This car is a bargain in the used marketplace, with excellent performance and reliability. But there are weak areas. Make sure the plastic timing gear has been replaced with factory metal components. And, that the plastic water pump has been replaced with the factory metal unit.
Do not buy an XJ that's been through an overheat. Look for sludge on the valve covers.
The ZF automatic is "sealed for life" and prone to failure over 80K miles unless thoroughly cleaned out.
Buy one of these cars only if you know of a non-dealer Jaguar speciality shop that can service it. (Check with your local Jaguar club.)
Update: March, 2017 : I'm not sure when I first posted my original review, but it's been at least a couple of years.
Over that interval I've put on a lot of miles, including an extended road trip to Canada. Now at 148K miles and nine years of ownership I have many compliments and only a couple of complaints.
On the complaining side I wish the car had better fuel economy. I rarely drive in Sport mode, and I'm not a stop-light drag racer, but my XJR does no better than 16 mpg in around-town driving and 20 or 21 mpg on the highway at 75 mph.
One weakness I watch out for: the ZF five-speed automatic. It uses synthetic transmission fluid and supposedly is "sealed for life." In other words, you'll never have to change the transmission fluid. That's all well and good it the owner thinks the car's lifespan is over at 80K miles. But this is a 250K mile car. As metal dust circulates through the transmission over the years, it accumulates and clogs the filters and magnets and lodges in nooks and crannies. My expert mechanic went through my transmission at 100K miles and flushed everything, including the torque converter, which is a tricky operation. The result is all I could have hoped for. The fluid is still clean 48K miles after.
Today's generation of luxury cars come equipped with V6s for the most part, some with inline fours, all turbocharged. To achieve my car's 400 hp (I've tweaked the Eaton supercharger), they need to boost these small engines mercilessly, and that can't be a good thing. Manufacturers are reducing engine displacement to meet government standards for emissions and fuel economy. and the new generation of luxury cars give 2 or 3 mpg more. I'll gladly keep my 32-valve DOHC V8 with supercharger. Unlike today's turbocharged cars, there's no lag on acceleration and the blower emits an intoxicating whine. This is what a Spitfire must sound like. The car makes power as new and I get a thousand miles out of a quart of Mobil 1.
Since I wrote the first review my privately owned (non-dealer) Jag specialist shop has needed only to change the oil and a couple of filters and replace spark plugs. The shop's owner and chief wrench, Juan, tells me this generation XJ-series (1998 - 2003) is setting a new standard for reliability as the cars age. There is a proviso: XJs built before 2002 need their plastic timing gear and water pump replaced with factory metal parts. This is expensive, a couple thousand dollars. But one the metal components are installed, there will never be a need to fix this problem again.
In summary, my affection for this car has grown, and I'm obliged to give it five stars over its previous four. Even though it's 16 model years old, the car is holding up superbly. It's still tight, the original Bilstein shocks are still doing their job, and I am no longer worried about unexpected breakdowns. I'm 67 now, and don't see the need for another car: this one will outlive me.
Also holding up well are the Connolly leather (with maintenance, and always parking the car indoors, as did the original owner) and the factory-optional Emerald mica paint. Apart from stone chips, the paint looks as new, with the same intense emerald green. As with the interior, the paint's longevity is dependent on the car being parked out of the weather.
I've driven the new XJ and am a big fan of Jaguar's new lineup. Finally the Germans have a serious competitor in the sports sedan arena. But without a doubt, my old XJR rides better than the new one. My car is better insulated from the road, and you hardly feel the imperfections you drive over them. By comparison, the new XJ with its 20" wheels (as opposed to my car's 18") and rubber-band tires just can't absorb the bumps as capably. There's no doubt it handles better on a twisty road. My XJR doesn't like tight twisties, but put it on a road with long sweepers and it's in its element.
You can buy a car like mine privately on Craigs List for around $4,000. (I paid $12,500 for mine nine years ago, when it had 85K miles on the clock.) The trick to buying one of these is to purchase it privately from an enthusiast owner who has maintained it rigorously. Don't buy one from someone who has not kept the service records. And don't buy one if you don't have access to a Jag service shop that is not part of a dealership. Do buy one if you have driven one and love it.
If you are looking for a car that personifies elegance and style with the power and performance of a sports car, then the 2001 XJR is your ride. With almost 400 horses on my supercharged Jag, it's so much fun watching upstart Mustangs and Maximas recede in my rear view.
Plush leather seats and wood panel interior finish. V-8 super-charged engine with 385 HP. Clean stereo sound.
Front windshield fluid ejection is a little messy.