Buyer’s guide to a sophisticated bargain Jaguar’s impressive XK8/XKR. Hailed as the E-type’s successor, this potent V8 XK will become a great classic, believes Malcolm McKay. Photography Tony Baker.
The Jaguar XK8 range offers impressive performance and style for the money. That won’t be the case for ever, because this capable and elegant Jaguar is increasingly appreciated in the classic market. Resources at Jaguar had been in short supply for a sports car project through the end of the BL era, privatisation and then the Ford takeover in 1989. Saloons were the priority, and a long-running Jaguar XJ40-based roadster proposal was scrapped. In 1992, Bob Dover was appointed to lead a new sports car team with chief stylist Geoff Lawson, and Fergus Pollock largely responsible for the final design.
To save time and cost, the XJS floorpan was retained, but with fresh underpinnings, engine and transmission. X-300 saloon rear suspension, plus a new front set-up, the all-new AJ26 V8 (complete with patented low-volume cooling system allowing rapid warm-up from cold) and a fully electronic ZF five-speed ’box were fitted (ZF 5HP24).
Although slightly less powerful than the outgoing 5.3-litre V12, the AJ-V8 was much lighter and helped the whole car to weigh significantly less than the hefty late-model XJS. F1-derived nickel-silicon carbide (Nikasil) bore liners were used; BMW and others also adopted this process, which brought issues (now sorted) with sulphur fuel additives in early engines.
The Jaguar was built to much higher quality standards than before, thanks to Ford input. It’s actually cheaper and quicker to produce a vehicle with parts that are correct to the milli metre and need no adjustment, lead-loading or filling.
On its launch, the car was rapturously received by the press. The engine and gearbox were top of the class – XKRs were limited to 155mph, but are capable of 175mph-plus when de-restricted – as were the handling, quietness and price, but the poor low-speed ride and cramped rear seats were criticised. The folding soft-top, developed by Karmann – complete with a heated glass screen – was widely praised, even though it relied on a clip-on leather hood cover to look tidy when lowered. A vast range of options and extras was offered, and the build totals were: XK8 Coupé 19,748, XK8 Convertible 46,760, XKR Coupé 9661, XKR Convertible 13,895.
Decide which model, colours and trim specs appeal, then look carefully. Not all dealers know XK specs, so shop around; you may find a topend car at standard book price. Service history is highly desirable, but check for gaps.
What to look for
Nikasil bore issues are critical; another weakness is the plastic timing-chain tensioners. Jaguar avoided cambelt problems, but the tensioners can break and even cause catastrophic chain failure. They were improved in 2002, and a durable metal alternative was fitted from 2005. If there’s no proof of replacement on earlier units, they should be checked. Upper tensioners (x2) are fairly easy to change; the lower one is trickier, so listen carefully for any untoward noises.
Cooling-system failure can be disastrous, too; a stuck thermostat or broken water pump (the impeller disintegrates) can blow a top hose, and significant loss may cause major distortion. Check for emulsion in the oil filler or oil in water: if either is found, walk away. If bills show a recent head gasket, be wary too; keep a close eye on the temperature gauge during the drive.
Make sure the car has genuine Jaguar wheels, and with quality rubber: this reflects the sort of maintenance that it has enjoyed. A vast range of alloys was offered, so finding the correct replacements can be tricky. Pirelli P-Zero 245/50 ZR17 tyres were fitted originally, but 245/45 ZR18s up front and 255/45 ZR18s at the rear were later options (standard with CATS active suspension).
Any car should have taut handling and a supple ride at speed. If not, the suspension may be worn and will need special tools to rebuild it: even changing the rear dampers is complex and costly.
Two keys and fobs, both of which function, are an important asset. Low mileage, though appealing, can bring its own issues – especially if the car has stood outside through damp weather.
“I looked around for six months before I found the right car,” recalls Alexander. “This one appeared on the internet without photos. The moment they went up, I bought it. The hood mechanism didn’t work, but I discovered that it had no hydraulic oil – I filled it and it was fine. I also had to replace a leaking piston, but found a secondhand one. I’d always had BMWs, but the Z3 felt cheap and had no room: I wanted space to go away for the weekend with my wife.”
“The XK8 is incredible value for money,” he adds, “luxury for a sensible price – it comes with everything. I love driving it, and the interest that it gets – people have no idea how little they cost. I’m getting it detailed over the winter to tidy up a few blemishes, and will be keeping it.”
One to buy £9495
Year of manufacture 2005
Recorded mileage 80,603
Vendor LE Autos, Taplow, Bucks
For + Desirable, highspec late model; drives well
Against – Minor tidying
This Final Edition ‘all black’ coupé is clean and tidy, with immaculate BBS 18in alloys. It also has satnav and R-Performance brakes. There are no marks on the bodywork, but the front undertray is broken at one corner: blame the pheasants.
There are the usual tiny paint pinholes around the nose, but only one touched-in chip by the left headlight – not enough to warrant a repaint – and the rubber rear-arch deflectors want reglueing. Underneath, the floorpans are generally decent, with minor surface rust on the jacking points – easily rectified – and the exhaust is in good shape.
Inside, the leather is lightly creased but not worn, although there are a couple of tiny scuffs on the left seat base. The rear seats and belts look unused. The ‘grey’ veneers are excellent, as is the headlining. In the boot we find a perfect spacesaver spare, plus a full set of jack and tools.
The motor is a bit grubby, but the fluids are the right colours and levels – the coolant orange plus oil clean and to ‘Max’ – and it starts readily, ticking over evenly and with no noises from the belts or pulleys. The XK8 warms quickly and drives like it should, with plenty of go and a responsive transmission, in auto and DiY modes – the ‘Randle handle’ J-gate is instinctive to use. It tracks and brakes straight, the temperature sits halfway up the scale and the aircon blows cold. There’s no tax, although the MoT runs to March (with no advisories on the previous one).
1996 Mar Geneva Coupé debut (April Convertible New York) June production begins Oct UK launch
1998 May Blown 370bhp XKR; M-B 5-speed auto, speed-sensitive steering, CATS active set-up, mesh grille, bonnet louvres, bootlid spoiler, bigger rims
1998 Oct Bodyshells stiffened, electronics and fuel injection modified to improve response
1999 Sep R-Performance options: 18/20in BBSs, Brembo brakes, uprated suspension and steering
1999 Oct Steel cylinder liners replace Nikasil
2000 Apr Silverstone X100 XKR: 50 Coupé, 50 Conv, Silver, charcoal hide, R-P, 20in Detroit wheels
2000 Oct Flush front foglamps, new wheels and bumpers, side airbags, adaptive restraint system
2002 Oct 4.2: 300bhp, 310lb ft XK8; 400bhp XKR, Brembo brakes, new alloy wheels, new headlights
2004 Restyle, including deeper front grille, side sill covers, black window surrounds, new veneers
2004 Oct Carbon Fibre high-spec special edition UK, 100 XKRs; 200 later built for US market
2005 Mar 4.2S (Europe) Jun Victory in USA (1050 built): various trim upgrades. Production ends
ASTON MARTIN DB7
Also on XJ-S floorpan with a supercharged AJ16 Jaguar ‘six’, the DB7 conspired to be quicker, quieter and comfier than XK8. The V12 Vantage set the pace from 1999. High running costs. Sold/no built 1994-’04/7247 Mpg 12-25 0-60mph 5.8-5 secs Top speed 155-185mph Price new £84,950 (2000) Price now £17-42,000.
MASERATI 3200GT/ COUPE/SPYDER
Initially a poor rival and FHC-only with twinturbo V8, but drysumped 4.2 from ’02 was much improved. Quality patchy at first, better later; parts can be pricey. Sold/no built 1998-’07/26,564 Mpg 18-28 0-60mph 6.2-4.9 secs Top speed 155-177mph Price new £59,925 (2000) Price now £9-26,000.
There’s a vast range of XK8/XKRs out there: exterior colours, optional extras, trim choices, wheels et cetera. The price premium is currently remarkably small for a high-spec car; though if your requirements are specific, you may have to look long and hard to track down your ideal. Find it, well maintained, and you’ll have years of driving fun for a reasonable outlay.
• Great looks, now maturing like the XJ-S did
• Excellent performance, more so from XKR
• Good handling and comfort
• Fine club, specialist and parts support
• Later models are still depreciating
• Fuel economy is not a strong point
• Complex modern specification means that repairs can be difficult and costly to sort
Hood normally hides under a neat cover; boot can take two sets of golf clubs, so it’s big enough to make the XK8 ideal for touring.
BBS split-rims have quarter-worn Dunlop SP Sport Maxxs. Hide trim mildly aged but not worn; wheel needs realigning. Engine covers are dirty, but V8 to be serviced before sale.
Flowing lines of XK8 once seemed too tall, but – like the XJ-S – it appears to be improving with age. Myriad alloy wheels were offered, so check they’re all okay.
XK8 performs and handles superbly, but isn’t quite a 2+2.
WHAT TO PAY
Low-mileage XK8 Coupé/Conv £14,000/15k
Low-mileage XKR Coupé/Conv £19,000
Front wing left/right £1208/801
Rear quarter panel (used) £450
Upper wishbone arm new/refurb £469/180
CATS front damper (1998-’03) £331
Engine 4.0 rebuilt/new (exch) £4200/7800
Timing chain/tensioner kit £318
Mapped ECU fitted & tested £3600
Brembo caliper seal kit £36
XK8/XKR Enthusiasts’ Club xkec.co.uk
Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club jec.org.uk
Jaguar Drivers’ Club jaguardriver.co.uk
Jaguar XK8 Nigel Thorley, Haynes
Jaguar XK8 Graham Robson, Crowood
Jaguar XK8 and XKR John Blunsden, MRP
DCR AutoParts 07801 495324 designXKR 01264 333523 SNG Barratt 01746 765432 BritishParts 01438 354810 jagspares.net 020 8778 0948 Rimmer 01522 568000 Tom Lenthall 0118 976 2899 Badcat 01435 883988 Viezu 01527 579345
Geoff Lawson with award-winning XK8s at Browns Lane.
R-spec XKR 100 was produced in 2001, as 50 of each type.
|Construction||all steel monocoque|
|Engine||all-alloy, qohc, 32-valve 3996/4196cc V8, Nippondenso electronic engine management, fuel injection or intercooled Eaton M112 blower;|
290bhp @ 6100rpm-400bhp @ 6100rpm;
290lb ft @ 4250rpm-408lb ft @ 3500rpm
|Transmission||ZF or M-B 5-speed, or ZF 6-speed (2002), auto, traction and stability control|
|Suspension:||double wishbones, coils, telescopics, a-r bar; CATS active optional, Coupé only at first|
|Steering||ZF Servotronic variable-ratio powerassisted rack and pinion, 2.8 turns lock-to-lock|
|Brakes||ABS 305mm ventilated discs; Brembo 355 f, 330 r optional from 1999, standard 2002|
|Wheels||All alloy discs 245/45 ZR18s up front and 255/45 ZR18s rear|
|Length||15ft 7 ½ -15ft 8 ¼ in (4760-4776mm)|
|Width||6ft ¼ in (1829mm)|
|Height||4ft 3in-4ft 3 ½ in (1296/1306mm)|
8ft 6 ¼ in (2588mm)
£253.34, for a Londoner, 30, full no-claims/clean licence on a 1999 ragtop as a garaged 2nd car, value £10k, 5000 ltd miles. Lancaster: 01480 484848.