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Jaguar XK8

Jaguar XK8 Published: 14th May 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Why not own a...? Jaguar XK8

Elsewhere in this issue you can read about the Aston Martin DB7 which is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. In common with the slightly younger Jaguar XK8, they both are heavily XJ-S based, thanks to Ford’s ownership of both brands starting back in the 1990s. While not identical, they share an awful lot in common – the Aston being the more thoroughbred and prestigious car.

But given the prices Aston Martin DB7s sell for – double or treble over an XK8 – are they demonstrably the better car? The answer is no, which is why the Jaguar, with prices starting from around £3000 should be given a serious look!

Model choice

The XK8 was launched at the Geneva motor show, following in the footsteps of the E-type 35 years previously. Cost constraints meant that the new car had to use an existing platform, which was a development of the old XJ-S platform, itself a direct descendent to the XJ6 of 1968! The major differences lay in the new double wishbone front suspension set up and grafting on the famous IRS assembly, first designed for the E-type, but this time the improved XJ40 design.

Broadly speaking, there’s a choice of the coupé and convertible in standard or supercharged XKR tune. The biggest change to the car occurred in 2002 when the singleton 4-litre V8 was enlarged to 4.2 together with a new six-speed Mercedes-sourced automatic transmission to go with a myriad of detail and appointment upgrades.

Either a Classic or Sport trim could be specified with the former comprising of traditional wood and leather, while Sport added leather seat facings with embossed centre panels and a charcoallook dash layout. Naturally, they are sumptuously equipped, with all the modern toys you’d expect.

Two limited-run models worth seeking out for their future classic potential are the Silverstone and 100 Special editions. The former came out in April 2000, as a normal Coupé or XKR convertible, with platinum silver paint, leather trim, 20inch BBS wheels shod with Pirelli P-Zero tyres, racing Brembo brakes and bespoke badging. Only 100 were made in total.

Ditto the 100 Special, launched a year later, featuring nine-spoke BBS alloys, Brembo brakes, anthracite paint, Charcoal trim, R-Performance Recaro seats, racer-look gearshift and instrument surround, DVD/sat nav, reverse park control and much more.

A special edition 400 arrived in showrooms in 2003, based on the XKR and featuring Alcantara seat inserts plus black, silver or grey paintwork. A year later the 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. The S limited edition of 2005 has a new choice of interior and exterior colour schemes plus 19-inch alloys.

There’s no shortage of choice but specialists say that interest in the pre 2002 models has all but petered out because the later cars are so much better plus are likely to have been pampered more – there’s a lot of mangy cats out there that can seduce you they warn.

Standard or supercharged? All XK8s punch out 290bhp for quite adequate 155mph pace with the 4.2 adding another 10bhp but more guts. The XKR’s supercharged figures are 370bhp and 400bhp but with 387/408lbft of torque respectively. Scalded cats indeed but quite honestly, if you don’t want the added pace you’re probably better to stick with the ordinary XK8 which won’t have been driven so hard and are cheaper.

One area where the XKRs score (as do standard convertibles) is the fitment of the computer-aided CATS suspension – it really tightens things up further, although it does spoil the ride somewhat, especially if the ever-popular wider 20-inch alloys are fitted plus it’s something else to go wrong.

There are a few cars about with silver paint and a black interior, and they’re harder to sell (or bargain if you look at it another way-ed). 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,” one Jaguar specialist told us. Options worth having are the Brembo brakes and Recaro seats.

Behind the wheel

This Jag is a beauty – that’s a fact, and it goes as good as it looks. Like all Jags it can fit your mood, being fast and sporting when demanded, yet smooth and serene if desired. Make no mistake, a good, well serviced and sorted XK8 (be warned, 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 (sensationally scorching in XKR and 4.2-litre forms), refined the rest of the time, it’s easy to see why an increasing number of buyers are skipping a generation and leaving that odd-styled 1970’s car behind.

As with all moderns, the XK8 is ultra user-friendly and daily driving is possible and pleasurable – if you can afford the petrol that is. Actually, overall economy is not too bad considering that the Jaguar is a performance V8 – expect an entirely respectable 22-25mpg during normal rather than heavy pedal use, perhaps better on the 4.2 models as they feature excellent six-speed transmissions and longer gearing.

At 15ft 6ins long (about the same as an E-type) and 6ft wide, it’s pretty big, and can be tricky to use in town – not helped by poor visibility. The hidden nose and tall alloys may take the odd biff if you’re not particularly careful parking.

The XK8 just about qualifies as a practical 2+2 although rear seat space is minimal, and storage space virtually non-existent – but it’s no worse than an E-type 2+2 or XJ-S. There’s that typical luxury feel about this Jag’s cabin as you’d expect, although the dashboard isn’t exactly a thing of beauty compared with past Browns Lane furniture in our view.

Comparisons with the DB7 are inevitable but it is not automatically advantage Aston. To prove the point, Car magazine pitched the XK8 against both the Aston Martin DB7 and other rivals with the Jag taking the glory for its magnificent automatic gearbox (the DB7 uses an old fashioned four-speeder) , blistering pace, amazing soundtrack and its utter civility at all times. “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”.

Making one better

You really don’t need to deviate from the standard factory spec as the XK8 is very well endowed. However, if you want to spice up the looks there are numerous options from companies such as Paragon Design , Adamesh, Design XKR, 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 meaner and less subdued.

If you’re into serious performance, a standard XKR should provide all the thrills you need and if you want supercharged sensations then buy that car in the first place. However, there are companies which will take things even further with redesigned exhausts, remapped ECUs, performance air fi lters and smaller supercharger pulleys (to make it spin faster) which boost power by around 30bhp. Other possible improvements include the fi tment 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 XK8 or XKR owners could desire.

Maintenance matters

As the XK8 is now more than 20 years old it qualifies for classic car insurance with some companies but don’t take it for granted and check this out first. The real stinger could be the cost of taxing post 2001 cars thanks to the emission VED bands. That magnifi cent V8 is considered to be a ‘dirty’ engine and you’ll pay for this accordingly.

The XK8 is a mix of good and bad – the former because it uses a fair number of Ford parts, which if you know your components can save you a packet. On the other hand, consumables such as tyres cost a small fortune, especially 20-inch rim types. Don‘t skimp on quality either, as cheap rubber can spoil this Jag. To be honest penny pinching is a problem on older cars that will only get worse. And you seem to get what you pay for with this Jaguar.

Mega milers are temptingly cheap on the face of it, but the Jag lacks the stamina of its German counterparts and rust on early XK8s can be bad enough for the rear bumpers to actually fall off! Also there are now reports of neglected XK8s failing the annual MoT due to terminal chassis rust, although repair panels are now produced.

Like all moderns there’s not a great deal that you can do to an XK8 by the kerb, apart from oil, filters and perhaps brake pad changes. But that’s all that most of today’s cars need anyway! Bear in mind however that the 60,000 mile service interval is a biggie and perhaps beyond the scope of many owners involving belt changes and more, costing some £700 from a specialist. So, check that the service history is intact or factor in the hidden cost of this pit stop if it’s coming up or has been skipped. Also, find out whether the recalls relating to engine bore wear and timing gear failure were dealt with.

Some specialists also reckon that, while the car is virtually identical under the skin (apart from the engines and transmissions), Aston Martin parts, such as suspension bushes, are made of superior quality but come at a cost.

The car’s timeline

1996

XK8 introduced; XJS-derived with E-type style looks and 290bhp/290lbft torque 4.0-litre V8 driving through a standard automatic. Computer-aided CATS suspension optional but standard on the Convertible.

1998

Supercharged XKR introduced using Eaton supercharger for 370bhp and 387lbft of torque, now fed via Mercedes-auto box and CATS chassis with 18in rims. Interior has sports pack.

2000

Mild revamp featuring flush driving lamps, jewelled tail lamps, deeper rear bumper and improved seat design. Extra appointments were also added.

2000 (2)

Silverstone special edition (normal Coupé or an XKR convertible) with platinum silver paint, leather trim, 20-inch BBS wheels (Pirelli P-Zero tyres), Brembo brakes and special badging.

2001

100 Special launched (like Silverstone, just 100 were made) featuring nine spoke BBS alloy wheels, Brembo brakes plus anthracite paint/ warm charcoal interior trim.

2002

Larger, lustier 4.2-litre engine installed; 300bhp for standard car and 400bhp quoted for XKR with torque up to 408lbft. Facelift includes 19inch alloys and classic leather pack.

2003

Special edition 400 is based on the XKR and featuring Alcantara seat inserts plus black, silver or grey paintwork.

2004

XK8/XKR Premium arrives in coupé or convertible guises, with standard xenon lights, 18-inch alloys and rear spoiler. Parking sensors are now standard.

2005

S limited edition has a new choice of interior and exterior colour schemes plus distinctive 19-inch alloy wheels.

Buying Tips

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 good specialist to confirm your opinion

Rust can be a problem on early cars. The paint is known as being pretty ‘soft’ meaning chipping and damage is common. Check behind the bumpers where electrolytic corrosion can set in between the alloy mounts and steel bolts – especially at the rear causing the bumper to fall off. Floors rot through now so check chassis thoroughly.

Recalls involved mods to the engine’s throttles, gearboxes and driveshashafts. 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 that all is well.

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 remains a problem.

Some have had fresh powerplants under warranty; chassis numbers 001036 to 042775 were affected. Cars that have had a new engine should have a tag on the nearside of the block. The unofficial way of determining any bore problems is to remove intake breaker pipes and listen to any undue wheezing during start up. Also cars that are reluctant to start after a long period of standing idle (perhaps languishing on the forecourt) is another good pointer.

What remains an issue is the secondary timing chain; engine rarely wrecked, but a new set of chains and tensioners will be needed (4.2-type are stronger) budget around £1300.

Running gear is virtually identical to that of an XJ-S. The main wear points are the wheel bearings, which can be knocked out in less than 30,000 miles if big wheels and tyres are fitted. It’s a dealer job to repair. Check that the CATS suspension is still doing its job properly.

Here’s six of the best reasons to buy one

  • Incredible value for money
  • Curvaceous E-type-like looks
  • Major advancement over XJ-S
  • Scorching supercharged XKR
  • Surprisingly easy to maintain
  • Strong specialist and owners’ club support


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