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Jaguar XKR

Published: 21st Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XKR
Apart from a rather slab dash-design, the XK interior is simply lovely. Hardy enough too Apart from a rather slab dash-design, the XK interior is simply lovely. Hardy enough too
Impressive auto box uses Jag’s clever J-gate. Works well but lever can develop slackness Impressive auto box uses Jag’s clever J-gate. Works well but lever can develop slackness
Masterpiece of an engine but bore wear and failing cam timing assemblies haunt it Masterpiece of an engine but bore wear and failing cam timing assemblies haunt it
Wonderful cockpit is genuine Jaguar but space efficiency isn’t it’s strongest point Wonderful cockpit is genuine Jaguar but space efficiency isn’t it’s strongest point
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What is a Jaguar XKR?

It’s the ultimate in scalded cats and the spiritual successor to the iconic E- Type we featured last month. Much more than a hotted up XK8, the XKR has a character all of its own, rather like the 3.8 E-Type where as the stock XK8 feels more like the 4.2 model.


In 1989 Ford bought Jaguar to add a large dose of spice to its then rather bland repertoire of repmobiles and bloated barges. Jaguar was then a two-car range manufacturer with only the venerable fourteen year old XJS in the sporting line-up. Thankfully, Uncle Henry’s big fat wallet came to the rescue and work was commenced on the XJS replacement in what was hoped to be a new spiritual successor to the E.

Due to budgetary constraints a modified XJS chassis was intended for use in the new car, which would be called the XK8. This may have seemed odd, but in fact there was nothing wrong with the way the XJS performed on the road and with its serene ride and capable handling, it represented a coste ffective way of getting the new model to the market. The resulting XK8 is a pretty car; it has E-Type DNA in the bulging taper of the bonnet and the oval grille, flowing back to a low tapered roofline and squat road stance. In addition, a convertible version was offered from the outset.

Fitted with the new Jaguar AJ26 4-litre V8 pumping out 290bhp, the XK8 was not short of performance either, when it was launched in 1996. However, those who demanded more power were only catered for when the big daddy was announced in May 1998. It was the XKR. With purposeful mesh grille and bonnet slats a la E-Type, it dished out 370bhp (400bhp from 2002 when the engine was enlarged to 4.2-litres) from a twin supercharged version of the 4-litre V8. Performance figures were electrifying: 0-60 and 0-100mph take just 5.1 and 12.5 seconds respectively – not far off many supercars at five times the price.

In standard trim, the XKR wanted for little but special editions were introduced in 2000 and 2001 called the Silverstone and 100 Special respectively. The former was decked in special paint and leather trim plus 20in BBS alloy rims wearing fat Pirelli P Zeros. A specially tuned steering and Brembo brakes were the old mechanical mods and only 100 have been made. The 100 Special features Brembo brakes, Anthracite paint, R Performance Recaro seats and sportier interior detailing. More recently have been the XKR 400 and the XKR Carbon Fibre limited runs.


Only gripes concern the slightly firm ride, with a bit too much low speed bump-thump and too-light variable rate power steering that’s also vague at the straight ahead (improved on the limited run Silverstone to be fair). Small beer really when the figures confirm the XKR is in the same towering performance league as the Aston Martin V12 Vantage but costing a cool £50k less. Paradoxically, it actually encourages driving in a relaxed manner, mainly because there’s nothing to prove – you know the Jag is quicker than most other cars on the road so like the aftershave, you don’t need to try too hard.There are inevitable compromises inherent in the low slung design of the XKR. Although there is plenty of room in the cabin for a sporting model, in relation to the size it’s pretty meagre. The painted front and rear bumpers give a few sticky moments in town too, as park distance control wasn’t fitted on all models.

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 XKR went, thanks to that towering power and torque delivery. The best bit is that it can be achieved repeatedly without turning up the volume on Jazz FM or having to fiddle with any gears. A roughneck TVR G r i ffith in a posh Gieves and Hawkes suit sums the XKR up.


Even the earliest 1998 examples can still be found in the main dealer network at around £22,000, but specialists have most at this age and these can be picked up under the £20k mark for the coupe and a couple of thousand more for the slick convertible. Great value considering the car’s performance, but always buy with a warranty. There were interior and small styling revisions for the 2001 models, but these are still hovering at the £30k mark, whilst the 2002 models with the revised 4.2 litre V8 and responsive six-speed automatic are upwards of £35k. Or the price of a proper E-Type in other words…

What To Look For

  • There are plenty of XKRs about so it pays to be very choosy. High mileage, however, doesn’t mean a horror story with Jaguar any more, as under Ford’s guidance build quality is quite superb and to underline that, Coventry cats have topped the JD Power satisfaction surveys both here and in the States.
  • That said, it pays to have a professional check the car out. Naturally the AA and RAC offers such services, but have a word with a local Jag specialist instead; they know where the faults will lie plus will do the job cheaper. And have a mileage history check done too.
  • These cars take a pounding on suspension and brakes, so check both carefully on the test run. Listen for knocking shock absorbers and be aware of soggy handling if these are tired (Can be successfully upgraded too if desired).
  • Wheel bearings are a known XJS/XK8 failing, especially cars wearing fat rubber. These have been known to fail after just 20,000 miles and replacing them is a specialist job that’s best left to Jag experts. Watch for clapped out front suspension wishbone bushes which wear just as rapidly and aren’t a DIY job either
  • .
  • Brakes are okay, but they don’t provide ultimate confidence for a car of this potential – a fact acknowledged by Jaguar when it standardised the awesome Brembo system on post 2001 models. Some earlier cars had these as an (expensive) option and are well worth seeking out or retro fitting.
  • Tyres are another costly area. Standard ware was 18 inchers, but many XKRs were fitted with optional 20 inch items. If you are looking at one of these, don’t get caught out with low tread – a new set will cost well over a grand to replace while those sexy rims will cost about the same to replace or repair if damaged!
  • As on all Jags, underbonnet temperatures get very high. Check all hoses for heat fatigue and substantiate the radiator water level – you don’t want to see any evidence of overheating with this alloy V8
  • .
  • It would be nice to say that this gem of an engine was now fully sorted but it isn’t. Abnormal bore wear due to failed Nikasil on early models still crops up. The fault is down to unleaded fuel reacting with this special coating leading to rough running and even complete loss of compression. Jaguar stopped replacing duff engines out of hand a while back and now will only remotely consider a warranty claim if the car comes with a full dealer service history. A new engine will leave you with small change out of £9000 by the way!
  • But the biggest problem with the V8 now lies at the valve timing assembly where the tensioners break up causing timing to slip and valves to bend. Watch for clattering noise on start up; new parts cost around £350 but fitting them will cost as much again.
  • Discoloured front or rear bumpers may not necessarily mean accident damage; small parking scrapes are more likely, but if in doubt, get it professionally checked over – it’ll repay the fee many times over if you avoid a potential problem.
  • Check the hood for deterioration as it’s very expensive to replace. And operate the power hood to see that it works properly. Some are lazy and Jaguar has recently developed an improved oil to operate the hood’s hydraulic rams.
  • Generally, the trim lasts a lot longer than on earlier Jags although hard used cars can display aged leather. Check the power seat operations although that said the electrics on the XK were pretty well sorted by Jaguar by this stage.



The XKR is a true modern classic with a wonderful combination of power and poise together with a lovely shape that draws admiring looks everywhere still. If there’s a modern day embodiment of the old Jaguar slogan, Grace, Space and Pace, then this is it. If there’s ever a reason not to buy that E-Type you’ve longed for then this it too.

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