It took a long time for the Jaguar XJS to be accepted in the classic world, but years before that happened its successor, the XK8, was heartily embraced by classic car fans. It’s easy to see why; where the XJS looks awkward the XK8 is svelte, beautifully built and great to drive. Packed with modern equipment the XK8 is also utterly usable and to cap it all this is a car that’s proved to be dependable as long as it’s looked after.
With the XK8 and its supercharged sibling the XKR being at the stage where supply exceeds demand, this is one of the most affordable classics around, so you can afford to be choosy when buying. There’s a choice of coupé or convertible, both bodystyles being offered with a normally aspirated (XK8) or supercharged (XKR) V8. With even the slowest edition being capable of an electronically limited 155mph performance is guaranteed, yet 30mpg is possible if you drive with restraint.
Thanks to its modernity the Jag comes with all of the kit you’d expect of a luxury grand tourer, such as electric seats, windows and mirrors, climate control and leather trim. There’s plenty of safety kit too, including driver and passenger airbags plus anti-lock brakes. That luxurious cabin is suitable only for two though; the rear seats are next to useless, but if you want to carry no more than two people and you want incredible value for money, there’s no good reason to overlook the Jaguar XK8 and XKR.
Which one to buy?
The earlier cars (with the 4.0-litre engine) weren’t as well developed as the later 4.2-litre editions, which is why the earlier variants tend to be cheaper. There’s little difference in demand between XK8 and XKR or coupé and cabrio; there’s a buyer for anything as long as it’s in good condition. Despite this, XKRs are worth more than equivalent XK8s while cabrios are more valuable than equivalent coupés. So if you’re on a budget you’ll get the most for your money by buying an XK8 coupé; if you want an investment, the most collectible of the lot is likely to be the XKR convertible.
What equipment is fitted can also make a difference to values and desirability. Buyers love factory-fit options that improve a car’s spec, with heated seats popular, along with stereo upgrades and Recaro seats. The latter was rarely chosen, especially on the XK8, but you’re more likely to find them in an XKR.
The factory-fit navigation is outdated now so not worth seeking out, but if you can find a car with Brembo brakes that’s a definite plus. Wheels are a matter of taste as the 20-inch rims can look overblown or they might look superb – it’s just a matter of preference. But even if you like the look of them, check out the ride first. An XKR on 20-inch rims doesn’t feature anything like a magic carpet ride...
Performance and specs
Jaguar XKR 4.2 coupé
Engine 4196cc, V8
Power 400bhp @ 6100rpm
Torque 399lb ft @ 3500rpm
Top speed 155mph
Fuel consumption 23mpg
Gearbox Five-speed automatic
Insurance group 39-41
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 1653kg
• Corrosion is unlikely to be taking hold, unless the car’s been crunched. The only exception is on some very early cars, which can suffer from corrosion in the front footwells and rear wheelarches.
• Expect tight, even panel gaps, but even low-speed knocks can take their toll, especially as parking sensors aren’t fitted to all XK8s and visibility isn’t great. Check the central jacking point up front along with the radiator, and on an XKR inspect the intercooler too; they can all be damaged by the car bottoming out on speed bumps.
• Early V8s could be destroyed by their Nikasil-coated cylinder bores being damaged by high-sulphur petrol; post-2000 engines have conventional steel liners. The earlier powerplants can’t be rebored, which is why some cars had fresh powerplants under warranty; chassis numbers 001036 to 042775 were affected. A tag on the nearside of the block denotes a replacement V8. The VIN indicates what type of cylinder liners the engine has; a six-digit sequence at the end means Nikasil liners, while an A then five digits means steel liners.
• The secondary timing chain gets thrown off after the plastic top tensioner has cracked. The engine is rarely wrecked, but a new set of chains and tensioners will be needed.
• On the XKR, the rubber hose hidden below the supercharger perishes. Called the valley pipe, it’s easy enough to renew but this entails removing the supercharger. The hose should be renewed every eight years; some owners take this opportunity to fit a smaller pulley, to increase boost and power.
• All XKs have power steering; the system is reliable but the track rod ends wear out, so feel for vague steering.
• Feathering around the edges of the front tyres betrays wear in the front wishbone bushes combined with tired front wheelbearings.
• It’s worth finding an XK8 with Computer-Active Technology Suspension (CATS). Standard on the XKR, XK8 owners had to pay extra for it – but it’s worthwhile. This adjusts the dampers between hard and soft for better cornering, anti-dive under braking and anti-squat under acceleration. However, CATS dampers are costly compared with the standard items.
• The standard brakes are superb, but the Brembo system provides truly awesome stopping power. There are no common issues, but aftermarket discs tend to wear quickly and judder, while the front callipers of the Brembo system need to be cleaned every three years or so, to stop the pads binding in the sliders.
1996: XK8 introduced with 3996cc V8 in coupé or convertible forms.
1998: XKR goes on sale in coupé and convertible forms, with 370bhp supercharged 4.0-litre V8.
2000: XKR-based Silverstone special edition has silver paintwork, 20-inch alloys and Brembo brakes. Just 50 are made.
2001: 100 special edition, based on XKR, has nine-spoke BBS alloys, anthracite paintwork, Recaro seats and alloy interior detailing.
2002: XK8 gets 19-inch ‘Apollo’ wheels; the XKR gets 20-inch ‘Paris’ alloys and Brembo brakes. Also, a 4.2-litre V8 replaces previous 4.0-litre version.
2003: Special edition 400 in showrooms, based on XKR, with Alcantara seat inserts and black, silver or grey paintwork.
2004: XK8/XKR Premium arrives in coupé or convertible guises, with standard xenon lights, 18-inch alloys and rear spoiler. Parking sensors become standard for all models.
2005: S limited edition (based on XK8 or XKR) has new choice of interior and exterior colour schemes plus 19-inch alloys.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
With low prices, and excellent specialist support, it really is a great time to buy a Jaguar XK8, and there are cars out there to suit most budgets. If you’re feeling very brave, there are quite a few examples from just £2000. Beware though; you’ll almost certainly need to spend the same again to get the car into road-worthy condition. Spend £4000-£8000 to begin with, and there’s a great choice of metal on the market. The very best standard models will command up to around £12,000.
The much sportier XKR model carries a slight premium, with decent cars generally sitting between the £9000-£12,000 mark. Top low-mileage examples are still trading for north of £15,000.
Words: Richard Dredge