Ever since the original XJ of 1968, Jaguar’s big saloons have provided some of the most affordable routes to grace, pace and space. But let’s face it, some of those earlier cars could be a bit, well, fragile. By the time the X300 was introduced in 1994, Jaguar had well and truly moved into the modern age, with a much more thoroughly developed luxobarge
When the X300 replaced the XJ40 in 1997 it represented a quantum leap forward for Jaguar, even if the new car was merely a heavily updated version of the old one. In turn the X308 that appeared in 1997 was simply an evolution of the X300, but it brought V8 engines in place of the previous six-cylinder units along with a range of minor styling updates. That was all that was needed though; the timeless looks, luxurious interior and superb refinement were now backed up with ample power.
So whether you’re looking for something large, graceful and luxurious in which to whisk yourself and your mates across Europe, you run a wedding car hire business or you just want something cheap and comfy for everyday use or to reserve for the weekend, you need to get better acquainted with the Jaguar X308, which will happily fulfill all of these roles.
Which one to buy?
None of these XJs is lacking in performance, but why settle for a normally aspirated V8 when you can have one that’s supercharged? The simple answer is that while the supercharged XJR is searingly quick, running costs are noticeably higher than for the other models, aside from the inherently thirsty V12.
While long-wheelbase luxury saloons are usually ludicrously long, it’s worth going for a stretched XJ because it’s only four inches longer than standard, so it’s seriously spacious in the back while still being decently wieldy. Track down one of the ultra-rare Daimler editions and it’ll automatically be a LWB model with electrically adjustable rear seats and a normally aspirated or supercharged V8.
Whatever you buy it’s worth pinning down the exact spec; most XJs are well-equipped, but some feature more extras than others. Whatever you acquire it won’t have a generously proportioned boot, so don’t expect to carry multiple suitcases for that trans-continental trip.
Performance and specs
Jaguar XJR 4.0
Engine 3996cc, V8
Power 370bhp @ 6150rpm
Torque 387lb ft @ 3600rpm
Top speed 155mph
Fuel consumption 21mpg
Gearbox Five-speed automatic
Insurance group 39
Dimensions and weight
• This was the last XJ to use a steel bodyshell, but excellent rustproofing means corrosion is likely only in the rear wheelarches and sills. Even then it should only be minor, so restoration is very unusual so far. Check the chassis legs too, along with the scuttle below the windscreen; corrosion here isn’t common, but if it does strike it can cost more to fix than the car is worth.
• There were two engine families; a V12 (XJ12) and a V8 (XJ8). Both are strong and will easily deliver over 200,000+ miles if properly serviced. Failed thermostats aren’t unusual, either in the open position or the closed. Look for signs of overheating or of the engine not warming up – but fitting a new thermostat is simplicity itself.
• A pre-2000 V8’s secondary timing chain can be thrown off after the plastic top tensioner has cracked, so listen for rattling from the front of the engine or remove the cam cover and peer inside. Later cars featured a reinforced plastic tensioner, then from 2002 a steel item was used. If the tensioner breaks the engine is rarely wrecked, but a new set of chains and tensioners will be needed.
• On XJRs the rubber hose beneath the supercharger perishes. Known as the valley pipe, replacing it isn’t a big job, but it requires the removal of the supercharger and should be changed every eight years or so. Some owners fit a smaller pulley at the same time, for more boost and extra power.
• The V12 is very costly to rebuild, so ensure the oil has been changed frequently and that anti-freeze levels have been maintained; check the service history. The key is to look for signs of previous overheating – which can scrap an engine.
• All X308s have a ZF-built five-speed auto that suits the car perfectly. Unless the car has covered a huge mileage it should swap cogs imperceptibly; any roughness in the changes suggests a rebuild is in order. ZF didn’t provide an easy means of checking or changing the transmission fluid, but a decent specialist can do it; it should be done every 80,000 miles.
• The X300 has the cossetting suspension for which Jaguar’s big saloons are famous, but if you prefer a sportier drive it’s worth homing in on a car with Sport suspension. That means a 3.2 Sport, any 4.0-litre car or an XJR.
• Erratic handling and feathering around the edges of the front tyres betrays wear in the front wishbone bushes, probably combined with tired front wheelbearings; wear usually occurs from 50,000 miles.
• Rear damper bushes tend to fail after 40-60,000 miles. It’s worth buying an XJ with CATS (Computer-Active Technology Suspension). Standard on the XJR but optional on the XJ8, it’s worth having as it adjusts the damper stiffness for better cornering, anti-dive under braking and anti-squat under acceleration.
• Pattern brake discs can wear quickly and judder, while the front callipers of the optional Brembo system need to be cleaned periodically, to stop the pads from binding in the sliders. The Brembo system suffers from the steel bleed nipples seizing in the alloy callipers, which snap off at brake fluid renewal time.
• Most XJs interior are swathed in leather, but some entry-level cars got cloth seats, which is best avoided. Check for worn or damaged upholstery and ensure the headlining doesn’t sag; it tends to, but repairs needn’t be costly.
• Despite its complexity, the electrical system is reliable if it hasn’t been butchered. Check the climate control though, as repairs can be very costly.
Sep 1994: X300 XJ6 3.2 debuts in standard or Executive forms. There’s a 322bhp supercharged XJR too.
Jul 1995: 4.0 engine introduced.
Sep 1997: X308 XJ8 4.0 replaces X300; there’s a 370bhp supercharged XJR and a new dashboard.
Sep 2000: XJ8 3.2 Sport and Executive editions appear, and all cars get more kit.
Aug 2001: XJR100 special has 20” BBS alloys, metallic black paint, sat-nav.
Dec 2001: LWB 4.0 is introduced, plus SE versions of the 3.2 and 4.0.
Key clubs and websites
• www.jec.org.uk - Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club and forums
• www.jaguardriver.co.uk - Jaguar Drivers’ Club
• www.jaguarownersclub.com - Jaguar owners club and forum
• www.sngbarratt.com - Jaguar parts and spares specialist
Summary and prices
The Jaguar XJ8 represents absolutely fantastic value for money, which is why you must buy the best example you can afford, to save yourself from big bills in the future. The best examples tend to cost around £4000, although you can find a great example from around £3000. If you are happy to spend money on repairs, or are happy with a higher-mileage example, then they can be bought for around the £2000 mark. Projects can be bought from £750.
Supercharged XKR models are slightly more expensive, but still offer a huge amount of performance for the money. £6000 is the price for a low-mileage example, although you can pay £2500-£3500 for an average example. Projects start from around £1000.
Words: Richard Dredge