The Jaguar XJ-S was a tough act to follow. Itself replacing the iconic E-Type, it had to be good and it really was – its 21-year production run was proof positive that Jaguar buyers knew what they wanted from a sports car and were reasonably resistant to change. So, much like the legacy it sought to continue, the XK8 of 1996 also had to be very good indeed… and, again, it really was. Taking the shiny new 4.0-litre 32-valve AJ-V8 engine, the Coventry engineers packaged it within a tastefully simple and refined coupe silhouette which has aged wonderfully, and still looks modern today in spite of the passage of decades. With clever technology like the optional CATS adaptive suspension and the light-sensitive headlights, it was a forward-thinking model with a spec sheet brimming with luxurious toys. The quintessential grand tourer for the 1990s, the XK8 offered plentiful power, agile handling, and comfortable touring credentials in spades – just like the XJ-S and E-Type that came before it. And with the prices of its predecessors steadily climbing, this new-wave modern-classic is starting to look like remarkably good value these days.
Built in 1998, this XK8 is finished in arguably the best colour combination for such a car: British Racing Green, with cream hide interior. Interestingly, this car was originally supplied to an owner in Japan – we can see from the registration documents that its declared year of manufacture was 1998, but the first year of registration was 2001 and the car was officially repatriated to the UK in April 2006. Little is known of its life in Japan – indeed, there are very few clues to its time in Asia beyond the official documentation, and the fact that there are stickers bearing kanji characters inside the fuel filler cap. But we do know that the car has had four owners since it’s been back in the UK, with the current owner having had it for approximately six months, and the low mileage is believed to be genuine.
The reason for sale? Simply that the owner also has a Mercedes S-Class and a BMW M3, and this Jag just feels like a toy too many in the current climate.
Unfortunately the service history has been mislaid – the owner assures us that the history was complete, demonstrating correct servicing and proving the miles, but sadly there’s no physical evidence to accompany the car. What is present is the V5, showing that the official record notes its year of manufacture, its date of repatriation and IVA test, and the fact that it has been registered correctly on the DVLA system. The online MOT history shows that the car has only been covering around 1,500 miles a year for the last few years.
XK8s come equipped with an impressive level of toys and tricks, and you’ll find all sorts of logically-ordered buttons to entertain you here. The owner notes with particular enthusiasm that the audio system is of superb quality, the radio-cassette mated to a CD-changer in the boot and with some evidently rather powerful factory-fit speakers. The instrumentation all works as it should, as does all the interior lighting (including the courtesy light within the glovebox), and the wood trim on the dash is in excellent condition. The electric windows work correctly, and the front seats tilt forward properly to allow access to the rear; the rear bench is very tidy and appears hardly to have been used. The front seats are showing some evidence of the wear of ages; there are no cracks or tears, but perhaps the leather would benefit from a simple feed to get it looking its best. Similarly, the headlining has a number of marks from general wear over the years – although it is complete and should clean up nicely with no trouble. The carpets are complete and original, protected by plastic overmats. The fly-off handbrake works correctly, and the seller reports no undue squeaks or rattles in the cabin.
Inside the boot, the carpets are in good condition, the CD changer is easily accessible and fully functional, and beneath the carpet resides the original space-saver spare wheel which has never been used.
The design of the XK8 coupe has mellowed wonderfully, feeling at once classic and contemporary; it allows its slinky curves to speak for themselves rather than relying on showy embellishments like spoilers and splitters, and it’s all the more elegant for it.
The car wears its original British Racing Green paint, which is generally in very good condition; there are a few stone chips here and there, plus some very minor scuffs to the rear bumper and wing mirrors, but it’s nothing a thorough valet couldn’t bring up to gleaming condition. All of the correct trim and light lenses are in place and operational, aside from a missing headlamp washer on the offside and front fog light lens on the nearside. The panels all sit straight and true, and we found no defects in the window glass. The alloy wheels have some minor kerbing to the lips; the tyres (while unmatched) have decent tread all round. With no visible corrosion and no evidence of parking dings, the overall profile is of a solid and sturdy Jaguar which would be eminently usable for day-to-day driving.
The AJ-V8 engine is a motor renowned for its big-lunged swells of torque; rather than shouting and gargling like a Detroit V8, this is a creamy-smooth unit of supreme refinement. For this model, Jaguar developed a cutting-edge low-volume cooling system which allows for a rapid warm-up from cold, and the transmission is a fully electronic 5-speed ZF auto. The perfect combination for effortless cruising. With a very low mileage recorded, it’s fair to say that this large-displacement engine is really only just run-in; it would be nice to be able to back up its service history, but the manner in which it behaves keenly suggests that this is a car which has been looked after. The owner reports that it always starts happily on the first turn of the key, idles evenly and quickly comes up to temperature as an XK8 should; it pulls strongly through the gears, and the auto ’box shifts sweetly and smoothly.
No problems are reported with the suspension or brakes, with the car driving just as you’d hope a Jaguar to; the only issue the owner reports is a very minor noise from (he presumes) the power steering pump when cold, which quickly disappears when the car’s warm. The engine bay is all tidy with no obvious evidence of leaks, and the underside of the car is straight and solid – testament to its early life in Japan, where they don’t salt the roads in winter!
The Jaguar XK8 really does represent remarkable value these days. With prices averaging some way below the five-figure mark, it’s a heck of a lot of car for the money – we’re looking at the thick end of 290bhp, 155mph, 0-62mph in sub-6.5s… and all wrapped up in sumptuous luxury, with deeply-stuffed seats trimmed in supple leather, and a Jekyll-and-Hyde chassis honed for delightful comfort as well as eager handling. The XK8 coupe appears to be the sweet spot in terms of rarity too – while 46,670 examples of the convertible were sold, only 19,748 hard-tops found homes across the world, and today the number on the road is more like 3,300-ish in the UK. These are well-built and dependable machines, exploiting the quality mass-production tolerances of the Ford influence of the era, with all the power you need (and more), and truly impressive levels of equipment. Class oozes from its every pore. And for this sort of money, there’s very little that can match it.
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