Jaguar XKR (X150) | The Brave Pill

Money in the bank – and fuel in the tank

By Mike Duff / Saturday, October 2, 2021 / Loading comments

Forget those old staples about kicking the tyres or tapping the sills with a magnet, something which wouldn’t be much good with our alloy-bodied Pill, modern car buying advice seems increasingly about psychology over mechanical know-how. This ranges from sound common sense – like looking for something wearing fresh branded tyres rather than worn ditchfinders – to old-fashioned snobbery: extra marks for gravel driveways, or vendors who sound like David Niven when you call. But at the outer edge this gets closer to superstition or numerology, like the dealer who once admitted he bids more for cars with tuners set to Radio 3.

Yet one thing that is pretty consistent when it comes to second-hand cars is the glowing presence of the fuel light. Even before the latest petrol-panic there was no point in trading any motor with more in the tank than was necessary to get onto the forecourt, and most dealer stock lives on little more than vapour. But the thing that really leaps out from these images of a well priced Jaguar XKR is that it still has three quarters of a tank – or at least did when the pictures were taken. Leaving aside the extra appeal this gives the car during this period of queues and petrol station punch-ups, it does also suggest its last owner wasn’t reluctant to throw cash at it.

The second-gen X150 Jaguar XK has been on the Pill hit list for some time, especially one featuring the charismatic option of the supercharged V8 that powered the R version. But we’ve struggled to find one that was both cheap and brave enough, with this one’s combination of an £11,000 price tag and a 138,000 mileage getting it the nod. There are plenty of people who will tell you that the X150’s combination of aluminium construction and a well-known engine makes it close to a risk-free Jaguar. Some may well be, but definitely not all. I know somebody who bought a cheap example and soon found himself on the line for an engine top end rebuild, four expensive adaptive dampers and a partial respray where paint had bubbled from the allow paintwork. He spent the rest of his brief ownership playing a fun game of ‘hunt the electrical gremlin.’

None of which distracts from the fact the X150 deserves to be remembered as one of Jaguar’s 21st century high points. The first XK had been launched in 1996 when the company was still struggling to raise development cash, and although it was a critical hit some corners had clearly been heavily apexed in terms of build quality. That became obvious when early cars started to suffer from cylinder liner failure and then, slightly later, a tendency to serious underbody rust. The X150 was a very different car, created during the period when Ford seemed to have unlimited development largesse for its British subsidiary. Mechanically it stuck with the V8 engines Ford had already paid to develop for the X100, but the new car’s body would use the very advanced aluminium architecture that had already been launched in the contemporary XJ saloon.

The new material made the X150 about 90kg lighter than the old car, despite much higher standard spec, but also massively stronger. Ian Callum’s design moved beyond the X100’s retro styling, although the early X150 did have the slightly incongruous addition of an oval radiator grille reportedly inspired by that of the E-Type. There was something definitely Aston Martin-ish about the X150’s glasshouse too, probably unsurprising given Callum came straight from working on the DB9. His insistence that the car needed to have low, rakish lines also resulted in the pioneering use of a pyrotechnic bonnet, with two airbags raising the rear by 60mm on detecting a pedestrian impact to create survival space over the hard bits of motor lurking beneath.

The entry-level naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 was big on waft but short on outright performance – 300hp wasn’t a huge amount even in 2006. But the supercharged XKR was both much more potent and much more characterful thanks to its a more serious 420hp and the feline yowl made by the blower under hard use. The standard six-speed automatic gearbox was controlled by Jaguar’s much-missed J-gate selector, but also allowed manual control through steering wheel paddles – a first for the brand. Overall the XKR looked handsome, sounded great and drove impressively well, especially when specified with the optional active dampers which were able to combine plush comfort with lashed down discipline. (The system was called CATS, for Computer Active Technology Suspension, although Completely desperAte alliTerative Synonym would sum up the marketing department’s involvement in the naming process better.)

Even with the extra power and clever shock absorbers the XKR was more GT than pure-blooded sports car, a rival for the Maserati 4200 or BMW 650i more than the Porsche 911. Jaguar did try for a more hardcore audience with a succession of faster and angrier versions, most notably the XKR-S and XKR-S GT. But the XKR continued to understudy these, being upgraded to Jaguar’s brawnier 5.0-litre engine in 2009 and getting a substantial facelift in 2011. It lived until 2014, and gently used late cars are still in the £40s and even low £50s. But prices for earlier and leggier examples have fallen near four figures.

Our Pill is the most affordable currently in the classifieds thanks to its combination of age and mileage. That use is reflected (dully) in the faded headlight lenses, although it is likely those could be polished back to respectability. There is also some obvious wear on the driver’s seat bolster. Yet beyond that, this XKR looks impressively fresh considering its years and miles. The advert text is keener on capital letters than forensic detail, the promise of “FULLHIST+ LEATH+ NAV+ ULEZ” could have been texted from a Nokia 3110. However it also suggests the car has had only one former owner and confirms it has the upgraded audio system, which was pretty good from memory.

The MOT history is reassuringly free of red, but does show a gap between October 2017 and the following pass in September this year. The fact there are 30,000 miles between the two tickets suggests the car wasn’t off the road during this time. The discrepancy might be down to a private plate change that has confused the system, or time in Northern Ireland. Something the next owner will doubtless investigate in greater detail.

But for the money, it’s hard to be too cynical; X150 values now overlap with those of the X100, and this is objectively a much better car. It’s hard to see cars like our Pill getting much cheaper, especially given the number of people who seem to be plotting low-cost ways to get a last V8 fix before we are forced to surrender to our electric overlords. And if the fuel supply crisis continues for much longer it will be worth considering for the contents of its tank alone.

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