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Jaguar XK8 & XKR

Jaguar XK8 & XKR Published: 22nd May 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 4.2-litre cars
  • Worst model: 4.0-litre cars
  • Budget buy: Early coupés
  • OK for unleaded?: You must use it
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 4760 x 1829mm
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • DIY ease?: Some work must be done professionally
  • Club support: Typical Jagaur brilliant
  • Appreciating asset?: Only superb 4.2 examples
  • Good buy or good-bye?: The cat that’s got the cream
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Jaguar’s modern classic is a veritable treasure trove for those looking for a bargain supercar boasting E-type looks and pace yet for MGB money. Very easy and affordable to keep but there’s a lot of mangy cats out there, so take care when buying

Some seriously fast high-performance classics have never been as affordable to buy as they are now and old Jags are traditionally a prime example. The flip side is that too many really quick cars come with the prospect of big bills because of high parts prices or inherent fragility. Not where the XK8 and supercharged XKR are concerned though – you really can have it all with these svelte V8-powered coupés and cabriolets.

Thanks to over 90,000 of these E-type looking XJ-S replacements having been produced, there are still plenty of good ones to go round (and lots of iffy ones too-ed). Even the entry-level naturally aspirated 4.0-litre model can do 155mph, yet with suprising economy thanks to a 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 – anti-lock brakes, twin airbags, climate and electronic stability control, powered seats, mirrors and windows… this really is a true modern classic for pennies.

History

1996 The XK8 is introduced with a 290bhp 3996cc V8 engine allied to a modified XJ-S platform. From launch, buyers can choose between an E-type looking convertible or coupé, both with a 155mph top speed. Powering the XK8 is the all-new all-alloy AJ-V8, mated to a five-speed ZF automatic transmission as standard.

1998 For those wanting junior supercar performance the XKR goes on sale in coupé and convertible forms, with a 370bhp supercharged 4.0-litre V8. Once again, there’s a choice of coupé or convertible bodystyles, the XKR featuring bonnet louvres and a rear spoiler to distance itself from its cheaper XK8 sibling.

Also standard fare for XKR buyers are CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension), bigger brakes and revised steering. Completing the package are bigger wheels and tyres, a mesh grille and nicely discreet badging.

2000 XKR-based Silverstone special edition is introduced, with silver paintwork, 20-inch alloys and Brembo brakes. Just 50 are made, in both coupé and convertible forms. 2001 The 100 special edition is introduced, based on the XKR, has nine-spoke BBS alloys, anthracite paintwork, Recaro seats and alloy interior detailing.

2002 XK8 gains 19-inch Apollo wheels as standard; the XKR gets 20-inch Paris alloys and Brembo brakes. Later that year sees the biggest change yet as the model refresh brings an array of changes, most notably the fitment of a (S-Type) AJ344.2-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 and a six-speed auto gearbox.

2003 Another special edition, the 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 come August.

2005 Run out S limited edition (based on either the XK8 or XKR) has a new choice of interior and exterior colour schemes plus 19-inch alloy rims.

Driving and press comments

Performance Car didn’t mince its words after its first drive of an XK8 coupé in autumn 1996. The review started: “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll take this advice. Phone your bank manager, re-mortgage the house, rummage down the back of the sofa, sell a kidney if you have to, but make sure you scrape enough money together to buy a Jaguar XK8”. There then followed another 10 pages in much the same vein, including: “The good news for us and Jaguar is you won’t sit behind a more soulful V8 anywhere. You grow to respect a BMW V8, but you’ll fall in love with the Jaguar motor instantly. It’s got real character as well as class-leading refinement… The gearbox is so good, you come to regard it as a clutchless manual, rather than a lazy sludge-pump… So where’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one. You can lust after an XK8 without needing to come up with any excuses at all. It is without doubt the most exciting car of 1996, and the most important British sports car of the decade. It’s got the pace, the style, the quality, and the ‘must have one’ appeal”.

By the time the XKR had been launched in 1998 the same late lamented monthly, had morphed into Evo, which tested an XKR with the R Performance package on a trip across Europe. “As a passenger the thrust and supple ride are always impressive, but only from the driver’s seat can you really appreciate the full scale of this car’s performance. Most cars have a natural pace at which they like to sit, usually somewhere between 90 and 100mph. The Jag settles effortlessly at 100mph, but squeeze the throttle and it’ll lope along at 120mph. Repeat the process and it’ll sit at 130mph, 140mph or even 150mph equally happily, with little noticeable increase in effort or noise. It really is awesomely swift”.

It’s one of the few high-performance cars that the testers could not imagine being any better with a manual. Sweet, responsive and as easy to use as a semiauto, the XKR’s transmission is the perfect way to feed the supercharged V8’s 370bhp and 387lb ft of torque to the Tarmac.

“The muscular power delivery seems to come from absolutely no revs at all, climbing into a sweet spot at around 4000rpm and pulling with undiminished vigour until 6500rpm”, the mag added.

The XK8 is a world away from the XJ-S it’s related to but comparison with that Jag-in-drag Aston DB7 is as valid as it is inevitable – but the good news is that Coventry cat is certainly not second best choice. In performance terms, there’s not much in it – particularly XKRs which could out gun a Le Mans winning D-Type, such was the progress… Also, the Jag sports the best auto ’box, always boasting an extra ratio plus that delightful ‘Randle handle’ J-gate selector that works as a ‘semi auto’ is preferable over the Aston’s traditional selector gait.

Car pitched the XK8 against the Aston Martin DB7 and BMW 840Ci. “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”.

Values and marketplace

East Sussex-based Jaguar Select specialises in Jaguars of all ages which includes all the XK8 and XKR variants. Adam Powderham who runs the business comments: “The X100 is fast becoming a modern classic, and it’s easy to see why prices of Jaguar’s handsome coupé and convertible XKs are steadily on the rise. The car has aged extremely well and demand is on the rise because these cars are such accessible all-rounders.

“Late 4.2-litre cars are becoming the most sought after, but there is demand across the range, even for the earlier pre-2000 cars which offer fantastic value for money. Whether the customer wants the roof-down experience or a hardtop XK, there is an option for almost all budgets.

“There is a definite demand for low mileage cars but whatever you’re buying a thorough inspection and good look through the history are essential. Despite there being buyers for each of 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 – something that I don’t think will ever change”.


According to Powderham you can pay as little as £5000 for a 4.0-litre coupé (in a private sale – we’ve seen some for just a couple of grand at auction-ed) but it’s vital that such cars are inspected for underbody corrosion and supported with plenty of history. But as Powderham adds: “I’m yet to find a car in this price bracket that represents a good investment or doesn’t require immediate attention”.

The 4.2-litre cars start at £10,000 while convertibles carry a premium of around £3,000 over the coupé. The cheapest XKR coupés are £13,000 or so – supercharged drop-tops are anywhere from £15,000 for a presentable well-maintained car to almost £30,000 for a very late 4.2 S model. If you’re after a post-2004 4.2 XKR with very good history, rock-solid underpinnings and a low mileage, expect to pay at least £20,000 while equivalent coupés can be had for closer to £16,000. The biggest demand at present is for the 2005-06 S model variants, usually found with every option Jaguar could throw at them.

Powderham concludes: “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 such as the Sepang or Detroit wheels. You’ll need to make sure you’re OK with the ride though, as these wheels firm things up a bit – and be prepared for a fairly large bill should they require refurbishment. They are genuine split-rim wheels and the stainless steel rims are becoming scarce”.

Improvements

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 and performance air filters; the three most cost effective budget tweaks, by the way. Aftermarket supercharger pulleys, which boost power by around 30bhp, are readily available but specialists warn that the cheaper types on sale sometime requires engine block machining for it to seat properly so take care here.

Other possible upgrades 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 possibly want.

What To Look For

General

  • A 90,064 production figure is broken down as: 19,748 XK8 coupés, 46,760 XK8 convertibles, 9661 XKR coupés and 13,895 XKR convertibles.
  • There’s no shortage of cars on offer, but like their prices, standards vary hugely and some can feel very loose and worn. Try a few, if for no other reason to compare a standard car against a XKR; you might not need the added go. In fact, a 4.2 is as fast as the old 4.0 XKR without the hang ups.
  • The XK8’s interior is well-equipped and beautifully built. Full of premium materials you need to check for worn or damaged trim; all cars have leatherswathed cabins but it doesn’t wear too well.
  • Convertibles have an electrically operated roof that’s durable and reliable, but you still need to check for damage, as the fabric is £1000 to replace and the mechanism up to £4000. Every six years the roof’s hydraulic fluid should be renewed; expect to pay £120 for this.
  • Despite its complexity the electrical system is reliable if it hasn’t been butchered through the fitment of security or stereo upgrades. However, the standard hi-fi and security systems are so good, upgrades are unnecessary.
  • Although it’s generally reliable you still need to ensure that everything works properly, so check items like the electric mirror and seat adjustment, cabin and exterior lighting plus the climate control. The latter is very important; repairs can run to £1000+ to put things right.
  • Also check the low-set front foglights, which get broken easily by flying stones; replacements are £90 apiece. Analyse the headlights too; new ones are £400 or so each, with even the covers costing £100.
  • General servicing is pretty cheap with specialist charging around £250-£300 for an annual one although a major can cost double. Road tax is a straight £290 maximum and expect to return 23 mpg overall but as much as 30mpg on quiet runs report some owners.

Body and chassis

  • Whereas its successor was made of aluminium, the X100’s body is constructed of steel with plastic bumpers – which is why there can be a colour mismatch between the two.
  • As such, corrosion can strike but it shouldn’t be a significant issue on any car that’s been cherished. But a lot haven’t and repairs can even scrap some cars which might look good on the surface but be rotten underneath warn experts who add you need to check underneath although it’s the areas you can’t see that are the main worry.
  • If there is any corrosion it’s most likely to be in the front footwells and rear wheelarches. The key is to check the floorpans just behind the front subframe, as corrosion here can be costly to fix because of the poor access which can mean dropping the crossmember, which is an entire’s day job so costly labour-wise.
  • Also analyse the seam in the sill directly below the door handle. The bodyshell can flex, especially where the convertibles are concerned, leading to corrosion in these seams. The paint lacquer can peel off anywhere, with metallic finishes being most prone to this – and the only long-term solution is a full respray.
  • You can expect tight, even panel gaps, so make sure they’re not out of kilter. Whatever the car’s paint and panel condition, get an HPI check (www. hpicheck.com) to make sure it hasn’t been the subject of a major insurance claim.
  • Low-speed knocks can also take their toll, especially as parking sensors aren’t fitted to all XK8s, and visibility at each end of the car isn’t great. Also check the central jacking point up front along with the radiator, and on an XKR inspect the intercooler too; they can all be damaged by the car bottoming out on speed bumps.
  • XK8s aren’t rare or valued enough for restos so it’s best to resume searching for the better cars.

Engine

  • XK8s built before 2000 can suffer from damaged cylinder bores through high-sulphur fuel eroding the Nikasil coating. Any car that’s survived this long should be fine, but a blow-by meter will indicate if there’s a problem with damaged cylinder walls.
  • Some of these early 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. 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.
  • What is an issue on the V8 is the secondary timing chain being thrown off after the plastic top tensioner has cracked. The engine is rarely wrecked, but a new set of chains and tensioners will be needed; budget £1100 to have the work done including gaskets, plugs and a replacement water pump. If it’s left too late and a replacement engine is required, expect to pay £2500 for one. Other breakages include the water pump’s impellers.
  • The rubber hose beneath the XKR’s supercharger perishes. Known as the valley pipe, replacing it isn’t too big a job, but it requires the removal of the supercharger. 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.
  • This Eaton ‘blower’ is generally reliable so long as the oil’s been changed and the engine allowed to warm up and cool properly (many haven’t).

Running gear

  • Jaguar never offered a manual gearbox, so all these cars feature an automatic transmission that fits in perfectly with the car’s grand tourer status. All 4.0-litre cars came with a five-speed box sourced from Mercedes; 4.2-litre cars got a ZF six-speed unit.
  • As with the rest of the transmission, problems are rare, although changing the oil should be left to a specialist, as Jaguar didn’t provide any means of checking or changing the fluid. On the five-speeder the output shaft and planetary gear assemblies can fail which means sourcing a decent used transmission, but everything can usually be fixed for under £1000.
  • All have power steering. The system doesn’t give problems but the track rod ends wear out; new ones are £16 apiece. Feathering around the edges of the front tyres betrays wear in the front wishbone bushes (under £20 a go) combined with tired front wheelbearings while odd wear pattern at the rear suggest a geometry check and adjust is needed and perhaps new rear anti roll bar links at just over £70.
  • Wheelbearings can last as less than 40,000 miles – perhaps less if wider tyres or harder driving is employed; groaning from the front at 40-50mph suggest that at least one of the bearings is due for renewal at £40 plus another £100 to do the work on each side.
  • There were numerous wheel and tyre combinations, with the optional 20-inch items really eye-catching. However, these don’t do anything for the ride and they’re even easier to kerb than the 18-inch rims which could also be optionally specified – and which offer the best balance between acceptable ride and purposeful looks. Standard fare were 17-inch spoked alloys, but whatever units are fitted, check the rims aren’t wrecked through kerbing.
  • XK’s tyres are frequently unavailable for months at a time, and even when they are available they’re always costly; shop around and you’ll be doing well to get them for much less than £175 apiece – have budget tyres been fitted?. However, despite the power they have to transmit and the car’s weight, they last longer than you’d think as you should expect to get at least 20,000 miles out of a set.
  • It’s well worth finding an XK8 with Jaguar’s Computer-Active Technology Suspension (CATS). Standard on the XKR, XK8 owners had to pay extra for it – but it’s worthwhile. This adjusts the dampers between hard and soft for better cornering, anti-dive under braking and anti-squat under acceleration.
  • However, CATS dampers are £360 apiece compared with £160+ for the standard items, so if you’re buying an XK8 with CATS, make sure there are no knocking noises on uneven road surfaces, indicating worn damper bushes.
  • Various braking systems were fitted, and even the standard set-up is superb, but cars with the Brembo system have truly awesome stopping power. There are no common issues, but certain aftermarket discs tend to wear quickly and promote judder, while the front callipers of the Brembo system need to be cleaned every three years or so, to stop the pads from binding in the sliders

 

Three Of A Kind

Aston DB7
Aston DB7
Kissing cousin to the Jaguar and launched a couple of years earlier, the DB7 was almost twice the price when new but certainly not twice as good (especially the XKR). The gap is now huge as Aston values rise making XK8s bargains – the only real advantage the AM has is the option of a V12 and a rarely-specified manual gearbox (six-cylinder only) plus their exclusivity and, of course, the badge. Parts supply is nowhere near as good or cheap with some components now obsolete.
BMW 8-series
BMW 8-series
With a choice of V8 or V12 engines, a stylish pillarless coupé design and that famous BMW driving experience, we should all be clamouring to buy this BMW for buttons. But so far this Bavarian bruiser hasn’t really caught on, although popularity is on the rise. The V12 is both complex and potentially extremely costly to run and the V8s can be unreliable; if you’re tempted, go for one of the last cars built if you can as they’re better to drive and more dependable. Beware of banger buys.
Maserati 3200 & 4200
Maserati 3200 & 4200
Maserati has built some pretty so-so cars in the past, but by the time the 3200 Coupé and Spyder were launched standards had risen significantly – thanks to new Ferrari ownership. But these cars aren’t as dependable as the Jaguar, they’re not as good to drive even though they are sportier and they’re not nearly as plentiful. But find a good one and you’ll be rewarded with perhaps the best bargain badged supercar around and yet that can only appreciate in value over time.

Verdict

As values for older mainstream classics go through the roof, these more modern, more usable Jaguars look like increasingly good value. Running costs needn’t be high, reliability is a strong suit and there are lots of really good ones to go round. The Jag’s youth means parts availability is superb and with lots of club and specialist support you’ll find the ownership experience pretty painless as long as you buy a good car. Find a good one and that MGB or Stag you could have had for the same money will suddenly seem like a poor alternative.



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