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Jaguar XJ8 (X308): buying guide and review (1997-2003)

Jaguar XJ8 (X308): buying guide and review (1997-2003) Classic and Performance Car
Jaguar XJ8 Jaguar XJ8 Jaguar XJ8 interior Jaguar XJ8 white interior Jaguar XJR drift Jaguar XJR drift
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
0-60mph 5.3sec
Fuel consumption 21mpg
Gearbox Five-speed automatic
Insurance group 39
Dimensions and weight
Wheelbase 2870mm
Length 5024mm
Width 1798mm
Height 1339mm
Weight 1790kg
Common problems
• 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.
Model history
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
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Last updated: 4th Nov 2015
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  • Jaguar XJ8 Executive 1998


    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Jaguar XJ8 Executive 1998 56.000 kms as good as new This very luxurious saloon from Jaguar as a V8 engine with 280 HP. Recently, the whole distributionset including fan belt idler was replaced by a modified distributionset. This car has driven 56.000 real kms since 1998 and is in a really magnificent original condition, as good as new. The car has Sapphire Blue paint with white piping and the original aluminium Celtic wheels. The very chic leather interior has a marvellous walnut dashboard. The steering wheel has woodparts too and has radiocontrol. Only slight normal traces of use on the driver’s seat show that this car has driven 56.000km. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1998
    For sale
    E&R Classic Cars
    +31 416 751393 View contact number
  • Jaguar XJ8

    £6,995 £6,995

    Air Conditioning, Climate Control, Full Leather, Powered Folding Mirrors, Central Locking, Immobiliser, Remote Central Locking, Alarm, Adjustable Steering Column, Cruise Control, Multi-function Steering Wheel, Power Steering, Trip Computer, ABS, Twin Air Bags, Electric Mirrors, Electric Windows, CD Player, Stereo, 17'' Alloys Immaculate Fresh Import From Japan.

    • Mileage: 39000 mi
    • Engine size: 3500
    For sale
    £6,995 £6,995
  • Jaguar XJ8

    £10,995 £10,995

    Satellite Navigation, Electric Seats, Heated Seats, Memory Seats, Electric Steering Column, Cruise Control, Automatic Headlights, Electric Folding Mirrors, Lumbar Adjustment, Front and Rear Parking Sensors , Sports Pack, Climate Control, Dual Climate Zones, CD Player, Touch Screen, USB, iPod Connectivity, Multi-Disc CD Player, Steering Wheel Audio Controls, Multi-function Steering Wheel, Electric Mirrors, Electric Windows, Electric Handbrake, Traction Control, Computer, Isofix, ABS, Multiple Airbags, Anti-Theft System, Remote Central Locking, 19'' Alloys, Full service history

    • Mileage: 33000 mi
    • Engine size: 3555
    For sale
    £10,995 £10,995
  • 2003 Jaguar XJ8 4.0 Sport Sedan


    If you’ve been in the market for an XJ8 Sport and you just didn’t want to pay the price at the Jaguar dealer but still want a vehicle that is near perfect, then this is the car for you. This Jaguar XJ8 Sport has 21k original miles since new. One owner. Classic Showcase purchased this vehicle from Jaguar cars special auction for licensed dealers only. Totally in original condition, this Jaguar won first place in modern Jaguars at the 2006 British Car Day in October. Bid with confidence, this is a special car. Our like new Jaguar is well maintained and cared for by the Jaguar dealer with only 21,000 miles. This is a beautiful 2003 Jaguar XJ8 SPORT in Platinum Silver with black leather interior. Loaded with options like climate control, A/C, power sunroof, power steering, power windows, power doors, adjustable steering wheel, sport package, CD changer, heated seats, rear parking assistance, alarm with keyless entry, leather steering wheel, wood trim, halogen headlamps, original owner's manual, and 2 complete sets of keys. This car is also Carfax certified with no reported issues or accidents.

    • Year: 2003
    • Mileage: 21000 mi
    For sale
  • Jaguar XJ8

    £5,995 £5,995

    This Outstanding Looking Jaguar XJ8 Finished Comes With A Full Service History To Include Nine SerVices And Has Spec To Boast Full Cream Leather Interior16 Inch Alloy Wheels, Heated Front Seats, Cruise Control, Front And Rear Arm Rests, Auto Lights WipersAnd Dimming Rear View Mirror, Rear Park Assist, Climate Control, CD Radio With CD Multi Changer, Electric Window, Electric Mirrors Remote Central Locking 2 Keys And Much Much More. Parkway Motor Group Are An RAC APPROVED Dealer and All Our Cars Come With 12 Months M.O.T, Service, HPI Certificate and an RAC Warranty. RAC Inspections Welcome, Finance Packages and Extended RAC Warranties Available. For More Photos Visit www.parkwaymotorgroup.com or Call 01623 825560. Full Dealer Facilities, SHOWROO

    • Mileage: 65160 mi
    • Engine size: 3200
    For sale
    £5,995 £5,995