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Rover 75 VS Jaguar S-Type

YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW? Published: 18th Aug 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Both Rover and Jaguar relied on a classic for their new saloons back in the 1990s. Who did it best?

Modern classics is a term that you’ve heard plenty of times already but it’s going to be spoken even more frequently in the classic car movement as newer collectibles join our gang.

The attraction of these new breed of classics is considerable. For a start they are cheap, plentiful and are good to go while their excellent build quality and rust-proofing means you can easily look after one and not suffer expensive restoration costs down the line.

Not everybody likes, or feels confident, driving an oldie thanks to their heavier controls and lower driving performances while a modern classic boasts all the conveniences and safety features we now take for granted. Add their far superior fuel economy and long servicing intervals and they can double up as different but dependable and dutiful daily drivers.

This pair of prestigious pastiche patriots were both launched at the tail end of the 1990s by two once revered carmakers who used to be in-house rivals and now struggling to recapture their past glories.

Jaguar, at the time owned by Ford, desperately needed a new sub XJ6 saloon to compete in the compact executive market that the Germans had by now made their own.

The new S Type harked back to the days of the Mk2 and the old S type in style but was based upon an American Lincoln platform.

Rover, now owned by BMW, looked to its old and much respected P5 when it developed the 75, although unlike
the Jaguar, was all new and front-wheel drive. Today, both Brits are not only bargains but almost banger buys that have classic style to spare. Fancy one?

WHICH ONE FOR YOU? ALL OFFER AMAZING VALUE

Both ranges offer a wide choice from frugal diesels to sports saloons of the highest order. The 75 is the more comprehensive line up starting with the MGF-powered 1.8 that goes right through to the hybrid – rear wheel drive, no less – Ford Mustang V8 powered 4.6! In between there’s a turbocharged 150bhp 1.8 (best avoided say experts – the MGF engine is fickle enough!), a pair of sweet and swift Rover KV6-derived V6 petrol units of 2.0 and 2.5-litres and the celebrated BMW CDT four-cylinder diesels.

Trim levels (Club SE and Connoisseur) are generous and all models feel plush and of quality; Rover MGF engine works surprisingly well in saloon but best avoid the turbo version; diesels are good ensured that the doors closed with the same ‘clunk’ as the old 75! Boot space is generous but if you need more there’s the Tourer estate that doubles up as a classy, commodious holdall.

Let’s not forget the parallel MG range that’s appreciably sportier and perhaps easier to obtain. The chief differences major on suspension settings, styling and trim differences plus the fact the V8 Mustang-powered 260 is a manly manual on the MG and auto only for the Rover.

We like the ZT as a daily driver and the ZT-T (tourer estate) and it’s amazing that the Mustang-powered V8 260 is still a bargain – trade prices start at less than £2000 would you believe although real world values are somewhat higher and will rise sharply over the years. But £6000 will buy a great example and it’s surely a future classic worth taking a punt on?

The lesser models are all comfortable buys from a grand upwards with no badge more sought after than the other, but as standards vary it’s best to look at as many and buy the best you can.

In 10 years time, Rover will be a distant memory but MG will survice and the ZT 260 will surely be the one most in demand by aficionados. Shoehorning in a 260bhp 4.6-litre Ford Mustang engine gives the ‘75’ serious grunt – not to mention a meaty V8 woofle. Fewer than 1000 ZT 260s and Rover 75 V8s left the factory before Rover met its maker, so the best Rover model for a decade is also the rarest, making classic status assured.

The S Type range is simpler. A saloon only in normal cloth trim or the more popular leather clad SE, it was originally powered by a 3-litre V6 based upon the Mondeo unit for Jag’s own V8, where after a 2.7TD, a 2.5 V6 and even a 400bhp supercharged V8 joined the ranks, as did a Sport trim.

It’s true to say that the first S Types were a bit lacking but the 2002 revise was more than a mere facelift and almost a new car; it was the S Type everybody wanted from the outset.

Like the Rover, the Jaguar represents amazing value for money. Early S Types can be had for under a grand (be careful here though) while even the sensational 4.2 R can be bought for around £5000 – that’s a tenth of its value ten years ago.

WHAT’S BEST TO DRIVE? A CAT AND DOG FIGHT

Don’t run away with the idea that the Jaguar is demonstrably superior to the Rover; in fact, when new the pundits reckoned Rover made a better job of the 75/ZT for its perceived market than Jaguar did with the S Type, which while wasn’t bad, fell short of the Germans, until the 2002 upgrade at least.

The Rover and MG are best as comfy cruisers, just like the P5 was. Handling is good even with the old school BMW rear suspension employed and none are short of poke although the car feels at its best with a V6 under the bonnet.

The rear wheel drive V8 versions are different animals entirely and huge old style fun as well as raunchy V8 power which really makes this stately looking car fly in a way the old P5b never could.

OWNING AND RUNNING JAGUAR LEAPS AHEAD

It’s here that the S Type scores a decisive win, due in part that the car’s DNA lives on in the XF. Spares present no problems, either from main agents or the army of traditional independents who are now tackling modern Jags such as the XK8 and S Type. For a modern, they can be maintained at home although some jobs are specialist such as reading fault codes etc or tackling electronic problems. Certain parts came from the Ford parts bin, such as switchgear.

Despite the demise of MG Rover a decade ago, spares for the 75/ZT seem quite okay – problems may only emerge
for the V6 engines as the BMW diesel
and the K Series have a much longer production run. An increasing number of MG specialists have taken the 75/ZT under their wings, too.

Back-tracking ever so slightly over our initial comments concerning reliability, both designs were plagued with a disappointing catalogue of ailments such as on all the major assemblies and the electronics – of course! Respective forums will tell you more but what it highlights is the importance of buying a good example backed by a solid service history.

It may cost more upfront, but given the bargains these cars represent it’s folly to buy a cheap car with the view of fixing what may seem minor ailments – they may not be, especially the electronics!

And The Winner Is...

The verdict isn’t as clear cut as it seems. On the face of it, the S Type makes the smartest choice, care of its longer production run and continued development, something the 75/ZT lacked. But there’s something appealing about the MG Rover, not least its choice of two marques and the excellent Tourer estate range over both brands. Original S Types weren’t as good as they promised and the ‘new Mk2’ was neither one thing or another, whereas Rover made quite a convincing pastiche of its old P5 in looks and character. In the end it boils down to what you want from these pair of modern classics.



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