ODD COU­PLE

No­body re­ally thinks of a Brit or an Amer­i­can when they’re af­ter a lux­ury mid-size sa­loon, do they? But should they? wheels’ Imran Ma­lik and Sony Thomas put the cre­den­tials of an F-Type-ish Jaguar XF and brand new 2014 Cadil­lac CTS to the test

Friday - - MOTORING -

What ex­actly gives the Teu­tons the right to be num­ber one in al­most ev­ery pre­mium seg­ment? Think of SUVs and the first model that springs to mind is prob­a­bly an X5. Sport­scar? Porsche 911. Lux­ury sa­loon? S-Class. It seems our minds have been pro­grammed to be­lieve there sim­ply is no al­ter­na­tive. We as­so­ciate qual­ity with Ger­man en­gi­neer­ing. This is es­pe­cially so when you con­sider that these cars are built to last, are me­chan­i­cally sound, pack lots of im­pres­sive kit and look the part too. We hold them in high es­teem, and for good rea­son, so it’s no sur­prise that the vast ma­jor­ity of well-heeled buy­ers opt for ei­ther a BMW, Audi or Mercedes over any­thing else.

But to think no other car­maker of­fers high-qual­ity prod­ucts is fool­hardy; it’s just a mind­set that needs chang­ing. There is a clutch of con­tenders vy­ing for your at­ten­tion from around the globe. To prove this point, we brought in a Brit and an Amer­i­can to see if they could shat­ter the no­tion cre­ated by the Ger­mans. Do the Teu­tons still lead the way in the ex­ec­u­tive sa­loon seg­ment? Or are the XF and CTS on an equal foot­ing with them?

Imran’s XF

Right off the bat, the XF looks to­tally at home in the com­pany of the E-Class, 5 Se­ries and A6. In fact, it sur­passes the looks of those three, what with its el­e­gant front end cou­pled with that mus­cu­lar physique. The fas­cia wears a men­ac­ing grin and yet more ag­gres­sion is neatly con­cealed in this Sports Edi­tion’s aero­dy­namic pack, which in­cludes a rear spoiler and large 20in Draco al­loys.

I think it looks even tastier than the CTS (I know Sony dis­agrees with me here) and that’s a huge

achieve­ment when you con­sider the XF has been largely un­changed since 2011. It re­ally is age­ing well.

It’s helped in­fin­itely that Jaguar has now given the XF a brand new 3.0-litre su­per­charged V6 like the F-Type’s, while the other note­wor­thy piece of kit is an eight­speed ’box. Add to this a stan­dard stop-start func­tion and you’ll be sav­ing yourself a few trips to the pumps. It gets back just un­der 12 litres per 100km, but I know what you’re think­ing; what’s a 3.0-litre V6, al­beit su­per­charged, do­ing un­der the bon­net?

Like you, I too have grown ac­cus­tomed to fe­ro­cious V8s pro­vid­ing the grunt from the en­gine bay of Jaguars. But this V6 isn’t want­ing in power. It churns out a very healthy 340bhp at 6,500rpm and has 450Nm of torque at 3,500rpm. It’s barely try­ing, yet the num­bers are very im­pres­sive; it ac­tu­ally feels as torquey as the 5.0-litre su­per­charged V8. Top speed is limited to 250kph or it’d keep right on go­ing, and it’ll hit 0-100kph in 5.9 sec­onds. On the move, it feels lighter than the big V8 and it’s al­most as if it has a spring in its step. It’s per­fectly bal­anced too and, over­all, it’s a hap­pier car than ever.

There’s fur­ther good news when you step into the cabin; it’s suave and so­phis­ti­cated in here, not to men­tion very com­fort­able and loaded with tech­nol­ogy.

The gear se­lec­tor rises up from its rest­ing po­si­tion in the neat cen­tre con­sole, which is dom­i­nated by the touch­screen nav­i­ga­tion, and even though this is an old party trick, it’s one that still brings about a smile. The leather, wood and alu­minium trim oozes class and the fit and fin­ish is good. Just not as good as the Caddy.

The sat­nav doesn’t have the quick­est of re­ac­tions and a big­ger screen would be nice. Leg- and

head­room are more than ad­e­quate for front-seat pas­sen­gers but due to the slop­ing roofline, space for those at the back is at a pre­mium.

The CTS on the other hand has slightly more room and more kit but it can’t com­pete with the Jag in terms of per­for­mance. This is where the XF re­ally shines. It ac­cel­er­ates in such an ef­fort­less man­ner that no­body will miss the dis­con­tin­ued base 5.0-litre V8. For a large car mea­sur­ing 4,961mm in length and weigh­ing in at 1,752kg, it feels ag­ile. In the cor­ners, it ex­hibits plenty of grip and even though the steer­ing lacks a lit­tle feed­back and it doesn’t growl like the V8, it’s still en­joy­able to drive. But best of all, it rides as smoothly as a proper Jag should.

Sony’s CTS

Re­cently I drove the new CTS sa­loon and came away truly im­pressed. Ev­ery­thing about that car lived up to GM’s claim that the new CTS will help make Cadil­lac ‘a com­pelling, con­vinc­ing and fully cred­i­ble’ lux­ury brand. Cadil­lac ap­pears to have amended what­ever it lacked in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions when com­pared to the high and mighty Ger­man ri­vals.

The new CTS con­vinced me that af­ter many years of hits and misses, Cadil­lac has fi­nally es­tab­lished it­self as a brand wor­thy to be seen as a cred­i­ble ri­val to the tra­di­tional favourites, and even Jaguar, which al­ways had an edge when it came to badge ap­peal.

Al­though the XF has been around a while, it still man­ages to turn a few heads. But parked side by side, it’s clear that the CTS has a def­i­nite ad­van­tage with its stun­ningly re­freshed lines, which man­age to look sharp and con­tem­po­rary with­out be­ing loud or taste­less like some of the pre­vi­ous mod­els were.

Adding to these looks are the prom­i­nent LEDs up front and at the rear and the im­pres­sive at­ten­tion to de­tail that gives the Caddy an up­scale aura that’s miss­ing in the Jag. Things are no dif­fer­ent in­side ei­ther, where the Cadil­lac, with its thor­oughly mod­ern cabin de­sign, im­pres­sive er­gonomics and high­qual­ity ma­te­ri­als scores over the XF’s dated in­te­rior.

Thanks to light­weight con­struc­tion tech­niques, near-per­fect weight dis­tri­bu­tion, Mag­netic Ride Con­trol real-time damp­ing sys­tem and the stiffer core struc­ture, the CTS ac­tu­ally drives like a sport­scar, and ex­hibits a kind of dy­namism that matches or even bet­ters the XF. The sus­pen­sion is tuned to per­fec­tion and the nicely weighted steer­ing’s feed­back has the same im­me­di­acy as the smaller ATS’s.

All that is im­pres­sive, but the CTS dis­ap­points when it comes to what re­ally mat­ters. The 3.6-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V6 pales in com­par­i­son to the Jaguar’s peppy su­per­charged 3.0-litre. At 321bhp, it’s got 19 fewer horses than the XF and 77Nm less torque at 373Nm. How­ever, the Jag costs con­sid­er­ably more at Dh279,000, whereas the top­spec CTS we drove comes with a price tag of Dh245,000.

Ver­dict

The CTS is newer, more strik­ing, has a bet­ter in­te­rior, han­dles well and costs less than the XF. That makes it a bet­ter choice, right? Yes, but not in the 3.6-litre V6 guise. The smaller, 2.0-litre turbo CTS is a su­pe­rior deal; its en­gine is more mod­ern and live­lier with 400Nm of twist.

If you’ve de­cided against the Jag de­spite its virtues, and there are plenty of them, the CTS 2.0 is the one to have. But do they have enough go­ing for them to be men­tioned in the same breath as their Ger­man coun­ter­parts? To­tally. They’d eas­ily make it into the top five, but they wouldn’t be oc­cu­py­ing the top two places...

Jaguar has given the XF a brand new 3.0-litre su­per­charged V6 like the F-Type’s

MO­TOR­ING

The Cadil­lac’s 3.6-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V6 pales in com­par­i­son to Jaguar’s peppy of­fer­ing

MO­TOR­ING i IN­SIDE INFO Specs & rat­ings Model CTS 3.6 En­gine 3.6-litre V6 Trans­mis­sion Eight-speed auto, RWD Max power 321bhp @ 4,800rpm Max torque 373Nm @ 6,800rpm Top speed NA 0-100kph NA Price Dh206,000 Plus Ex­cel­lent value, dy­namic per­for­mance, looks

Mi­nus Ride isn’t as solid and weighted as the Ger­mans’ i IN­SIDE INFO Specs & rat­ings Model XF 3.0 En­gine 3.0-litre V6 su­per­charged Trans­mis­sion Eight-speed auto, RWD Max power 340bhp @ 6,500rpm

Max torque 450Nm @ 3,500rpm Top speed 250kph 0-100kph 5.9sec Price Dh279,000 Plus Creamy en­gine, great bal­ance be­tween sporty & lux­u­ri­ous

Mi­nus Ex­pen­sive

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