Why you’d want a Jaguar XJR
Ford concentrated first on updating the production plants and improving quality, taking all factory lines up to Q1 quality standards. It showed: X300s were probably the most reliable and trouble-free Jaguars to date.
Equally importantly, Ford allowed Coventry’s engineers the freedom and funds to make the car they wanted to build, and the XJR was a revelation.
Autocar called it: ‘One of the most capable and relevant high-performance cars of the mid-’90s,’ continuing that,‘as well as being very fast, the XJR is very quiet, comfortable and refined… Where others grumble, the XJR glides.’
The supercharged 4-litre AJ16 engine pumped out more power and torque than the V12 (which remained in the range for ultimate luxury), and made the XJR faster-accelerating than a BMW M5, while still being able to waft along in comfort and silence when wanted in a manner its German rivals couldn’t emulate.
Just three years later, Jaguar gave in to almost 50 years of pressure from its biggest market, the USA, to put a V8 in its top saloons instead of a ‘six’, using the space to add a double bulkhead for extra refinement.
Supercharged in the XJR, the 4-litre V8 was immensely powerful and, even though peak power and torque were at higher revs than on the ‘six’, it hadn’t lost that effortless thrust from low down that had been a Jaguar characteristic for half a century.
It was so powerful that Jaguar had to buy-in an automatic transmission from Mercedes-Benz to tame it – albeit still with the trademark ‘J-gate’ selector.
Mercedes and BMW had to leap even higher up the price range to match it, and Autocar raved: ‘The way in which it combines effortless cruising with supercar-style performance is a rare and rewarding combination.’
The 2001 XJR 100 special edition, of which 500 were built to mark 100 years since Sir William Lyons’ birth, was the ultimate V8 XJR.
Prices are currently all over the place: decide if you prefer V8 or ‘six’, then focus on condition and history, especially over recent years.
Images: James Mann
Jaguar XJR: what to look for
See above for trouble spots
The twin-cam, all-alloy AJ6 straight-six engine of the 1980s was upgraded for the XJR with 24 valves and a supercharger, giving more power and torque than the old V12.
Properly maintained, it should clock up 200,000 miles with ease. The later V8 is even more powerful, though it has a few maintenance issues.
The Eaton supercharger turns the XJR into a real road-burner: it needs its own oil change, often neglected, so check in the history that it’s been done.
X300s used a GM gearbox, X308s a ‘sealed for life’ Benz but occasional oil/filter changes are a must. Manuals (X300 only) are heavy and very rare.
Suspension and wheels
Subframe mounts and suspension bushes go soft with age.
Original alloys in this state are rare – look out for corrosion and kerbing damage.
The X300 interior was XJ40-based, the X308’s was new.
Check for seat wear, headlining droop and tired wood, and that all the electrical components work.
Jaguar XJR: on the road
Unsurprisingly, the last of the AJ-line ‘sixes’ are pretty bombproof, whereas the first-of-the-line V8s had weaknesses – though all can be fixed.
High-sulphur petrols attacked the Nikasil bore linings, leading to expensive warranty claims (BMW had the same issues), and many Nikasil engines were replaced under warranty with the later steel-linered unit (from engine no 0008181043 on). With lower sulphur in fuel today, survivors should now be okay.
The Nikasil-era engines also suffer from a weak water pump, whose plastic impeller can fail: replace it if it hasn’t been done.
Timing-chain tensioners were plastic-cased and should be replaced for peace of mind, because they can fail catastrophically (remove the right-hand cam cover to check: tools to replace can be hired from the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club). Once sorted, the V8 is a great engine, too.
Only 102 X300 XJRs were built with the Getrag manual gearbox, and there was no manual option on the X308.
Automatics do need fluid and filter changes to ensure a long life – check for burnt/blackened fluid – otherwise faults are usually electronic. Differential fluid is best changed, too, using quality limited-slip-diff oil.
If hasn’t been done, budget to replace all the oils and also all the subframe mounting bushes, suspension bushes and potentially the dampers (more costly on the V8) and balljoints; this will transform the feel of the car.
The brakes should be excellent, even better on V8s than ‘sixes ’, but more than adequate in standard form.
Jaguar XJR price guide
- X300 auto: £1250/4000/12,500
- X300 manual: £1750/5000/15,000
- X308: £1000/3500/10,000
- XJR 100: £2000/9000/20,000
Prices correct at date of original publication
Jaguar XJR history
1994 Jun X300 launched, with XJR as flagship: five-speed Getrag manual or GM four-speed auto
1997 Jul X308 V8 arrives: stiffer, five-speed Mercedes auto, traction control, ASC, CATS front suspension from XK8, side airbags
1999 Sep New engine management, drive-by-wire, EGR valve, more electric gadgets
2000 Aug Steel liners replace Nikasil bores; R1 option with 18in BBS wheels, bigger Brembo brakes, retuned suspension
2001 XJR 100 special edition: Anthracite with red-stitched charcoal leather, Brembo brakes, 19in BBS Montreal wheels
2002 Dec Production ends
The owner’s view
Confirmed Jaguar fan and successful motor mechanic Karl Brigham spent years trawling ads to find a really good X300 XJR.
“I almost gave up,” he admits, “then this one popped up, newly imported from Japan. I went straight up and bought it – it’s in really amazing condition underneath, with not a trace of rust.
“I’ve had to replace all the foam-rubber bushes: the top suspension mounts, shock-absorber top bushes, gearbox mounts and radiator support bushes.
“Now it drives as it should. I’ll change all the oils – engine, ’box, diff, supercharger – and get a couple of little dents sorted, then just keep it.
“I’ve had Jaguars since ’88 and run X300s for years, they are so reliable and drive so well – my other one has done 167k miles. Parts are easy to get and cheap, too. I’ve got an X350 Super V8 as well, but the electronics are terrible.”
BMW M5 E34/E39
The XJR’s closest match wasn’t made from 1995-’98, but was otherwise a serious rival. Slower in E34 straight-six form but faster as the V8 E39 (above), though less luxurious. Beware rust and neglect.
Sold 1988-2003 • No. built 32,736 • Price now £10-70,000*
MERCEDES-BENZ E55 AMG
Expensive but fast with a 5.4-litre V8 for the W210 (above) supercharged for the W211 from 2002 to do 0-60mph in 4 secs. Rust is an issue on W210s, with higher parts and repair costs than the Jaguar.
Sold 1998-2006 • No. built c40k • Price now £2-15,000*
*Prices correct at date of original publication
Jaguar XJR: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
The ultimate development of the last steel-bodied XJs, the XJR’s subtle appearance is part of its appeal, astonishing most other road users with its phenomenal performance, while you bask in luxury inside.
Look for a thorough maintenance history, especially over recent years, because a neglected example can be very expensive to put right – even with good parts availability and prices common to all older Jaguars.
Six or V8? It’s your choice!
- Huge pace
- Largely dependable mechanicals
- Great parts and service support, and a strong enthusiast backing which can help you solve any issues
- Asking prices vary wildly, so be wary of paying too much for a tarted-up, neglected car
- Few have been properly looked after
Jaguar XJR specifications
- Sold/number built 1994-2002/ 6547 X300s, 15,703 X308s
- Construction steel monocoque
- Engine all-alloy, dohc, 24v 3980cc ‘six’ or dohc-per-bank, 32v 3996cc V8, sequential fuel injection and Eaton supercharger
- Max power 321bhp @ 5000rpm to 370bhp @ 6150rpm
- Max torque 378lb ft @ 3050rpm to 387lb ft @ 3600rpm
- Transmission five-speed manual or four/five-speed auto, RWD (via limited-slip differential on X300)
- Suspension independent, at front by double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers rear lower wishbones, driveshaft as upper links, coil spring/damper units; anti-roll bar f/r
- Steering power-assisted ZF Servotronic rack and pinion
- Brakes ventilated discs, with servo and anti-lock
- Length 16ft 6in (5024mm)
- Width 6ft 9½in (2074mm)
- Height 4ft 3in (1303mm)
- Wheelbase 9ft 5in (2870mm)
- Weight 3850-3905lb (1750-1775kg)
- Mpg 16-28
- 0-60mph 5.7-5.3 secs
- Top speed 153-155mph (limited)
- Price new £50,675 (X308, 1997)