Jaguar XK8 and XKR

Buying a Jaguar XK8/XKR: Tips for a Happy Jaguar Purchase

Thinking about buying a Jaguar XK8 or XKR? We’ve put together a complete buying guide with all the information you need to know before making your purchase.

It shouldn’t be surprising that there’s currently a surge in demand for the stylish Jaguar XK8 and XKR models. They look fantastic, drive well, and are affordable. Many are snapping them up in anticipation that they will become a collector’s car and thus worth the current quite reasonable level of investment.

On the surface, an XK8 sounds like a great proposition. It’s stylish and has the look and sound of a modern car. Despite that, there are some things you need to consider before deciding to buy one.

When buying second-hand, it’s a case of buyer beware as although you might buy into an outstanding deal, Jaguar XK8 owners speak for themselves when they describe that their car has limitations.

2002 Jaguar XKR
2002 Jaguar XKR. Source: Mecum

Background: How the Jaguar XK8 and XKR Came About

While Jaguar languished with British Leyland, there was little to no money or resources for sports car projects. For many years there had been an idea to create a roadster based on the XJ40 design, but this was scrapped in favor of more sedan cars. The initial turning point was in 1990 when Ford formally took over operations at Jaguar.

Things started to change in 1992 when Ford appointed Bob Dover to head a new team dedicated to creating sports cars. The chief stylist position was appointed to Geoff Lawson, with Fergus Pollock taking responsibility for the final design.

1996 XK8 Convertible
1996 XK8 Convertible. Source Bonhams

In the mid-1990s, they came up with the XK range, starting with the grand tourer XK8, released in 1996. The three-door hatchback coupe body style was first unveiled, followed by the two-door convertible later that year.

Two years later, in 1998, thrill-seekers were rewarded with their wait as Jaguar offered a supercharged version in the XK Series being the Jaguar XKR (Base price $82,000), delivering an output of 375 bhp.

The main difference between the two models is performance capability. Both models share the 32-valve V8 engine AJ V8, though the Jaguar XKR features a supercharged variation of the V8 engine. The supercharged XKR can accelerate from 0–60 mph in 5.2 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph.

Other differences seen on the exterior were that the XKR featured a rear spoiler, redesigned grille, and hood louvers on the bonnet for improved airflow to the engine.

Both cars initially additionally had the 4.0L Jaguar AJ V8 engine paired with a 5-speed automatic transmission sourced from Mercedes (1997 – 2003), though the XKR had better acceleration, horsepower, and torque. 

Engine of XK8

The engines were upgraded to 4.2L and matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission for the second generation (2003- 2006), with the horsepower and torque differences becoming even more pronounced.

Both models enjoyed a production run up to 2006, with the XK8/XKR vehicles being the final models to leave the Browns Lane factory in Coventry, UK. In total, 90,064 vehicles were made, with the breakdown being as follows:

  • XK8 Coupe -19,748
  • XK8 Convertible -46,760
  • XKR Coupe – 9661
  • XKR Convertible – 13,895

These ultra-chic two-door sports cars are now seeing a significant increase in popularity for several reasons.

For some, it’s a way to enjoy a convertible sports car experience for a lot less money than buying a Porsche. For others, there is an admiration for the mechanics of the AJ-V8 engine, its superlative design, and its nimble features.

Jaguar XK8 emblem
Source: Bonhams

Then there are the collectors impressed by the potential investment value. Regardless of the desire, the main reason for today’s article is to offer you a buyer’s guide, so let’s get started.

Potential Pitfalls in Buying a Jaguar XK8 or Jaguar XKR

We’ll start by offering a few words of warning about potential traps. There are so many different model years, colors, specifications, and other variables making it difficult to tell you what to buy simply. Much will depend on your own personal taste. More beneficial to the majority of potential buyers are aspects to look out for.

Essential Checklist before Buying a Jaguar XK8 /XKR

Engine

Early Jaguar XK8 and XKR incorporated Nikasil bore liners in their new V8 engines. These engines experienced problems, particularly in the US, where fuels had higher concentrations of sulfur.

This led to sulphuric acid being formed within the cylinders, which corroded the Nikasil lining and led to engine failures. After the year 2000, Jaguar incorporated steel liners in the cylinders instead of Nikasil.

Supercharged engine of Jaguar XKR
Supercharged XKR engine. Source: Bonhams

Another issue under the hood with the Jaguar XK8/XKR is timing chain tensioner problems, as early models were fitted with flawed tensioners. Enquire if the vehicle you are interested in has had the tensioners replaced. If they are unsure, start the car and listen for rattling from the timing chain tensioners. A timing chain tensioner failure can do some serious damage to your engine or destroy it.

Checklist for inspection of engine before buying:

  • Perform a cold start and listen for valvetrain noise. Any rattling? If so, may indicate timing chain tensioner issues.
  • Inspect exhaust on starting the vehicle to ensure no blue smoke.
  • Remove the oil cap and dipstick to see if there is any sludge buildup.
  • Inspect valve cover breather hoses and scan for sludge inside or if it’s full of oil.
  • Identify if the engine has Nicasil or steel-lined cylinders. The engine date code should be after 0008181043 if it is steel-lined, though Jaguar replaced many Nikasil engines under warranty, so may still have steel-lined bores in earlier engines.
  • Check the water pump for stains, leaks, and smells. It would be best if you also looked for any signs of head gasket failure, such as white smoke from the tailpipe, white coloration in the oil, an overheating engine, etc

Gearbox

It is essential to ensure the automatic transmission is working smoothly.

Despite the official line that the gearbox is sealed for life, it really needs the oil and filter changed every 50-60,000 miles.

Checklist for inspection of gearbox before buying:

  • Look for signs of gear slippage or jerkiness in the shifting. Both would indicate a gearbox is near the end of life (or filter blocked).
  • observe under the car for any transmission leaks
  • enquire if the transmission was replaced

Hood

Just make sure that thickened hydraulic fluid hasn’t caused the hood opening to stiffen. Try the hood a few times and look for smooth and easy opening and closing.


Suspension

Dampers can be potentially expensive on these Jaguar XK8 and XKR models, and the ball joints and bearings will also undergo typical wear and tear.

Try to get a handle on their current health, when they were last changed, etc. If you see uneven wear in the tires, this can be a sign that the suspension needs attention.

XKR Coupe
2002 Jaguar XKR Coupe. Source: Bonhams

Although being a standard on the XKR, Jaguar’s Computer-Active Technology Suspension (CATS) was an option for the XK8 but is well worth seeking out on a used vehicle.

This regulates the dampers between hard and soft for better cornering, anti-squat under acceleration, and anti-dive under braking. With CATS, you get two types of vehicles in one package. This sophisticated technology enables the XK to be a genuine sports car with the luxury of a grand tourer.

Checklist for inspection of suspension before buying:

  • Check the condition of ball joints and tie rods.
  • Inspect shocks for oil leaks.

Exterior

These are the common problem areas that buyers should examine carefully when looking at the exterior Jaguar XK8 and Jaguar XKR cars.

Limited edition Silverstone edition
2001 Jaguar XKR Silverstone Coupe- Only 141 left hand drive produced. Source: RM Sotheby’s

Checklist for inspection of exterior before buying:

  • Accident damage – look for signs of dents and scratches, especially on bumpers, nose, and front cross member.
  • Rust or corrosion – this is most common in the wheels, so look carefully
  • Wheel arches and front suspension – check the inner wheel arches’ edge. and seam for signs of damage, as well as the front wishbone spring mounting plate.
  • Surround trims – look especially at the trims around the windshield, door tops, and hood because these are the most prone to damage
  • Wing arch to rear light – this rear section is also a common hotspot for issues depending on how the car was looked after by its original owner(s).
  • If you inspect a convertible model, you will need to check that the electric roof is working correctly, the fabric is not damaged. It is recommended that the hydraulic fluid in the roof mechanism is replaced every six years.

Interior

Your due care and attention are needed on more than the car’s exterior. A Jaguar XK8/XKR may look perfect on the outside, all of which is a mere distraction from potentially more troubling things that are happening beneath the surface.

Interior of XK8
Source: Bonhams

Checklist for inspection of interior before buying:

  • operate all the controls in the Jaguar and ensure that they are functioning correctly, including cruise control.
  • Turn on the air-conditioner to confirm it’s in working order.
  • Check heater and defroster.
  • Inspect condition of seating surfaces.
  • Inspect the condition of all the burl walnut wood trim.
  • Inspect the audio system and verify speakers are in good order.
  • Confirm power antenna is operational.
  • Make sure you try all the windows, seat adjusters, including the heated seat is working correctly.

Wheels and Brakes

When inspecting your potential future car, take note of what wheels are on the car. The XK8 and XKR were fitted with an alloy wheel with the tires being Pirelli P-Zero 245/50 ZR17. Cars with Jaguars computer active technology suspension featured 245/45 ZR18s at the front and 255/45 ZR18s at the rear.

wheels
Source: Bonhams

While driving the vehicle, test the brakes. If you are in the market for an XKR model, in particular, Jaguar issued technical bulletin 206-11 for Jaguar XKR models constructed after 2001 with Brembo brakes and VINs after A22191. These cars may have a vibration when the brakes are applied, even after new front discs have been applied.

Jaguar XK8 and XKR – Price Guide

Finally, we come to the all-important ballpark guide to price. The range of prices is massive on these Jaguar models depending on quality and model year.

Automatically favoring the lowest price might cost you more in the long run with a Jaguar XK8 and XR8. These are beautiful cars, but you shouldn’t cheap out on the purchase price unless you’re a gearhead who loves doing your own repairs and maintenance.

2000 Jaguar XKR Convertible Valuation

ConditionPrice
Concours$30,300
Excellent$20,700
Good $16,900
Fair$11,200
Valuations as of January 2021 courtesy of Hagerty

Conclusion: Jaguar XK8/XKR Buyers Should Never Settle for the First Option

What all of this really shows us is that the sheer variation of both aesthetic and technical means that it’s always worth shopping around when you are looking for a Jaguar XK8 or a Jaguar XKR car.

There are many points to check, but you’ll always be glad you were thorough with these cars. The reward for making all the checks and shopping around for the best balance of factors will be a car that you can both enjoy driving and that has a good chance of appreciating in the long term.

Make no snap judgments, and look for the best balance of factors to get the optimum experience. Good luck and enjoy your Jaguar!