The XK8 was first introduced in October 1996, and has changed little since then. The earliest cars are recognisable by the lack of a third rear brake light, as this additional safety feature was not added until May 1997. Keen drivers who want a Convertible XK8 should hunt down a post-October 1997 car, because this was when the company's CATS active suspension system, which was already an option on the Coupe, was made optionally available to Convertible buyers. At the same time, Jaguar added light sensitive headlamp switching and an automatically dipping rear view mirror.
In May 1998, the XK8 models were joined by the XKR Coupe and Convertible with a more potent supercharged version of the 4.0-litre V8 as used by the XJR saloon. Then, four months later, all versions gained improved Servotronic II power steering. From late 1999, the range also gained the option of a clever radar-operated cruise control which automatically prevents the car getting to close to a vehicle in front. There was also an 'R' option kit including stiffened suspension and fancier gold-coloured alloy wheels.
Silverstone limited edition XKR models arrived in mid-2000, with virtually all of Jaguar's performance options as standard - you'll recognise them by massive alloy wheels with prominent Bembo brake calipers and silver paint. Only 100 of each were sold in the UK. The 2001 year models got very minor styling changes including revised rear light clusters and new round front foglamps. Inside, the main improvements was a clever passenger restraint system able to sense where both front seat occupants were sitting and activate accordingly. Summer 2001 saw the launch of the XKR100 coupe and cabriolet models, celebrating what would have been the centenary of Sir William Lyons, founder of Jaguar. With only 500 examples built and loaded to the gunwales with extras, these will doubtless prove highly sought after on the used market.
Summer 2002 saw a major update for the XK range. The engines were enlarged to 4.2-litres, the XK8 now generating 300bhp and the XKR 400bhp. Jaguar also revised the front end by adding trendy Xenon clear lens headlamps and also introduced new paint schemes, different badging and a smart new choice of alloy wheels to give a subtle makeover to the styling. There were more changes in spring 2004 with bigger wheels, bigger spoilers and a revised nose. An all new XK coupe and convertible range arrived in early 2006 spelling the end for this long-serving model.