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!
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 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.
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).
|Jaguar XJ8||1710 kg||5024 mm||1799 mm||1314 mm|
|Ford Mondeo||1597 kg||4867 mm||1852 mm||1501 mm|
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.
|Jaguar XJ8||3248 cc||8||Petrol||5 speed auto||240 bhp||316 Nm|
|Ford Mondeo||1997 cc||4||Turbo Diesel||6 speed manual||207 bhp||450 Nm|
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 XJ8||Ford Mondeo|
|Yes||Heated front windscreen||Yes|
|6 CD changer, cassette, radio||Stereo||Touchscreen CD, USB, Bluetooth, Aux, DAB|
|Yes||Electric adjustable wingmirrors||Yes|
|No||Folding wing mirrors||Yes|
|Yes||Auto dim rear view mirror||Yes|
|Yes||Electrically adjustable seats||No*|
* 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!
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 mph||0-100 kmh||Top speed||Urban economy||Extra-urban economy|
|Jaguar XJ8||8.1 s||8.5 s||140 mph||17 mpg||31 mpg|
|Ford Mondeo||7.8 s||8.1 s||142 mph||55 mpg||68 mpg|
2 thoughts on “Modernity vs Luxury”
Interesting comparison, though I do think it’s a bit unfair to compare a petrol engine with a diesel engine on fuel consumption. Better to have compared the petrol Mondeos I would have thought, though obviously you don’t have one, so fair enough. One thing I would say is that the X308 wasn’t the last of the classic-looking Jaguars. The subsequent X350 (and face-lifted X358) models, from 2003 to 2009 were the last of the classic-looking Jaguars. Only when they decided to ruin the styling with the X351 (the one the Prime Minister is driven around in), did they depart from that classic beautiful look.
I’ve had many Jaguar cars, from the original Series I XJ6, as my first car, which was only one year younger than me(!), through XJ40s, the X300 Sovereign, S-Type, and X-Type, to my current 2004 X350 XJ6 (3-litre petrol V6). I’ve had other cars over the years of course, such as three Rover 800s, a Mercedes 300E, and even a couple of large Vauxhalls. None of them ever compared favourably to any of my Jaguars, and I’m currently hoping to keep my current XJ6 for the rest of my life, if I can. Being aluminium, at least it won’t rust! I also find the fuel consumption great, by comparison with all the other cars I’ve ever had. The six-speed auto, combined with the the fact that the aluminium makes it 600 lb lighter than X300, means I get 24 mpg round town, 29 mpg on country roads, and 32 mpg on the motorway (and I’m not noted for a particularly light right foot!).
I find that most modern cars look the same. You can tell a classic-looking XJ a mile off, but I wouldn’t be able to tell most modern cars until I saw the badge. They also have bland boring interiors – no luxury. There are probably only Bentley & Rolls-Royce that are making good-looking distinctive cars now, and most of us can’t afford one, even second hand, given the massive maintenance & repair costs – I certainly can’t! Besides, I think all of the classic-looking XJ cars are the most beautiful things ever sculpted in metal. 😀
Thanks for your comments, lots of interesting information in here 🙂
I completely agree that modern cars are bland lookalikes of each other and none of them take my fancy. My 2015 Mondeo does (in my opinion) have at least a little character, but primarily it’s just a family wagon. I like how they tried to make it look like an Aston Martin with the large grille. It was apparently the same designer!
I’ve always admired the XJs since childhood. I was a bit less keen on the XJ40 as it lacks the iconic twin circular headlamps, but even as a 5-year-old I remember walking past a Series III on my way to school. It’s the X300/X308 that really captured my imagination though.
You’re absolutely right, of course that the X350/X358 was the last XJ to retain classic styling, although for me, they ruined the headlamps which are my favourite part of the car. Squeezing in a projector lens and an indicator makes it look too “busy”. Nonetheless, it is an impressive car.