25th Anniversary of the Jaguar XK8 / XKR

October 2021 saw the 25th Anniversary of the Jaguar XK8 (project code X100) launched in 1996. It replaced the ageing XJS that had been in production for 21 years, following various revisions throughout its life.

The new model was dramatically revealed from a wooden crate as part of the press conference, reminiscent of the E-type reveal that also took place in Geneva some 35 years earlier. The new XK8 was a typical Jaguar, combining tradition with innovation. Inspiration for its elegant design clearly came from the style of classic Jaguar sports cars of the past, notably the E-type of the 1960s, but interpreted in a modern manner. The car was styled by Fergus Pollock, working under the late Geoff Lawson. The Project Director was the engineer Bob Dover, who went on to become Jaguar’s Chairman.

The XK8 was available in two-door coupé or two-door convertible body styles with the new 4.0-litre Jaguar AJ-V8 engine. In 1998, the XK8 was introduced with a supercharged version of the engine. In 2003, the engines were replaced by the new 4.2-litre AJ33 engines in both the normally aspirated and supercharged variants.

Cost constraints meant that the new car had to use an existing platform, which was a development of the old XJ-S platform, itself a direct descendent of the XJ6 of 1968. The major differences were in the new double wishbone front suspension set-up and grafting on the modified and improved XJ40 version of the famous IRS assembly, first designed for the E-type. However, the power train was all new—an excellent V8 four-cam 32-valve engine also used in the XJ8 (X308). For reasons best known to Jaguar, only the top 290bhp 4.0 unit was offered in the XK8, while rivals such as Mercedes or BMW were marketing a broader choice to entice buyers.

Despite the XK8’s adequate pace, it wasn’t long before cries for more power were heard, answered in the shape of the XKR in spring 1998. Thanks to its Eaton M112 supercharger, no less than 370bhp was now on tap and its torque was so massive that a sturdy Mercedes automatic gearbox was the only one deemed strong enough to handle the vast reserves of grunt delivered.

Roadholding was courtesy of standardised CATS chassis (Computer Active Technology Suspension) that was optional on the standard coupe but sensibly standard on convertibles. Apart from the brawnier 300bhp 4.2-litre V8, (with six-speed auto boxes in 2002), the XK8 range remained largely untouched during its decade-long production run, save for detail changes to the trim and appointments. Always available as a coupé or convertible, either a Classic or Sport trim could be specified with the former comprising traditional wood and leather, while Sport added leather seat facings with embossed centre panels and a charcoal-look dash layout.
The XK8 certainly revived Jaguar Cars fortunes and became its fastest selling sports model. It also proved that Jaguar had not lost the ability to produce an excellent, competitively priced sports car.
Two members of Ayrshire Classics Car Club own Jaguar XKR’s – Ronnie Russell has the two-door convertible and I’ve got the two-door coupe
John Stevens

Thanks to John for this brilliant article!

If you want to contribute a post about a car anniversary, some restoration work you’re doing or some history on your classic, please get in touch with Tony who will be delighted to help.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: