Modernity vs Luxury

A few months ago I bought a 1997 Jaguar XJ8 and I’ve really enjoyed owning it. Owning an old car is interesting so I decided to compare it to the other vehicle I own – a 2015 Ford Mondeo. I wanted to see how top-of-the-range features from almost 25 years ago compare to a regular mid-range family car from the (nearly) present day, as technology has advanced. This is an article I wrote for fun, not to be taken too seriously!

The contenders

1997 Jaguar XJ8

The 1997 Jaguar XJ8 is a V8-engined luxury saloon car from the Jaguar XJ series (code-named X308). It is almost identical to its predecessor, the 1994 XJ6 (code-named X300) except for a couple of minor styling tweaks, and of course changing out the straight 6 engine for a V8. It shares many of its mechanicals with the 1994 XJ6 and the 1987 XJ6.

The XJ8 was designed and produced while Ford owned Jaguar and for this reason, some Jaguar purists don’t like the X300 and X308. I have no problem with it, because my other car is a…

2015 Ford Mondeo

The 2015 Ford Mondeo (known in North America as the Ford Fusion) is the fifth generation to be marketed in Europe. The Mondeo is a long-running series of family and executive cars but Ford have made the mk5 a little more upmarket, and are attempting to position it to compete with luxury car makers. There are a lot of optional extras that can be added, and little touches like a metal sill strip with the Mondeo name. The Mondeo has a new Vignale luxury trim level with all the extras, but I just have the Titanium which is somewhere in the middle of the range.

Mine has a 2-litre Diesel engine which was sold in three tune tune levels: 150PS and 180PS (148bhp and 177bhp) which are mechanically identical and differentiated only by a software setting, and 210PS (207bhp) which has a bi-turbo arrangement. Mine was a 150PS from the factory but I’ve had it remapped. It wasn’t tested on a dyno but applying a performance map to a 150/180PS model usually yields around 215PS, so I’ve just nabbed the specs from the stock 210PS model as they’re probably similar.

Exterior

The XJ8 and the Mondeo are both large cars, similar in size. The XJ8 is slightly longer and the Mondeo is slightly wider. The XJ8 has much squarer corners which you must keep in mind when maneouvering in tight spaces!

Both cars are much lower than the crossovers and SUVs that are common these days, particularly the XJ8. Getting into an XJ8 is a noticeable step down into the seat. Despite this, both cars have good road presence and you don’t feel too low on the road.

The styling is very different. The XJ8 had old-fashioned styling, even for its day, and is the last of the classic-looking Jaguars. Despite the long, gently curving lines going to front to back, the details are rounded: the lights, the grille, the edges, etc. To distinguish it as a luxury car, it has lots of chrome trim. The higher up the range you go, the more chrome it has. Mine, as an entry level XJ8 has the chrome grille, window frames and boot plinth. Higher-spec models have chrome wingmirrors, door handles and other stuff besides. The lights are classic style, circular lamps with reflectors.

The Mondeo is a mid-range car, and in keeping with trends of the time, most of the trim is body-coloured. It does have a chrome grille and chrome window frames, and personally I think these look great with the metallic blue paint, but the higher spec Mondeos have a black honeycomb grille. Lots of modders remove the chrome and replace it with black or carbon fibre trim. Like most modern cars, the Mondeo’s “face” looks a bit angry and aggressive. The styling is angular and aerodynamic, with lots of the features made to look like a performance car – like the large grille, the hint of front and rear splitters and a power bulge on the bonnet. Like many contemporary cars, it has exhaust ports, LED running lights and projector lenses on the headlights (still halogen bulbs though, no HID or LED here).

WeightLengthWidthHeight
Jaguar XJ81710 kg5024 mm1799 mm1314 mm
Ford Mondeo1597 kg4867 mm1852 mm1501 mm
Dimensions

Engine

The engines in these two cars are very different. The XJ8 has a 3.2 V8 petrol while the Mondeo has a 2.0 I4 turbocharged Diesel. Neither of these cars or engines are designed for spectacularly high performance, but the V8 in the Jag is designed for smoothness while the Diesel in the Mondeo is designed for economy.

The Jag’s engine has higher peak power, but the Mondeo’s has higher peak torque. The biggest difference here is the turbo lag. It takes the Mondeo a little while to build up to full boost in the turbocharger, while the Jag has access to its torque straight away. This difference is most obvious when moving off from standstill – the Jag can accelerate swiftly to 30mph with hardly any noise, while the Mondeo will go through a couple of gears as its redline is much lower.

The difference is clear when you hear these cars, and drive them. The Jag is very quiet at idle and when driving – it only really makes a noise if you thrash it. The Mondeo’s engine is hardly loud, but it is more audible inside the cabin as a deep rumble, and outside the car as a typical Diesel rattle.

DisplacementCylindersFuelGearboxPowerTorque
Jaguar XJ83248 cc8Petrol5 speed auto240 bhp316 Nm
Ford Mondeo1997 cc4Turbo Diesel6 speed manual207 bhp450 Nm
Engine

Interior

Inside, the two cars couldn’t be more different. The first thing you notice when you get in is that the Jag is much lower. The cream leather interior swallows you up like a comfy armchair. You are surrounded by panels of glossy wood. The Mondeo is not at all uncomfortable, but the black/grey fabric seats and plastic dashboard are a much more modern, minimalistic environment.

While both cars have similar external dimensions, the internal space feels very different. Both cars are spacious for the driver and front passenger but the thinner doors in the Jag maximise the width of the cabin. It feels like endless space between the two front seats. The Jag has a more vertical windscreen which is nearer to the driver – in contrast, the Mondeo’s windscreen is much more aerodynamic and you can barely reach it when seated.

The Mondeo has thicker doors, thicker pillars and a higher window line, which leads to a feeling of safety, security and being cocooned in the car. It can also make the cabin feel a little dark. Being older, the Jag has a low window line, large windows, thin doors and slender pillars. Visibility is excellent and the cabin is a light and airy place to be, even though the headlining is quite low. In my opinion, the large windows actually make the Jag easier to reverse, even though the Mondeo has parking sensors! Unlike in many modern cars, you can see the ends of the Jag’s bonnet and boot from the driver’s seat.

The interior is also where advances in technology are most obvious. The dashboard is very different. The Mondeo has an 8″ touch screen in the centre console, flanked by many buttons. The dials are screens which can be customised via a menu system. The Jag has much more technology than the average car of the late 90s, but still the dashboard has just three binnacles with mechanical dials in them and the centre console has a stereo with a few extra buttons for climate control.

I’m torn on this – I do like technology that works for me, but I also love the simplicity of the Jag’s user interface. There’s just no need to look away from the road at the myriad lights, buttons and screen information. It’s worth noting that the Jag has a digitally-controlled climate system which must have looked like a spaceship in the 90s. The only similarly-aged car I’ve owned is a 1997 Ford Escort which had a knob that went from blue to red.

In the back, the two cars are quite different. They both have bench seats that can seat three adults, but as my Jag is only the standard wheelbase, the rear legroom is not great. The Mondeo can comfortably accommodate tall adults (or bulky child seats). Both cars have adjustable rear air vents.

Finally, let’s have a look at all the interior technologies on both cars. The Mondeo easily outclasses the XJ8 in nearly every way related to technology. The Jag had many technologies fitted as advanced luxuries, ahead of their time. As the years have passed and technology has become cheaper and more ubiquitous, most of these are fitted to my modest spec Mondeo as standard.

Jaguar XJ8Ford Mondeo
YesElectric windowsYes
YesHeated front windscreenYes
6 CD changer, cassette, radioStereoTouchscreen CD, USB, Bluetooth, Aux, DAB
No*Cruise controlYes
No†NavigationYes
YesElectric adjustable wingmirrorsYes
NoFolding wing mirrorsYes
YesAuto headlightsYes
No*Auto wipersYes
YesAuto dim rear view mirrorYes
No†Parking sensorsYes
YesAir conditioningYes
YesHeated seatsNo*
YesElectrically adjustable seatsNo*
Technology

* Option on higher models
† Option on later models

While I have written that the XJ8 had navigation as an option on later models, it was a far cry from what we expect from navigation systems today. Check out this video which is an official VHS tape given to new Jaguar owners at the time for a demo of a bizarrely complex navigation system!

Performance

On paper, the two cars have surprisingly similar performance. However, that’s where the similarity ends.

The Jag is rear wheel drive while the Mondeo is front wheel drive, but I haven’t really driven these cars hard enough to tell the difference.

The Jag has tons of body roll, and very light steering. You need to turn the wheel a lot to turn the car. It doesn’t really pull the wheel back after you let go. I did once describe it as “handling like a bathtub of porridge”. You can’t really throw it around, but it almost feels disrespectful to do so. This is a car for cruising.

Likewise, the Mondeo is not designed for hard cornering, but it can do it if you push it. There’s a decent amount of power available once you get the revs high enough to make the turbo angry. The suspension is firmer and can take a bit of a beating but it’s hardly a sports coupé.

It’s probably best we don’t spend too long looking at the fuel consumption figures because I’ll start crying, but in my real-world experience the Mondeo gets about three times better fuel economy than the XJ8. I normally save the Jag for special occasions! It almost makes you wonder, the specs are so similar so what is the Jag doing with all that fuel?!

0-60 mph0-100 kmhTop speedUrban economyExtra-urban economy
Jaguar XJ88.1 s8.5 s140 mph17 mpg31 mpg
Ford Mondeo7.8 s8.1 s142 mph55 mpg68 mpg
Performance

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