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Jaguar XK8

XK GREAT Published: 1st May 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Much needed replacement for the XJ-S ticks all the right boxes plus looks like a Jag should. Can be outstanding value but there’s many mangy cats around so buy with care

More than two decades after the Jaguar XJ-S went on sale, its replacement was revealed – the XK8. Long overdue and promising so much that the XJ-S had always failed to deliver, the XK8 had it all; a high-tech specification, gorgeous looks, huge performance plus a great driving experience. Time has also proved that build quality and reliability were way above Jaguar’s usual disappointing levels, but that hasn’t stopped the XK8 from becoming a modern-day classic bargain.

For just £4000 you can pick up a fair coupé, and it won’t be a money pit if you do your homework. Offered in coupé and convertible forms, the XK comes in normally aspirated (XK8) or supercharged (XKR) guises. Even the entry-level model can do 155mph, yet 30mpg is attainable thanks to the relaxed V8 never having to break into a sweat. Throw in ample cabin space for two, plus a large boot – forget the rear seats though – and the XK8 becomes even more appealing.

To cap it all, the XK8 comes packed with kit that makes life so much easier, such as anti-lock brakes, twin airbags and a top-notch security system, along with climate and electronic stability control plus powered seats, mirrors and windows. While those things could all go wrong, most XK8 owners have found their cars to be pretty reliable; this really is one of the newer breed of classics that allows you to have it all – and all for a few grand if you shop around.

Aug 2002: A welcome model refresh brings an array of changes, most notably the fitment of a lustier 4.2-litre V8 in place of the previous 4.0-litre unit – in XKR guise, there’s now 370bhp on tap. This facelift also brings a new design of xenon lighting.2003: The special edition 400 arrives in showrooms, based on the XKR and featuring Alcantara seat inserts plus black, silver or grey paintwork.2004: The XK8/XKR Premium arrives in coupé or convertible guises, with standard xenon lights, 18-inch alloys and rear spoiler. Parking sensors are now standard for all models.  2005: The S limited edition has a new choice of interior and exterior colour schemes plus 19-inch alloys.


When the XK8 was revealed, most buyers (and journalists) were of the view that anything which knocked the XJ-S into touch was automatically a good thing. But the XK8 was no apologist sports car; it was a great in its own right. Just maybe not that great…

True to form, Car magazine got to the heart of the matter the first time it got behind the wheel of the XK8 coupé, in 1996. “Let’s clear one thing up straight away – this car is not the ground-breaker that the E-type was in 1961. It does not look utterly extraordinary, it is not absurdly cheap for what it is and it does not perform way beyond its price. But let’s clear something else up too. The XK8 is a very good car, a desirable car and a major step ahead for Jaguar. This car stands comparison with any of its few rivals, and it manages to move the game on”.

To prove that latter point, in the same issue, the XK8 was pitched against the Aston Martin DB7 and BMW 840Ci – which it blew into the weeds. “The XK8 wins, clearly. It wins because it looks, goes, handles and rides the best (it raises the game here), and costs the least by a substantial margin. Here is a proper sporting Jaguar, which we haven’t seen for so long that people have forgotten what some Jaguars once were”.

While the XK8 was fast and exciting, those wanting serious thrills could buy the supercharged XKR by the summer of 1998. Once again, Car magazine didn’t spare the big cat when it arrived, pitching it against six of the most talented rivals around – the Aston Martin DB7, BMW 840Ci, Honda NSX, Mercedes SL60 AMG, Porsche 911 and Nissan Skyline GT-R.

In such esteemed company the Jag could easily have come away with egg all over its face – but of course it didn’t. The Aston was dismissed as already being outdated; the same accusation was levelled at the BMW as well as the Mercedes. Indeed, all of those rivals were dismissed one by one for various reasons, the Jaguar taking glory for its magnificent automatic gearbox, blistering pace, amazing soundtrack and its utter civility at all times. At the time you’d have had to pay a relatively hefty £59,975 for your XKR coupé, but it was towards the bottom end of the table in that group test, making it something of a bargain.

Nowadays, you can get all that talent for less than a fifth of the original list price, which we’d say makes it one of the biggest classic bargains going.

Make no mistake, a good, well serviced and sorted XK8 (and many cheapies won’t be-ed) is a fine performance car and much better than the XJ-S it’s based upon. Rapid when it needs to be (scorching in XKR and 4.2-litre forms), refined the rest of the time, its easy to see why an increasing number of buyers are skipping a generation and leaving that odd-styled 1970’s car behind.


Sussex-based Arun Cars specialises in Jaguars, and especially the XK8. The company’s Will Gooda says: “For the past decade the XK8 and XKR have consistently been our most popular models, and it’s easy to see why. Buyers like their usability, style and value, and if you buy one of the later cars you’re unlikely to have significant problems if you look after it”.

Gooda refers to the fact that the earlier cars – with the 4.0-litre engine – weren’t as well developed as the later 4.2-litre models, and it’s for this reason that Arun tends to focus on these newer models.  Will Gooda continues: “While values of earlier cars are still going down, nice examples with the 4.2-litre engine are starting to appreciate a little. However, there’s a buyer for every car, as those on a budget will buy something with the smaller V8, while those with more cash to spend will go for the 4.2. It’s also not skewed either way in terms of demand for XK8 versus XKR or coupés and cabrios – all derivatives have their following”.

Despite the parity of demand across the various derivatives, there’s a definite pecking order when it comes to values. XK8s are worth less than XKRs and cabrios fetch more than coupés. Buy from a trader such as Arun and the bottom line is around £7,000 for a 4.0-litre coupé – 4.2-litre cars start at £10,000 while convertibles carry a premium of around £3000, while the cheapest XKR coupés are £13,000 or so – supercharged drop-tops are £15,000 or more (for 4.2-litre cars).

The newest, low-mileage cars in immaculate condition can still fetch £20,000, but if you’re thinking about spending this much cash, you might be better off buying one of the even more talented second-generation cars, launched in 2006.

All these prices are for warranted cars that have been fully checked by a specialist; there are cheaper examples out there and you can pick something up for just £3000 in a private sale. Such cars tend to be sold as needing work; supposedly good examples cost from £4000-5000.

However, delve into a car bought for this sum and there’s a good chance it’ll need more cash spent on it. That’s why you’re almost certainly better off spending at least £5000 on any XK8 bought privately, and if it’s an XKR or a cabrio, bank on spending from £7000 if you don’t want a liability.

Arun Cars’ Will Gooda adds: “There are a few cars about with silver paint and a black interior, and they’re hard to sell. Otherwise, Jaguar tended to offer strong colours in tasteful combinations.

“The key is to go for a light interior; anything with cream leather will find a buyer, but black leather isn’t sought after. When it comes to exterior colours, Quartz Grey, Radiance Red and Racing Green are the ones to aim for”.

There are also certain pieces of equipment that many potential buyers find alluring, such as an uprated stereo or heated seats but it’s also more things to go wrong. The factory-fit navigation is very outdated now, so not worth homing in on, but the Recaro sports seats are very much worth having. A costly option when new, it’s a relatively unusual option that’s more likely to be fitted to an XKR than an XK8.

Another option worth having is the Brembo braking system, which provides phenomenal stopping power and looks superb. Parts used to be hugely expensive for this system, but you can now get items such as discs and pads far more cheaply. Another item that sets off the Jag aesthetically is a set of 20-inch alloys. You’ll need to make sure you’re OK with the ride though, as these rims firm things up a bit – whether or not it’s too much, only you can decide.


You really don’t need to deviate from the standard factory specification as the XK8 is very well equipped and everything works extremely well. However, if you want to spice up the looks there are numerous options from companies such as Paragon Design, Design XKR, Adamesh, Paramount Performance, Arden and Racing Green Cars. These all offer fresh designs of wheel, bodykits and an array of parts that’ll make your XK8 look less subtle.

If you’re into serious performance,  a standard XKR should provide all the thrills you need. However, there are companies which will take things even further with redesigned exhausts, remapped ECUs, performance air filters and bigger supercharger pulleys which boost power by around 30bhp.

Other possible improvements include the fitment of xenon headlights, bigger brakes, lowered suspension and a whole raft of interior tweaks. All of the companies already mentioned are worth a look – you should also get better acquainted with Elite & Performance Jags, which offers just about every upgrade the XK8 or XKR owner could ever want.



• The XK8’s interior is full of premium materials, you need to check for worn or damaged trim seats mainly.
• Convertibles have an electrically operated roof that’s durable and reliable, but fabric is £1000 to replace and the mechanism up to £4000. Every six years the roof’s hydraulic fl uid should be renewed; expect to pay £120 for this important job.
• Despite its complexity, the electrical system is reliable if it hasn’t been butchered through the fitment of security or stereo upgrades.
• Check items like the electric mirror and seat adjustment, cabin and exterior lighting plus the climate control. The latter can run to £1000+ to put things right. Also check the low-set front foglights, which get broken easily by fl ying stones; replacements are £90 apiece. Analyse the headlights too; new ones are £400 or so each, with even the covers costing £100.


• XK8s built before 2000 can suffer from damaged bores through high-sulphur fuel eroding them. Any car that’s survived this long should be fine, but a blow-by meter will indicate if there’s a problem.
• Some XKs have had fresh powerplants under warranty; chassis numbers 001036 to 042775 were affected. Cars that have had a new engine have a tag on the nearside of the block.
• What is an issue on the V8 is the secondary timing chain; engine rarely wrecked, but a new set of chains and tensioners will be needed; budget £1100.
• The rubber hose beneath the XKR’s supercharger perishes. It should be changed every eight years or so, at £250 a time. Because the supercharger has to be removed to do the work, many owners fit a smaller pulley at the same time; it provides more boost and extra power, for £450 including a new valley pipe.


For the price of a good MGB or Triumph GT6 you could buy one of the fastest, most beautiful and usable cars on the road. Even in XK8 form there’s ample performance on tap, but choose an XKR and you’ll be blown away by the power.

Mark Gregory, Chairman of the XK8/XKR Enthusiasts Club says: “Whatever you buy, shopping around is a must, and an independent inspection is advisable. Look for a full history, with maintenance by a reputable specialist. As when buying any classic, joining a club is advisable; we cater solely for the XK, so if you’re looking at buying one, we’ll be only too happy to assist with a couple of very useful documents that will help you track down the perfect car”.

Classic Motoring

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