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Jaguar XK8

Eight is Great Published: 9th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: XKR Convertible
  • Worst model: Scruffy unloved cars
  • Budget buy: Early Coupe
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 5025 x W1800 mm
  • Spares situation: Still being produced
  • DIY ease?: Like all moderns, no
  • Club support: Usual Jag levels
  • Appreciating asset?: In time, yes
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Fantastic bargains
After the disappointment of the XJ-S, the sleek lines of the XK8 were a welcome return to E-type standards of style After the disappointment of the XJ-S, the sleek lines of the XK8 were a welcome return to E-type standards of style
Interiors are not BMW hardy and may not look as good as this, especially the seats. Ford switchgear throughout Interiors are not BMW hardy and may not look as good as this, especially the seats. Ford switchgear throughout
Snug cabin just about ok for kids in the back Snug cabin just about ok for kids in the back
V8 engine great but can suffer from bore wear and timing assembly woes – both costly to right V8 engine great but can suffer from bore wear and timing assembly woes – both costly to right
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So what if you can‘t afford an E-type? Jaguar’s XK8 is a classic on the cusp and all for under five grand, too!

Pros & Cons

E-type style, performance, modern manners, fantastic value
Poor examples, trim lacks stamina, auto only, more GT than sports
£4000-£22,000

Forget the XJ-S, the XK8 was Browns Lane’s first real stab at replacing the iconic E-type in looks and feel. It worked so well that Aston Martin even used the Coventry Cat as the basis for its DB7! It amazing to think that the XK is fast approaching its 14th birthday and today a good XK8 makes a brilliant buy for those after a true modern Jaguar classic that, if preserved, is bound to appreciate in value over time yet can also be used as a regular driver without fear or favour. With values of this V8 suffering due to the new XK and the credit crunch and with so many good value cars around, an XK8 looks a great modern classic that’s astonishing value for money

History

So good, it formed the basis for aston’s DB7

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 (by 1000kg!) E-type. Transmission was a brand new fi ve-speed automatic (still using the famed dog-leg °Randle handle° selector gate) via stability control to the rear.The suspension was revamped, riding on 245/50 x17 wheels while a special CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension) sports chassis set-up was optional (this was always standard on Convertibles though). It wasn’t long before the cries for more power became loud 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 it in unison with a standardised CATS chassis. 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 fi tment 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. 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 lovely nine spoke BBS alloys, Brembo brakes, Anthracite Paint/Warm Charcoal trim, R Performance Recaro seats, racing-looking gearshift and instrument surround and more.

Driving

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). The handing, if not Porsche perfect, is also more than satisfying. The CATS system really tightens things up although 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 refinement make the miles fly 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 surprisingly fair, though.

Prices

This is the best bit. XK8 prices are sinking without a trace, and are now just above the four grand mark for a scruffy P-reg. Even a scrubbed up one on the forecourt is now only valued at £6500! Mind you, whether it’s wise and prudent to buy a suspect if cheap example is debatable because there are plenty of good ones around the £10,000-13,000 mark which won’t require any work other than a service before turning the key to enjoy. Now think about it about it for a second: just what sort of E-type can you get for this sort of credit crunching money? XK8 convertibles start from around £5500 for a sound if scared example and on average command £2000-£3000 over a Coupe depending upon year while the fi rst of the 4.2 V8s kick off at around £15,500 on the forecourts; they cost over 55 grand new back in 2002! XKRs start from £6500 (trade), or just under ten grand on the forecourt coupled with an equally acceptable warranty. Even last of the line 54 late models retail under £23,000 now and perhaps £20,000 for a normal XK8 Coupe. That’s roughly a third of 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 as the trade struggles to shift gas guzzlers like these. So shop around, haggle hard and buy on condition rather than just price – it will save you shed loads in the long run.

Improvements

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 and 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. 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) together with 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 a six-speed manual conversion using Aston Martin Vanquish parts. Very pricey but it sure works and turns the XK8 into the Jaguar it should have been from the start.

What To Look For

  • The XK8 is still a relatively new car so a service history is very important. Look for a fat wad of main dealer or specialist stamps to confi rm mileage and maintenance. Cars with am iffy history book should be a lot cheaper.
  • The 60,000 mile service is a biggie, involving replacing transmission fl uids and drivebelts. Typically this costs around £700 at a dealer – has it been skipped?
  • A 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 and 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 after all this time.
  • 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 ‘blow by’ test and check for that aforementioned Nikasil wear.
  • The unofficial way of determining any bore problems is to remove intake breaker pipes and listen to any undue wheezing. Also cars which are reluctant to start after a long period of standing idle (like on a forecourt) is another pointer.
  • However, the real worr y now with this sophisticated quad cam engine is the timing gear where the tensioner assembly can break up with dire consequences and perhaps mean 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. 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 is compounded by wider wheels and tyres – plus faster cornering – all putting excessive 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 find 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 rouge 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 well wear 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.

Three Of A Kind

Porsche 928
Porsche 928
Designed to replace the 911 the V8 928 was too fat and lazy to take its place but as a 2+2 GT it’s one of the very best. Beautifully built and everlasting, there’s plenty of good ones around at attractive prices while scrappy ones sell for pounds. Just don’t get caught in between or it will cost you… Best model is the rare-spotted GTS with manual ‘box. Most 928s are autos and no cabrios were offi cally made.
Aston Martin Virage
Aston Martin Virage
Aston Martin’s Virage is hardly the stuff dreams are made of and image as well as values have continually suffered as a result. It was developed in just two years and it showed, both in quality and dynamics but a good one – and they are around – makes a cracking mile-eater and that trusty V8 has go to spare. Like the XK8, low values means penny-pinching ownership and there’s lots to go wrong with the Aston!
Aston Martin DB7
Aston Martin DB7
The DB7 is the XK8’s half brother, using a derivative of its platform and the straight six Jag unit, albet it to 3.6-litres and supercharged. As expected the dearer Aston is plusher trimmed, but there’s not much in it, and nor is the XKR a second-stringer to the DB7, in their six or V12 guises. Expect to pay a lot more for a DB; around £20k for an average early example, while build quality wasn’t any better than the Jag’s.

Verdict

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 30 odd years ago, and the XK8 is arguably the much better car into the bargain.



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