs start from £7000 (trade), double this for a decent car with an equally acceptable warranty though. Nearly new XK8s can be had for £25,000 - £29,000, much less than half the price of when they were new! Really, the XK8 is now a blue chip bargain of Olympian proportions and will continue to be so for some time yet. So shop around, haggle hard and buy on condition rather than just price - it will save you shed loads in the long run.


For many of us the XK8 suffices in standard guise and needs no mods whatsoever, but you can improve upon the factory’s idea fairly easily as and when parts need to be replaced. First step is to make sure your car is up to standard spec and well serviced; it’s amazing how normal maintenance can bring about dramatic changes to a car’s running. Dampers, wheel bearings and bushes can wear out fairly quickly on this chassis and it’s well worth fi tting uprated shockers (although with XKR type bushes) as and when needed. Look closely and you’ll see that the XK8 sits amazingly high for a sports car - this was due to the need to fi t snow chains in certain markets. Lowered, sportier springs are available to make the handling tighter, but this will spoil the ride. XK8 brakes are okay, but nothing special. A switch to Jaguar R spec using Brembo components is a good but costly move; it’s much better value to use one of the numerous kits within the aftermarket, such as Racing Green Cars and Hi Spec along with braided brake hoses, for much better pedal feel. There are a wealth of tyre and rim combinations around - it’s up to you to decide on the merits of their looks and grip against spoiling the Jag’s ride further. If the standard XK8 isn’t quick enough, you can improve breathing with a special induction kit coupled to a freer fl owing exhaust (the standard fi ve silencer set up is strangely restrictive) and a new engine ECU chip. XKRs can simply be perked up with smaller pulleys to make the supercharger spin faster, but be careful the engine doesn’t run too hot as a result. All XK8s are autos, but if you hate the idea so much that you must have a conventional control over the gears, then you’ll be pleased to know that Elite and Performance Jags (01332 265826) has almost completed developing a six-speed manual conversion using Aston Martin Vanquish parts but the cost could be as much as seven grand.

What To Look For

  • The XK8 is still relatively new so a service history is critical. Look for a fat wad of main dealer or specialist stamps to confi rm mileage and maintenance. Cars with an iffy history book should be a lot cheaper.
  • The 60,000 mile service is a biggie, involving replacing transmission fl uids and drive belts. Typically this costs around £700 at a dealer - has it been skipped?
  • An HPI data check (or similar from the RAC or AA) is money well spent to confi rm the car’s honesty (stolen/recovered, write-off and so on). Also you can call Jaguar Customer Services on 02476 402121 and by simply stating the car’s reg can verify the model and whether any of the recalls were carried out.
  • 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 breaking down resulting in loss of compression.
  • The high content of sulphur in modern unleaded was blamed. Many engines were replaced by Jaguar (and at around £9000 thank goodness!) and all cars should be okay now. But if you have a car with a problem and the service history is incomplete, then you’re probably out of luck now.
  • Main dealers and specialists usually provide an independent check service; for around £100- £150 it is money well spent and could save you thousands as a result. Also many can carry out the special test ‘blow by’ check for that aforementioned Nikasil wear.
  • The unoffi cial way of determining any bore problems is to remove intake breaker pipes and listen to any undue wheezing. Also, a car which is reluctant to start after a long period of standing idle (like on a forecourt) is another pointer.
  • However, the real worry now with this sophisticated quad cam engine is the timing gear where the tensioner assembly can break up with dire consequences and perhaps a £1000 bill to put right.
  • The Eaton supercharger is a robust affair and as the boost is only moderate, should not be a worry. Just watch for uneven power supply and undue noise from the supercharger.
  • 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 all is well.
  • Running gear is basically XJ-S and well proven. The main wear points are the wheel bearings, which can be knocked out in under 30,000 miles. This fault is compounded by wider wheels and tyres while faster cornering, which places additional loads on them. Suspension and steering bushes are also prone to quick deterioration and the dampers can lose their edge at higher mileages.
  • The specialist CATS is reliable, although the ride at low speed suffers. If you think that all is not well here, then have the system checked professionally.
  • Don’t be surprised to fi nd that the brakes have taken a pounding. Some uprate them with aftermarket pads or the sexier Brembos as fi tted to the XKR. On a test drive, feel for roughness and vibrations through the steering and brake pedal. New discs and pads are usually needed. 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 confi rm your opinion.
  • Rust can be a bit of a problem on early cars. The paint is known as being pretty ‘soft’ meaning chipping damage is common and an abused XK can look a bit tatty, especially at the front on the nose and chin.
  • But you really need to check behind the bumpers where electrolytic corrosion can set in between the alloy mounts and steel bolts - especially at the rear. Indeed it has been known in extreme circumstances for the bumpers to literally fall off!
  • The interior doesn’t wear as well as a Porsche or BMW so look for tired leather trim plus worn seat bolsters and split armrests. Don’t dismiss imperfections lightly as trim repairs are usually expensive. Check too that the boot comes complete with the standard warning triangle, fi re extinguisher and space saver spare.
  • The electrical system has been known to play up, especially the central locking and alarm systems. See that all the toys (including the power seats) work properly. Switchgear can fail, but remember most of it is Ford-sourced so buy from a blue oval dealer to save money!
  • Check the tyres. This cat runs on fat quality rubber - so penny pinching with cheap brands usually means similar meanness elsewhere. Early XKs ran on 17inch rims but most folk (and traders) like to see the fatter 18inch rims on the car. You can go up to 20 inch if you want to bling the car up.

Three Of A Kind

Porsche 928
Porsche 928
In its time this V8 was judged to be the world’s greatest GT and still holds masses of appeal, not least value for money. Usually very durable too although repairs and spares can be horrendous if you pick a bad one. No cabrios sadly (you need a 968 if you want that) and as a coupe, it’s cramped but the 928 is as desirable as a 911!
BWW 8 Series
BWW 8 Series
Launched around the same time as the Jaguar, this was a bit of an oddball by BMW, aimed at the US market after size and style above all else. A fi ne, well equipped cruiser in either V12 (850i) or V8 (840i) derivatives but as a snug fi tting 2+2 only. Spectacular value for money, but a nightmare if you buy one of the many ropey ones on sale
Mercedes SL
Mercedes SL
Shades of Dallas to be fair, but the SL is a supreme sports GT that is well suited to gentle cruising or tarmac bruising. Good value and reliability is top notch if a service history is kept up to speed. And talking of pace, there’s a wide spread of engines from straight six to V12 to suit most budgets. Beware of ‘blinged’ versions.


Remember kicking yourself for not buying an E-Type when you had the chance for relative pennies way back when? Don’t make the same mistake with an XK8. Right now they represent the same relative value E-Types did some 30 years ago, and the XK8 is a lot more useable and economical. Slap a personalised number plate on an early P-reg and you’d fool the neighbours into thinking you’ve struck it rich – which you have of course! On the other hand, buy a moggy instead of the sophisticated cat it should be, simply to save money up front, and you’ll be in the fast lane to poverty and ruing the day you ever fell for this Jag’s seductive feline charms.

Classic Motoring

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