Jaguar XJR front exterior

X308 Jaguar XJR | Alternative Classics

X308 Jaguar XJR | Alternative Classics

If you’re on the hunt for a modern-classic sports saloon, but you’re not interested in going for the obvious choice that is E39 BMW M5, there are plenty of other considerations you can make, including this: the X308 Jaguar XJR.

Launched in 1997, the X308 XJR didn’t just have the BMW to worry about, it also had to deal with the W210 Mercedes E55 and later the all-wheel-drive C5 Audi RS6.

But while its rivals focussed on providing Teutonic performance, the XJR was arguably the better motor vehicle for everyday living, courtesy of its butter-smooth ride and the easy, big-lunged performance of its supercharged V8.

While the X308 looks almost identical to the six-cylinder X300 it replaced, the car’s interior made vast leaps both in terms of quality and design, but also practicality, with a usable back seat and a boot that isn’t pitifully small. Having said that, you still get the old-world charm you would expect of a Jag, with leather and thick slabs of wood coming at you from every angle.

It was replaced by the X350 in 2004, but the earlier car’s sleeker looks – much more in keeping with the brand – make it the more desirable of the two, yet it kept the old-school charm absent from the now-defunct X351.

X308 Jaguar XJR: why buy one?

While it’s easy to understand why performance car fans looking for something practical were whipped into a frenzy by the arrival of the E39 BMW M5 – with its naturally aspirated V8 and superb chassis – it does mean the X308 Jaguar XJR tends to be overlooked.

It shouldn’t be. What the XJR lacked in headline numbers and rapid lap time figures, it more than made up for with its generous portion of everyday usability.

Its 4.0-litre V8 was key to this. Thanks to the important addition of a supercharger the XJR had low down grunt – 525Nm (387lb ft) from 3,600rpm – that made short work of problematic overtakes. It wasn’t slow on paper, either, 0-62mph took 5.6 seconds on the way to a 155mph top speed.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

But while the Jaguar could happily chew through country roads at pace, it was equally comfortable pampering you with its oily smooth ride and light steering.

This more relaxed manner could explain why the XJR isn’t the most popular of used sports saloons – buyers of these types of cars want real-deal drivers’ machines. But, their loss could be your gain because it means usable XJRs can be found for less than £5,000.

X308 Jaguar XJR: what to look out for?

Unfortunately, if you’re running an old and complex car like the XJR for any length of time, you’re likely to encounter problems.

One of the most common on the XJR is failed timing chain tensioners (Jaguar, in its infinite wisdom, made them from plastic) that could cause the valve gear to ‘lunch’ itself if not caught. The tensioners were upgraded for part-metal items in 2001, which were later swapped out again for tensioners made entirely from metal.

Pre-2000 X308s can also suffer from failed water pumps and​ bore liner wear – both of which can cause total engine failure. Like any heavy saloon, XJRs can also chew through brake and suspension components so it’s worth checking both are tip-top.

Unlike its aluminium-bodied replacement, the steel-bodied X308 can suffer from rust. Problem areas include the wheel arches and the bottom of the rear windscreen, but it’s worth carefully inspecting the entire body. Sagging headliners are the bane of the interior, so check the mole-fur material is stuck down as it should be.

X308 Jaguar XJR: how much to pay?

One of the XJR’s most attractive features is its price – while you’ll pay £15,000 for a shabby BMW E39 M5, you’ll need less than a third of that to get your hands on the cheapest X308 XJR. Expect such a machine to suffer from corrosion on the outside, a noisy engine and a tired interior.

Spending more is recommended as a result. A £10,000 budget will get you a smart XJR with less than 100,000 miles on the clock, while £15,000 secures you the available – one in mint condition and with closer to 50,000 miles on its odometer.

Looking for a collector’s piece? Then a budget of more than £15,000 puts the XJR 100 within reach. Celebrating Jaguar’s centenary year, it got the R1 performance pack fitted as standard, adding beefy Brembo brakes, revised suspension and 19-inch multi-piece BBS alloy wheels. Just 500 were sold worldwide.

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