From the Obvious File: Our friends over at Car Talk alerted us to a question from one of its forum members, who purchased a Jaguar XK8 which is — you’re going to want to sit down for this — having mechanical issues.
I went to register it at aaa, closed for Veterans day, then yesterday I went to drive it down the hill, 3 blocks, and when the road flattened out, it showed a yellow light transmission, and it would not go forward! I tried some other gears, 2,3, 4, and it finally slooooowly went forward,. somehow, I got on the highway for about 10 minutes, and when i hit a red light, it again , barely started forward.
“HAVEN’T THEY BEEN MAKING CARS FOR 100 YEARS? DOESN’T SOMEONE KNOW HOW TO MAKE A CAR YET? SO THEY RUN??? WHAT DO I DO? HOW EXPENSIVE IS A TRANSMISSION??? WHY ME OH LORD?”
You may be surprised to learn this, but older Jaguars aren’t exactly the most reliable cars on the planet. When the odometers are bouncing off 100,000 miles, they tend to require pretty significant maintenance.
We’re not sure of the exact year of this XK8, but they didn’t change a whole lot during their loooooong run between 1996 and 2006. The second generation dropped the “8” and just went with “XK” for the model name, so we’re assuming this is a first generation car.
The allure of the XK8 is strong. Even 20 years later, they’re a great looking car, from that era of cars when retro was hot in a big way. The design was meant to be reminiscent of the Jaguar E-Type, and chief of design Geoff Lawson oversaw a pretty stunning rendition.
These cars were known internally as X100, and they were released at a pivotal time in Jaguar’s history. In the 1980s, the company was hemorrhaging money and couldn’t build a reliable car to save its live. Its reputation was all but shattered until 1989, when Ford Motor Company took control.
Almost immediately, the company’s fortunes improved. It modernized its production facilities, sought out world-class suppliers for fuel delivery and electronics, and generally built a much improved car, beginning with the X300 XJ luxury sedan, before launching into the production of the XK8.
The problem with justrun’s Jaguar isn’t a “Jaguar” problem. It’s a problem that affected a large percentage of European luxury cars built in the 1990s and early 2000s, regardless of manufacturer or country of origin.
Along with fuel delivery and electronics, Jaguar sourced the X100 and X300 transmission from an industry-standard supplier, too: ZF Friedrichshafen AG, more commonly known as just “ZF.” ZF is a massive company with facilities in 40 countries, with over 140,000 employees worldwide. ZF transmissions are in hundreds of models today, including the heavy-duty ZF 8HP eight-speed box that sits behind the 707hp, supercharged V-8 in the Dodge Hellcat.
Starting in about 1992, ZF introduced the 5HP transmission, typically used in front-engine, rear drive applications, although it had versions for all-wheel drive, as well as 5HP transaxles for rear-engine and front-wheel drive cars, too.
In the 1990s and 2000s, the ZF 5HP five-speed automatic transmission was the Ted McGinley of transmissions, appearing in successful car lines and then killing them off:
- 1992–1993 BMW 730i
- 1992–1995 BMW 530i
- 1992—1995 BMW 525tds
- 1995—2000 BMW 725tds
- 1994–1996 BMW 730i
- 1993–1996 BMW M3
- 1997–1999 BMW M3
- 1995–1999 BMW 528i
- 1995–1999 BMW 525tds
- 2001–2003 BMW 330Ci
- 2001–2003 BMW 330i
- 2000–2003 BMW 320i
- 2000– BMW 323Ci
- 2000– BMW 323i
- 2000– BMW 328i
- 2000– BMW 728i
- 2001–2003 BMW 325Ci
- 2001–2003 BMW 325i
- 2001–2003 BMW 525i
- 2001–2003BMW 530i
- 2002–2003 BMW Z4
- 2002–2003 BMW Z4
5HP19FL (a transaxle for use in rear engine/rear drive or front engine front drive applications)
- 1996–2003 Porsche Boxster and Boxster S
- 1996–2001 Audi A4 2.8 V6
- 1997–2003 Audi A4 1.8T
- 1997–1999 Audi A8 3.7 V8
- 1998–2001 Audi A6 2.8 V6
- 1998–2003 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T
- 1998–2003 Volkswagen Passat GLS 2.8 V6
- 1998–2003 Volkswagen Passat GLX 2.8 V6
- 2003– Volkswagen Passat GL 1.8T
- 2004–2005 Volkswagen Passat GLS 2.0 TDI
5HP19FLA (all-wheel drive applications)
- 1996–2001 Audi A4 2.8 V6 quattro
- 1997–2001 Audi S4 2.7 V6 ‘biturbo’ quattro
- 1997–2003 Audi A4 and Audi A4 1.8 T quattro
- 1998–2001 Audi A6 2.8 V6 quattro
- 2000–2003 Audi A6 2.7 V6 biturbo quattro
- 2000–2003 Volkswagen Passat GLS V6 4motion 2.8 V6
- 2000–2003 Volkswagen Passat GLX V6 4motion 2.8 V6
- 2004–2005 Volkswagen Passat GLS 4motion 1.8T
- 2001–2003 Audi allroad quattro 2.7 V6 biturbo
- 2002–2003 Audi A4 (B6) 3.0 V6 quattro
- 2002–2003 Audi A6 (C5) 3.0 V6 quattro
- 2002–2003 Volkswagen Passat 4.0 W8 4motion
- 1998–2003 Porsche 911 Carrera
- 2002–2003 Porsche 911 Targa
- 1999–2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 996
- 1999–2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
- 1996–1997 BMW 840Ci
- 1997–2001 BMW 735i
- 1997–2001 BMW 735iL
- 1997–2001 BMW 740i
- 1997–2001 BMW 740iL
- 1998–2001 BMW 730d
- 1997–2003 BMW 540i
- 1997–2002 Jaguar XK8
- 1998–2003 BMW X5 4.4i
- 1998–2002 Jaguar XJ8
- 1998–2001 Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas
- 1998–2001 Jaguar XJ8 L
- 2001–2003 BMW X5 4.6is V8
- 2002–2003 BMW Z8
- 2002–2003 Jaguar XJ Sport 4.0 V8
- 2003–2005 Range Rover With BMW M62/B44 engine
- 1997–2003 Audi A8 4.2 V8
- 2001–2002 Audi A8 6.0 W12
- 1998–2003 Audi S8 4.2 V8
- 1999–2004 Audi A6 4.2 V8
- 1999–2004 Audi S6 4.2 V8
- 2000–2003 Audi A8L 4.2 V8
- 2002–2004 Audi RS6 4.2 biturbo V8
- 2002–present Volkswagen Phaeton
- 1992–1995 BMW 540i
- 1995–1997 BMW 540i
- 1998–2001 BMW 540i
- 1992–1994 BMW 740i
- 1994–1995 BMW 740i
- 1996–1997 BMW 740i
- 1992–1994 BMW 740iL
- 1994–1995 BMW 740iL
- 1996–1997 BMW 740iL
- 1998-2001 BMW 740d
- 1994–2001 BMW 750iL
- 1993–1995 BMW 840i
- 1995–1996 BMW 840Ci
- 1994–1997 BMW 850Ci
- 1998–2003 Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph 5.4 V12
- 1998–2000 Bentley Arnage 4.4 V8
- 1999–2003 Aston Martin DB7 Vantage 6.0 V12
- 1999–2003 Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante 6.0 V12
It’s a good transmission in general, and as justrun found out, it’s built to get you home no matter what. It has a “limp home” mode that will pretty much guarantee you can get to a safe place no matter how badly the transmission fails.
But they have common problems, primarily with the A drum in the transmission which grenades with regularity you could set your watch by:
It happens because the valve body gets worn and spikes the fluid pressure.
The good news is that these transmission were built to be taken apart and fixed. There are upgraded pressure regulators that make rebuilt versions of these transmission run well beyond their original intended service life.
The bad news is that tearing into a transmission is almost guaranteed to be a $3,000 to $4,000 job. On a car that originally cost north of $50,000, that might not sound so bad, but Jaguar XK8s are at the lowest point in value at the moment.
You could easily go out and purchase a coupe in the $5,000 range, and a convertible for not much more than that. The most expensive example for sale in our inventory right now is a gorgeous 26,000-mile example that tops out at less than $28,000.
If you’re still interested in owning an XK8 or any of the other fine cars on the list above, definitely do the research to find out what kind of transmission service the car has had recently. If it’s nearing 100,000 miles and hasn’t had the transmission valve body replaced, or had a rebuild in recent years, you’re in for a pretty significant repair bill.