Why you’d want a Jaguar XK8/XKR
The 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 ’89. Saloons were the priority, and a long-running 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.
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 millimetre 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 top-end car at standard book price. Service history is highly desirable, but check for gaps.
Images: Tony Baker
Jaguar XK8/XKR: what to look for
See above for trouble spots
Engines to VIN 042775 used Nikasil liners: some corroded and lost compression. If a new genuine Jaguar unit has been fitted (with bills to prove it), great. If not, have a compression test done and make sure that the engine starts, runs and pulls well. If all is fine, then it should be a good buy. Listen for rattly timing chain tensioners.
Gearbox is officially sealed for life, but it’s vital to change oil and filter at c50-60k miles. Slippage or jerkiness means an imminent rebuild (or a blocked filter).
Balljoints and wheel bearings wear, often knocking steering out of kilter. Check for slack, uneven tyre wear and costly dampers on CATS-equipped cars.
Electrical issues can be complex to diagnose and pricey to fix. So check it all works, notably windows, seats and column stalks (esp for trip computer)
Low-volume cooling system gives rapid warm-up, but is intolerant of leaks: look for stains and smells (esp around water pump), plus signs of head-gasket failure.
Rare Sport trim featured dark maple dash and cloth seat inserts; most chose Classic (as here), with walnut veneer and full leather. Look for wear on bolsters.
Hydraulic fluid can thicken, leading to slow or failed hood operation; it should be swift. Check that it locates easily to ’screen frame/windows (new top £546).
Jaguar XK8/XKR: on the road
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.
Jaguar XK8/XKR price guide
- Low-mileage: £14,000
- Average: £6000
- High-mileage: £3000
- Low-mileage: £15,000
- Average: £8000
- High-mileage: £5000
- Low-mileage: £19,000
- Average: £9000
- High-mileage: £5000
- Low-mileage: £19,000
- Average: £10,000
- High-mileage: £6500
Jaguar XK8/XKR history
1996 Mar Geneva Coupé debut
1996 April Convertible New York debut
1996 June production begins
1996 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 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)
2005 Jun Victory in USA (1050 built): various trim upgrades. Production ends
The owner’s view
“I looked around for six months before I found the right car,” recalls owner Graham 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.”
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 ’99. High running costs.
Sold 1994-’04 • No. built 7247 • Mpg 12-25 • 0-60mph 5.8-5 secs • Top speed 155-185mph • Price new £84,950 (2000) • Price now £17-42k
Initially a poor rival and FHC-only with twin-turbo V8, but dry-sumped 4.2 from ’02 was much improved. Quality patchy at first, better later; parts can be pricey.
Sold 1998-’07 • No. built 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
Jaguar XK8/XKR: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
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
Jaguar XK8/XKR specifications
- Sold/number built 1996-2005/90,064
- Construction 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, RWD, traction and stability control
- Suspension double wishbones, coils, telescopics, a-r bar; CATS active optional, Coupé only at first
- Steering ZF Servotronic variable-ratio power-assisted rack and pinion, 2.8 turns lock-to-lock
- Brakes ABS 305mm ventilated discs; Brembo 355 f, 330 r optional from 1999, standard ’02
- Length 15ft 71/2-15ft 8in (4760-4776mm)
- Width 6ft (1829mm)
- Height 4ft 3in-4ft 31/2in (1296/1306mm)
- Wheelbase 8ft 6in (2588mm)
- Weight 3553-3993lb (1615-1815kg)
- Mpg 16-30
- 0-60mph 6.7-5.2 secs
- Top speed 155mph
- Price new £50,955-67,105 (2000)