Buying Guide How to properly evaluate a Jaguar XJR / Buy a 370bhp Jag XJR for £3k
What to pay
1 Ordinary automatic six-cylinder and V8 XJRs cost the same. Budget £3000 for a good one, £6k for the best. High-milers can fetch as little as £1400. There’s no real premium for R1-spec X308 XJRs.
2 XJR100s command a £1.5k premium over standard X308s; top examples go for £8k.
3 The Daimler Super V8 premium is £2k. The best Super V8s go for £10,000.
4 The most valuable XJRs are the manual X306s. Tiny build numbers mean they’re almost all known within XJR circles. The best fetch as much as £22,000.
The elegant ‘X300’-shape XJR is on the edge of classic status, with mint examples being sold by modern-classic specialists for more than £10k. Non-classic-minded owners are offloading 326bhp monsters for banger money, though – and there’s the spectre of the huge bills any 20-year-old luxury performance car can spring on an unsuspecting owner keeping values low. But one thing’s for certain – a good one will be a very smart buy.
For buying tips, we spoke to Jaguar specialist David Marks (davidmarksgarages.co.uk, 0115 982 2808); Andy Stodart, former Jaguar engineer who helped devise the car, and Kevin Barrett at Jagutek (jagutek. co.uk, 01353 667 147), a Jaguar apprentice turned repairer/restorer who specialises in AJ-series engines.
Which is which?
X306 XJR Jaguar took the task of creating a high-performance version of the XJ6 very seriously when replacing the XJ40 with the new X300-series in 1994. In addition to body-colour plastic displacing chrome; a mesh grille and 18in alloy wheels, the new 4.0-litre XJR had an Eaton supercharger similar to the one fitted to the 3.2-litre version of the same AJ16 engine in the Aston Martin DB7, and produced 326bhp. Both Getrag manuals and GM automatics were available, although only 102 UK buyers opted for the former.
X308 XJR In 1998 all XJ models got the new AJV8 engine, with the XJR’s being a 4.0-litre, supercharged 370bhp version. The manual transmission option was dropped, and all XJRs used a Mercedes-Benz automatic. Optional ‘R1’ handling pack added 18in BBS wheels, cross-drilled Brembo brakes and stiffer suspension. Production continued until 2003 when the X300 was replaced with the all-aluminium X350.
XJR100 Celebrating what would have been Sir William Lyons’ 100th birthday, this was only available for the 2001 model year. It featured black paint, black leather interior with contrasting red stitching and dark-stained wood veneers, plus a restyled steering wheel. The R1 performance pack was standard, but even larger wheels were fitted – 19in BBS Montreals.
Daimler Super V8 Jaguar’s ultimate Q-car – the XJR in chrome-trimmed, softer-riding, long-wheelbase form. Available from 2001-03 on special order, it’s more numerous than the XJR100. In the US, the Super V8 was called the Jaguar Vanden Plas Supercharged.
Bodywork and structure The bodies are largely the same on both six- and eight-cylinder cars, and suffer from the same areas of corrosion. The worst point is around the front bulkhead and front suspension – check for corroding toeboards, front inner sills, the base of the front wings where they join the sills, and the suspension turrets. Rectifying front bulkhead and inner sill rust typically costs £100-600 per side. If the sill rot has spread into the floors, walk away – the car will be beyond economical repair at current values, and there are still plenty of cars to choose from.
The revised suspension mountings of V8-engined X308 models tend to suffer worse rot than the X306s. The point where the dampers mount to the inner wings can be badly affected, and rot will have affected the brake and power-steering pipes too.
The front subframe needs removing to rectify it, part of an involved ten-hour job that includes multi-layer panel fabrication, scalloping, shaping and welding. Expect a bill of about £1900. Secondhand panels are drying up, although new front wings are available from Jaguar for £500.
Gearbox The X306 manual Getrag 290 gearboxes are indestructible if properly oiled, although many manual cars tend to have lived harder lives than their automatic cousins so check for smooth gear selection. The Mercedes-Benz 5G-Tronic W5A580 gearbox in the automatic-only X308 is not without its issues – whining is a sign of wear, so make sure the service history includes regular gearbox oil changes. To save money, Jaguar fitted dipstick tubes but only issued dipsticks to dealers, so borrow one from a specialist or buy one from SPX Tools for £45 to check the oil level.
The most troublesome gearbox is the GM 4L80E used in six-cylinder automatics. They’re known for falling into ‘limp-home’ mode, generating strange gearbox-temperature warnings and shifting gears at odd times. This can either be one of two gearbox speed sensors failing, £80 to replace but tricky to fit, or be due to the wiring harness to the rear going brittle and snapping – second-hand replacements are £400 to fit.
Electrics Electronic Control Units (ECUs) are prone to water ingress via the bulkhead on X306s, so check them for corrosion – a common cause of an engine refusing to crank or suddenly cutting out without warning. Replacement ECUs are near-impossible to find, but specialists are able to restore them for £250, replacing and reprogramming the EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) units on the printed circuit boards. It’s a tricky job involving tamper-proof screws and intricate circuits, and is not recommended for DIY mechanics.
Interior electrics are robust, but don’t respond well to DIY interference, reverse-polarisation and aftermarket parts, so non-factory alarms, immobilisers and stereo installations can wreak havoc.
The relays mounted behind the headlights on X306s are prone to fail, causing the fuel system to intermittently cut out. There are eight of these relays at £15 each, so work out which one has failed before replacing it. The engine management relays suffer most, because they receive most electrical loading, so check these particularly for sticky carbon contacts. Engines Although new for 1994, the six-cylinder AJ16 engines were very reliable, having been developed from the 1983 XJ-S 3.6’s AJ6. Don’t be put off by a slightly lumpy idle – in 4.0-litre supercharged form it was in its highest-possible state of road tune.
The V8s, on the other hand, had some design flaws – timing chain tensioners and water pump impellers were made of plastic and are prone to disintegrating without warning, with consequent serious engine damage. With aluminium and steel tensioners, the AJV8 is a very reliable engine, but check to make sure the upgrade has been done. This is often faked in the service history in order to make cars saleable, so if possible call the garages credited with the work in the service history, or if there’s no paperwork insist that the cam covers are removed to check for the upgrade. If it hasn’t been done, budget £950 for all four tensioners, bearing in mind a replacement engine would be £5000.
The X308 is far less DIY-friendly than the X306, requiring more specialist tools for tensioner changes, timing chain pulleys, compressing suspension springs and removing wheel bearings. They’re expensive to buy, but can be hired from Ken Jenkins (01909 733 209). Nikasil-related cylinder bore wear was a concern early on, but as sulphur content in petrol was heavily reduced subsequently, it’s no longer a problem.
Suspension This wears with age, so listen for the usual bangs and rumbles of worn bushes and wheel bearings. X308 XJRs featured active suspension which makes for expensive rear dampers so make sure there are no knocking noises – replacement dampers cost £250 each and fitting them involves lowering the rear axle unit (a £600 job). Make sure the correct Pirelli P Zero (X306) or Continental ContiSport Contact 3 (X308) tyres are fitted. Tyres without the right VR speed rating can’t cope with the performance.
Trim Interiors wear fairly well although driver’s seat bolsters split at around the 80,000-mile mark – budget £150 to revive them. Headlining often droops and replacements are no longer available. Myrtle manufactures covered glassfibre replacement headlinings, but it imbues the cabin with a plasticky smell and creates acoustic issues – although at £170 compared to £1400 for replacement with new material (a windscreen-out job), it’s much more cost-effective. Most cars are still on their original switchgear and wood veneers last well, although the dark-stained wood in some X308s tends to go milky – Jaguar charges £1800 for replacement veneer, but it’ll be more like a tenth of that figure if sourced from a breaker.
The XJR can offer incredible performance and classic style for little outlay – or a deep pit in which to bury money if you don’t buy carefully.
Six-cylinder supercharged engine can be fettled by the home mechanic. The later V8 needs special tools – and suffers from disintegrating plastic parts.
Luxurious interiors are fairly hard wearing. Wellthumbed buttons may lose their legends, though.
Beneath the façade of feline grace lurks a plethora of possible corrosion locations. Sills, wings, bulkheads and suspension mounts can suffer.
Owning an XJR
Rob Jenner, Berwick-upon-Tweed
‘I couldn’t afford one when they were launched in 1994, so I promised myself I’d have one when they hit £10k – but only if I could get a manual car,’ says Rob, who owns the car in our photographs. ‘It’s one of just 102 manual UK cars, although this is actually my third.
‘I was working for Jaguar Heritage, putting together the XJR register, and found this one – the very last made – in storage at Browns Lane. I wanted to buy it, but Tony O’Keefe said “no you won’t – I will!” When Jaguar Heritage closed its museum, Tony and I both made bids for it and I won.
‘It had just 9600 miles on the clock and now it’s got just over 11,100, but I’ve got another XJR I use for track days. The AJ16 engine is bulletproof – 200,000 miles is commonplace and even 300,000 is possible without a rebuild so long as service schedules are adhered to. But the six-cylinder cars are the last of the DIY Jaguars – the same can’t be said of the V8.
‘They’re such good value, especially when you compare them to other Nineties performance saloons like the Mercedes-Benz E500 W124, Lotus Carlton and BMW M5 E34/E39, particularly when you can still find acceptable examples for under £1000.’
Paul Davies, Worcester
‘My car belonged to an antique-dealer friend of mine,’ said Paul of the bargain-buy X308 XJR that became his 18-month restoration project. ‘He’d put it up for sale at a secondhand car dealer’s, where it got left at the back of the lot getting in an awful state. I offered £500 for it because it needed lots of body and engine work. I’ve spent £2.5k already and there’s another £1k to spend too – the bulkhead corrosion was terrible.
‘I’ve owned four XJ40s and two X300s – I still have a 3.2-litre Sovereign – and I’d say the build quality of the X306- generation is much better. But the V8 XJR is the ultimate performance X300 and has a nicer interior, with a better instrument layout and full leather.
‘The main problem – aside from rust – is tramlining on B-roads. The XJR will easily have you off the road if you’re not careful. Mine needs suspension work but the main culprit is the tyre width. Good rubber is essential, and some dealers have recently discovered that Federal tyres offer better directional stability than the original-fit Pirellis or Continentals.’
Rob Grace, Market Harborough
‘I had one new in 1995 – a six-cylinder automatic example – but sold it when I got married and had kids because it was too thirsty to run as a family saloon,’ said Rob of the origins of his XJR enthusiasm. ‘However, I always fancied another to run as a classic, so nine years ago I came across one for £4500 on the internet, for sale in Wetherby from a man who’d owned it for 12 years.
‘It turned out to be a manual! It was suffering from a sticking throttle body so I got the price down to £3500 – it’s much easier to access and clean the throttle body on the manuals. I took it to Denmark and France, and to a local Jaguar Enthusiasts Club meeting where I learned it was the only manual example built in Antigua Blue!
‘Unfortunately when David Marks inspected it he said it was completely rotten underneath and beyond economic repair. However, during the 2008 recession restorers were eager for any work they could get so I had it repaired. The welding and painting came to £1800. Had it been an automatic I wouldn’t have bothered, but it paid off – it was chosen to represent the XJR at the Jaguar event at Windsor Castle earlier this year.’
1998 Jaguar XJR – £4990 ovno
Metallic blue with Nimbus grey leather interior, four previous owners. Full main dealer service history complete with receipts. Main dealer chain replacement 10k miles ago. Front discs/pads and oil change just done. Standard car, no modifications. Options include cruise control, memory electric seats. Only 79k miles and excellent overall condition for year, one or two very minor age related marks.