Jaguar XF & Cadillac CTS

| May 1, 2016

By Kelly Foss

Jaguar XF | STARTING PRICE: $52,000

When Jaguar’s XF first made its debut in 2007, it ushered in a dramatically new design aesthetic for the British car maker. Everything about the XF was thoroughly modern — ready to take on the new century in style.

Now, nine years later, the XF is all new again and poised to pounce like the predatory cat for which it is named. You have to look close, but it is indeed all new. “A few screws are all that we kept,” says Mike Bradley, senior launch manager. No sheet metal is shared; in fact, a lot of aluminum replaces a lot of steel. Take a walk around and you’ll notice a different nose and more upright glass, along with LED headlights to give this mid-size sedan some more dazzle. It does have an aggressive, catlike stance, befitting of its lineage.

Everything but the doors, trunklid, and rear floorpan are made of aluminum, and as Bradley pointed out, they retained what little steel there was to help with weight distribution. Lest you worry about safety, they did strategically place some steel inserts to bolster rigidity and crashworthiness. In all, the XF is about 75 percent aluminum and roughly 28 percent more rigid than before.

Driving the XF offers a dynamic experience that is everything you would expect, and maybe more. The XF is powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic, yielding 340 horsepower and a solid 332 lb.-ft. of torque. All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is optional. You get a nice growl from the engine without the whine of the supercharger, meaning interior noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) are kept to a minimum. Shifting is quick and smooth and hits 0-60 mph in just under five seconds. The electric power steering feels lively and points the car with laser-like precision. The XF rides on a mostly aluminum independent rear suspension and a double wishbone up front. This translates into a well-balanced ride that feels tight, smooth and well balanced.

Enthusiasts can opt for the XF-S, which offers the same turbocharged engine but with 40 more horses.

All that supercharged power juxtaposed with the lightweight aluminum design, means the XF gets up to 20 mpg in the city and up to 30 on the highway.

Inside, this Jag is a luxurious and elegant space without the opulence. Perhaps its most notable feature is the gear selector dial, which takes some getting used to but also makes a great conversation piece. A decent-sized center touch screen allows access to phone, navigation and audio functions, while actual knobs located just below allow operation of the climate control system. The leather seats offer a good deal of support, and as the car speeds up, it seems the cabin shrinks down and hugs itself around you.

Starting at about $52K and ranging into the mid $60s, the XF is a worthy challenger to its German counterparts.


Cadillac CTS | STARTING PRICE: mid $40s


If I had to sum up the 2016 Cadillac CTS in one word, that word would be options. That is to say, there is a CTS for everyone. Whether you’re looking for luxury, performance, or just plain old flash, there is a CTS that can satisfy.

First of all, Cadillac went to painstaking measures to lighten its popular four-door sedan. At 240 pounds lighter than the previous model, it is now the lightest rear-wheel drive sedan in its class, says Cadillac. The company adds, “Every gram of material in the CTS had to justify its existence.” What this translates to is a more agile, better performing vehicle.

Fortunately for Cadillac customers, that performance comes in a variety of options. The base model starts with a 268-horsepower, turbo-charged four cylinder mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It presents stiff competition for vehicles like BMW and Audi, offering both pep and growl in a highly refined package.

Other engine choices include the midline 3.6-liter V6 with 335 horsepower and 285 lb.-ft. of torque; as well as the heavyweight: a twin-turbo 3.6-liter that delivers a whopping 420 horsepower and 430 lb.-ft. of torque. The twin turbo, not surprisingly, is offered on rear-drive only models (AWD is optional for other powertrains) and is outfitted with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, an electronic limited slip differential and larger front brakes.

Obviously, as you scale up the spectrum of trim levels and engine choices, the CTS will drive and handle in proportional response. The naturally-aspirated V6 seems to be the best match for this luxury sedan, whose ride quality and performance seem both refined and well-balanced. It certainly feels agile, with little body roll in the corners. Steering feels crisp and nicely controlled. The cabin remains quiet despite the lighter weight of the vehicle, for a very solid feel.

Speaking of the cabin, everything seems to converge into one point, wrapping around the passengers and finishing nicely in the center stack. The interior trim is elegant, with a nice blend of wood, leather and metallic finishes. With its brightly lit gauges outlined in shiny nickel, it almost feels downright futuristic. Bluetooth, a Bose sound system and a CUE media center are just some of the luxuries in the CTS.

Four trim levels for the CTS include Standard, Luxury, Performance and Premium. The CTS-V Sport comes in base and Premium trims.

As for the enthusiasts out there, this year Cadillac rolled out the new CTS-V. Flash, sizzle and substance combine into one mighty fine performance sedan. It’ll hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, thanks to its mind-boggling 630-horsepower supercharged, 6.2-liter V8. And incidentally, it takes minimal driving experience to achieve those speeds. Merely engage the right settings, make sure it’s pointed straight ahead, floor the gas pedal and hold on.

The turbo I-4 starts in the mid $40s, which gives you zippy performance. From there you can scale up into the low $60s for an AWD premium. And if your budget allows, my CTS-V test vehicle was priced at a stratospheric $95K… but oh what fun it is to ride!

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Category: New Automobiles

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