RE: The Brave Pill | Jaguar XJR (X308)

RE: The Brave Pill | Jaguar XJR (X308)

Saturday 8th June

The Brave Pill | Jaguar XJR (X308)

As the XJ bows out it's time to celebrate one of the dynasty's greatest hits



The end of production of the current Jaguar XJ has got us wearing mourning bands over our blazers and donning black cravats. It's all the excuse needed to scour the classifieds for a suitably reverential Brave Pill. Ideally this would have been one designed under the watch of Jaguar's long-serving design boss Ian Callum, who also announced his departure this week. Although this one was too early, we're pretty sure that Ian would approve of our choice.

There have been plenty of XJ highlights over the years, but the supercharged X308 XJR is probably the tallest of the lot. It comes from the sweet spot between Ford's takeover and the arrival of what might politely be termed more rigorous quality assurance processes, but before the brand started to get a bit too keen to chase the Germans. For those in search of a proper performance bargain the good news is that the market still doesn't seem to have much affection for these supremely wafty leviathans; prices are low and availability high.

The XJR of this vintage is one of a dying breed of car, a sports saloon that didn't fall into the trap of trying to be too sporty. Jaguar had made its reputation on refinement as much as performance, and the lesson hadn't been forgotten when the X308 was introduced in 1997. It built on the success of the first X300 XJR, but substituted that car's supercharged straight-six engine for a boosted version of the spiffy new AJ-V8 that Ford had paid many millions to develop (and which we learned this week will die at the end of 2020.) With the supercharger singing, the 4.0-litre engine made 370hp - 40hp more than the first XJR and requiring the still-novel use of a 155mph electronic limiter. But the R always delivered by the quality of its performance, not just the quantity.


Don't think of a velvet glove, the XJR wrapped its big, metallic fist in a cashmere mitten with pictures of kittens on it. The gentleness of the XJR's power delivery was almost perfectly matched to the pliancy of its chassis, capable of wafting with the best of them and burbling through town on its torquey low range as the Merc-sourced five-speed autobox shuffled its ratios to keep everything calm. But proper get-me-to-the-horizon urge was never more than a flexed toe away, the charger whining like a beaten Mancunian as the revs climbed and the numbers on the speedo turned increasingly serious.

The ride will feel soft by modern standards, with hard cornering producing some impressive lean-angles. But that doesn't mean the XJR doesn't handle and can't be hustled: there's proper steering feel behind the light assistance and a feeling of deftness that makes it a joy to thread along a twisty road. It's not a flying machine; without a limited slip differential, excessive enthusiasm in tighter corners can set the inside rear wheel spinning. But it's a supremely easy car to drive quickly with refinement levels that will still feel good; I remember being a passenger in one that was loping along at an indicated 130mph and having a conversation in normal tones.

Much of the rest of the XJ experience felt charmingly old-fashioned even when the car was new. The X308 still owed a significant amount of its structure to the XJ40 which had been introduced as long ago as 1986, and substantially designed in the 1970s. The A-pillars seem almost impossibly thin by modern standards, the glassline amazingly low. Visibility is, unsurprisingly, excellent, even when adopting the slouched driving position encouraged by the squidgy seats.


Ford's cost-cutters had mandated the use of a fair amount of plasti-wood, the bits on the top and bottom of the steering wheel being slippery enough to encourage the non-ironic use of driving gloves. The centre console with controls for the entertainment and ventilation must have a similar button density to a scientific calculator, from memory it can be hard to find the right one in a hurry. And yes, that's a cassette deck, although there will almost certainly be a CD player (player, player, play...) in the boot as well.

But the J-gate gear selector remains a piece of genius, and vastly superior ergonomically to the rotary transmission controller that eventually replaced it; unlike most older autos there's a natural feel to which gear the car is in based on the wood-topped lever's position. The gearbox isn't the quickest when being bossed around, but there's so much torque that it barely matters.

Naysayers will tell you that older Jaguars are basically parade floats at the Festival of Bork, but the truth is that a well looked after X308 is probably one of the safest bets from the brand's back catalogue. There are faults, but they are all well known. Like contemporary BMWs, early V8s had Nikasil cylinder bore liners which were sometimes damaged by the high sulphur content of early unleaded fuel; the fact this car had a replacement engine at 30,000 miles suggests it may have been one of the ones affected, but if so it will have got upgraded parts.


The XJR's plastic timing chain tensioners were as bad an idea as they sound; they can sometimes disintegrate, tending to take both chain and valvegear with them. Listen for rattling when cold. Bodywork is generally rust resistant, but the X308 is prone to corrode where the engine subframe meets the chassis, something that - to judge from the MOT history - this car suffered from in 2011. Advisories on the most recent ticket also suggest the next owner should budget for a suspension refresh; an X308 can pick up clonks and squeaks. There's also a mileage discrepancy, the car losing 19,000 miles between 2018 and 2019 - but the advert states the almost certainly correct 113,000 tally. £4,500 looks like a very fair price if the promised history file checks out.

A friend owned an XJR for three years and swore that, beyond routine serving and the pain of funding a 12mpg fuel habit while trundling around inner London, his only out-of-pocket expense was for a single rear bulb. He then sold it to a very famous TV presenter, and almost immediately regretted letting it go. Old Jaguars get under your skin.

See the original advert here.

Author
Discussion

Billy_Whizzzz

Original Poster:

1,117 posts

85 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
Still more than a whiff of the suburban spiv about these. And the horror of that interior...

Esceptico

1,703 posts

51 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
When these were still new I was at a meeting in Interlaken. We were staying in the Victoria Jungfrau hotel and they had an XJR that customers could use. Free to use but you had to pay for the petrol. We had a few hours free then we had to go to a team building event somewhere near Interlaken. I took the XJR for a hoon by myself and the transported three colleagues to and from the event. I am surprised at how much fun could be had with such a big old barge. Not as surprised as when I handed it back and had to pay for the petrol! One and only time in my life I’ve managed single digit MPG! I swear you could almost see the fuel gauge move as you drove it.

dme123

4,745 posts

131 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
Any X308 needs going over with a fine toothed comb these days; I was looking last year and couldn't find any for sensible money that weren't hiding rot, had lacquer peeling off, a collapsing headliner, or just drove like a knackered old dog. I gave up and bought an X350, which seem to be taking the years and miles extremely well.

X300 interior is far nicer, and the wood is much higher quality. Those I6 engines do feel very old fashioned now, but in a good way.

Harveybw

58 posts

36 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
Brilliant cars, I miss my old one.

Stupid quick down a (decent sized) country road if you were pedalling it. Lovely to just cruise in also.

The ivory and black wood interior looked amazing as did the BBS wheels and uprated brakes behind them.

Sadly electrics were a bit erratic and I found the merc gearboxes less than reliable in mine. I’d still have another for Le Mans trips though...

Edited by Harveybw on Saturday 8th June 07:03

LaurasOtherHalf

14,926 posts

138 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
Always fancied one of these as a daily, it’s just never fitted in with my life.

Dare I say it they’re now in that cool zone that young timers can be. Not nerdy enough for the classic crowd, too out of fashion for the council crowd.

Just right.
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Export56

17 posts

30 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
Last good looking car jaguar made, I would still prefer one over the new crap they turn out today. The styling of the modern jags is horrible, look like some bloated hatchback which is not what jaguar is about. They could have a gone along with a bmw 5 or 7 style saloon which would have been much cooler. I dont think they will be around for long, sad but they dont have the investment to keep up.

Helicopter123

5,824 posts

98 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
Good looking car, but surely a financial landmine?

swisstoni

7,691 posts

221 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
Billy_Whizzzz said:
Still more than a whiff of the suburban spiv about these. And the horror of that interior...
Surely at 20 years old these cars are now owned by people who appreciate them.
Any oik will have moved on to fresher Teutonic pastures.

Turkishwaiter

11 posts

65 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
These had never been on my radar until seeing and hearing one in the village, an elderly gent owns it and he's running a seriously loud exhaust on it, sounds absolutely glorious! Hats off to the old dude

Etypephil

203 posts

20 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
For a cheap, fast, reliable saloon , beaten only by the X350.

ess

561 posts

120 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
Helicopter123 said:
Good looking car, but surely a financial landmine?
Not really.
Had mine for 4 years now. Major preventative costs have been upgraded tensioners/chains at £600; water pump/valley pipes; some suspension refresh.
Some new parts difficult to come by now, but plenty of X308s at breakers.

My first V8 supercharged car which can quite quickly catch you out with the turn of speed.
Great for wafty Euro schleps, albeit expensive on fuel.

S

Gratuitous pics smile






CharlieAlphaMike

339 posts

47 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
No brave pill required. Do the normal checks as you would with any car. Make sure it comes with a comprehensive service history. Check the water pump and timing chain tensioners have been changed and check for knocking from the suspension (replacing those CATS shock absorbers is expensive) and you'll be good to go.

The much reported Nikasil 'problem' should not be an issue now. The ad states that this particular car had a new engine at 30,000 miles which I assume was a Nikasil related replacement? If so, it would have probably been done by Jaguar under warranty and will almost certainly have the 'steel liner' engine. I'd actually prefer a well sorted XJR with the Nikasil V8 but that's a personal choice.

Bolt on a larger bottom supercharger pulley and you'll see 400bhp and a huge difference in the mid range. Great cars smile

Oh and as far as fuel bills are concerned. It's a supercharged 4.0 litre petrol V8. What's the problem?

Prof Prolapse

14,498 posts

132 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
12mpg around town?

I used to get 9 mpg in mine.

Best car I’ve ever owned for sure.

fatbutt

1,599 posts

206 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
Yep, loved mine too. Fantastic for my weekly commute to and from Aberdeen. Quiet, fast and huge boot. Only got rid of it because a TVR beckoned...

jhayward1980

57 posts

156 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
I took this pill a few years ago. Took it upon myself to sort the corrosion and the rear subframe bushes etc. And fitted an uprated pulley. Engine incredible. Rust appalling. Interior brilliant. Real personality in a car. Sold it to someone who chasing up the MOT history also then had to spend big money sorting more corrosion. Needs an expert buyer.

grumpy52

3,858 posts

108 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
A mate who runs a restoration business that specialises in older jags has half a dozen XJRs of both 6 and 8 pots he is keen to find a XJR R1 but they are rare .
He also races an XJ with a boggo 6 pot pushing 260 bhp tops that supprises many with how much speed it maintains through the bends .
They are starting to climb in value.
They aren't as big as you think , a modern Mondeo is just a tad bigger . Interior space isn't great if you are tall and overripe, I had to use a belt exstender in my xj sport.
These jags seem to fall into 2 types . Those that have been pampered and cherished and the others that have been neglected . They can both look great until you look closely with your head instead of heart and close inspection of service history is a must .
Electrical gremlins are a lottery , some never get them , others will drive you to despair .
Mine had an intermittent immobiliser fault that was found to be faulty side light earths .
Find a nice one and you will love it , get any with hidden gremlins and it will drive you mad .

Mike 83

14 posts

2 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
I to have had the x308 and x350 xj the x308 looks better the x350 interior is better lately around Gosport I've seen a black x308 xjr with massive exhausts that shakes the road sounds awesome any one from here?

Romcom

64 posts

75 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
ess said:
Not really.
Had mine for 4 years now. Major preventative costs have been upgraded tensioners/chains at £600; water pump/valley pipes; some suspension refresh.
Some new parts difficult to come by now, but plenty of X308s at breakers.

My first V8 supercharged car which can quite quickly catch you out with the turn of speed.
Great for wafty Euro schleps, albeit expensive on fuel.

S

Gratuitous pics smile






I say - rather!

L100NYY

34,242 posts

185 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
I absolutely loved mine, would love another.

Mine was black on black for the full menacing image and by golly did it shift. Was the perfect car to haul a**e down to Le Mans yes

It was a choice between the XJR, E39 M5 and the Turbo R.......I picked the right one imo

Terrible pic I know but this was before iphones



Edited by L100NYY on Saturday 8th June 16:10

rollo

25 posts

101 months

Saturday 8th June
quotequote all
Audi S8 D2. End of discussion. smile