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
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?
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.
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.
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
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