2003 Jaguar XK8 Convertible
2003 Jaguar XK8 Convertible. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

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The late 1980s was an interesting time for fans of smaller European marques like Volvo, Saab and Jaguar. In an effort to expand their respective market shares, General Motors and Ford went on a shopping spree, scooping up these well-respected and long-standing brands. It was also regarded as a good move for the European brands, as they could rely on the relatively deep pockets of their new parents to pay for developing new models that they would have been hard pressed to bring to market on their own. In the end, GM ended up with Saab, and Ford with both Volvo and Jaguar.

Naturally, purists were horrified. Many Jaguar connoisseurs couldn’t stand to see their favourite builder of stately sedans and stunning roadsters swallowed up by an American company who would certainly rob Jaguar of its inherent British-ness. At the time, of course, that meant finicky electrics. Lucas Electrics, which supplied many British marques like Jaguar with electrical components, didn’t earn the nickname “Prince of Darkness” for nothing. However, many enthusiasts viewed this part of the charm of a owning a British car.

Charm is great, but a car you can rely on to start every day is better, and it’s in this respect that Ford’s purchase of Jaguar wound up being a good thing. Granted, it didn’t solve all of Jaguar’s problems: the subject of this week’s used car review, the XK8 and XKR of 1997 to 2005, were hardly flawless, but they are less risky buys than any Jaguars built before Ford took over.

2003 Jaguar XKR Coupe
2003 Jaguar XKR Coupe. Click image to enlarge

The XK8 debuted in 1997 as a coupe and convertible, with a 4.0-litre V8 producing 290 horsepower. The XKR, which first went on sale in 2000, used a supercharged version of that engine with 370 horsepower on tap. Both engines got a boost in 2003: naturally aspirated versions made 294 horsepower, while the supercharged motor now had 390. That 2003 update also brought with it a six-speed automatic to replace the five-speed used in previous years.

The best way to get the big picture on the XK’s reliability is by scouring Jaguar-related Internet discussion forums. Consumer groups like Consumer Reports don’t offer much information on the XK, due to its relatively low sales volume. One issue that comes up on at least one forum is that of Nikasil (a nickel-based coating) cylinder liners used in the XK’s engine. According to the forum, they’re prone to premature wear if owners don’t follow a strict warm-up procedure and if high-sulphur fuel is used. While Jaguars still suffer from some electrical gremlins – as many Europeans cars do – the more recent cars built under Ford’s stewardship have fared far better than older models.

2003 Jaguar XK8 interior
2003 Jaguar XK8 interior. Click image to enlarge

XK8 fuel consumption should range anywhere from about 13.5 to 14 L/100 km city to 8.5 to 9 L/100 km on the highway. Naturally, the more powerful XKR will use more fuel, with numbers in the range of 14 to 15 L/100 km city and 9.5 to 10 L/100 km on the highway.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted crash tests on the XK, so there’s little data available regarding how well these cars perform in collisions. All XKs had ABS and traction control from 1997 on, however, as well as side airbags from at least 2001.

2003 Jaguar XKR engine
2003 Jaguar XKR engine. Click image to enlarge

Price-wise, the Canadian Red Book pegs the value of a used 1997 XK8 at $15,500 for hardtop models and $18,550 for convertibles. At the other end of the range a 2005 is worth anywhere from $76,975 for an XK8 coupe to $94,650 for an XKR convertible. As with many high-end cars, real-world prices tend to be higher than Red Book values, so keep that in mind when shopping around. Going by the book, values for 2002 models range from about $43,000 for XK8 hardtops to about $50,000 for convertibles. For an XKR, values run from $47,000 for a hardtop to $54,000 for convertibles. For a 2001, values range from $33,000 to $40,000 for XK8’s, to $36,000 to $41,000 for XKRs.

2002 Jaguar XK8 Coupe
2002 Jaguar XK8 Coupe. Click image to enlarge

These cats aren’t the most reliable high-end sportsters around, but they sure are sexy. That, and their British heritage combined with some parts commonality with other Ford products which should make replacement parts reasonably plentiful and affordable, makes a used XK8 or XKR an appealing option.

Online resources

  • forums.roadfly.com/forums/jaguar/jaguar_xk8/ – Roadfly is a well-known website that caters to owners of high-end cars. While the forums aren’t much to look at, there’s a ton of information in the XK8/XKR forum.

  • www.jag-lovers.org – Again, lots of information to be had here, in a more visually appealing format.
  • www.jcna.com – Unlike the first two sites listed, JCNA doesn’t give the XK its own forum. Instead, the first-generation XK8/XKR share forum space with other “current production” models, with older cars getting more dedicated discussion areas.
  • www.jaguarforums.com/ – This site looks great, but membership is low (485 registered members) and there’s definitely not as much activity here as the other sites listed here can boast.

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Manufacturer’s Website


Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004039; Units affected: 1,838

1997-2003: On certain vehicles, the headlamp adjustment mechanism is not supported by suitable operating instructions on either the mechanism or in the owner’s manual. This does not meet the requirements of CMVSS 108. Correction: Owners will be supplied with an owner’s manual supplement containing the necessary headlamp aiming instructions.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1997079; Units affected: 164

1997: The differential output shaft retaining rings on the rear suspension may, under extreme driving conditions, become displaced. This may cause the output shaft to detach from the differential unit which, in turn, will cause the rear suspension to collapse on the affected side. A collapsed suspension could result in loss of driver control and a vehicle crash. Correction: dealers will inspect the retaining rings and, if necessary, reseat the rings or replace them.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1998026; Units affected: 270

1998: The cable adjuster bracket nut on the outer sleeve of the throttle cable could become displaced from the cable abutment bracket on the engine. Should the cable adjuster bracket become displaced, it may result in limited opening of the throttle, even with the accelerator pressed fully to the floor. Correction: a tie strap will be installed to secure the adjusting nut in its location in the cable abutment bracket.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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