2009 Cadillac CTS-V vs. 2010 Jaguar XFR

A7XFan22

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Source: Motor Trend
Written By: Edward Loh


The last time we did this (Mirror, Mirror, July 2009) the American vanquished the mighty Bavarian with a brutal 1-2 combo of power and balance. But that was something of a hollow victory; merely a warm up bout between a surly young whippersnapper and an aging fighter past his prime. Sure, the BMW M5 once stood uncontested atop the luxury sports sedan field, but that was years ago. In the interim, fitter more ferocious combatants have stepped into the 'Ring.

Like the new challenger from Britain, the 2010 Jaguar XFR. Coventry's younger and more powerful bruiser outpoints the SMG equipped M5 in nearly every one of our instrumented tests. On numbers alone, the XFR is clearly a more formidable opponent to the Cadillac's CTS-V.

In physical and historical context, the new Jaguar also measures up better against the Cadillac. Both draw strength from large displacement V-8s enhanced by Roots type superchargers. Both send power rearward via six-speed automatics and stalk about on magnetic fluid-filled dampers. Both were mentored by some of the best corner men in the business, Jaguar chief engineer Mike Cross and former GM Performance Division director and test ace, John Heinricy. Most notably, both are struggling to wrest the luxury performance mantle from Germany and return glory to their storied, resurgent marques. But so far, only one has succeeded in dispatching a heavyweight German rival. Can Coventry's battle cat take the belt away from our American hero?

The Jaguar doesn't skip to battle like an English dandy to a duel -- all top hat, gloves and stretchy tights. There is high style and menace to the way it swaggers down country lanes, like a footy hooligan stuffed into a Saville Row three piece. This is a classic British sports saloon -- thoughtfully designed, elegantly executed, with one hell of a right cross -- the automotive equivalent of Lennox Lewis.

If there is anything to criticize the XFR on visually, it is that there isn't enough distinction between it and the lesser XFs in the range. Badging aside, XFR upgrades amount to a front bumper with larger inlets (to feed the twin intercoolers), more deeply drawn rocker panels, quad exhaust pipes and the slightest of rear spoilers. The most braggadocio is left for the twin XFR-specific hood vents and wheel centers whereupon 'supercharged' is engraved. Perhaps too subtle, but very British.

In comparison, the CTS-V has gone too far the other way. In an attempt to give their sedan some extra edge, Cadillac stylists have succeeded only in making it appear slab sided and overwrought. No doubt extending the lower leading edges of the bumpers and side skirts provides visual drama and perhaps improves aerodynamics, but these changes also add more angles -- too many -- to the already sharp looking CTS. The chiseled hood bulge adds even more creases to a shape that could seriously use some softening.

If the Cadillac looks a bit dated on outside, then that criticism can be lobbed about aspects of the Jaguar's interior. XF-R surfaces are generally more handsome and expensive feeling than those found in the CTS-V. There is less shiny plastic and chromed bits, and the exterior performance mesh theme carries on in an elegant manner, but the metallic tone, blue backlit controls are aging quickly. This is the problem with chasing the designs of our modern age, as XF interior designers did when they aped Motorola's best selling Razr cellphone. When most of your customers have moved on to the latest iPhone, who wants to be reminded of a five year old flip phone? Thankfully there is some touchscreen slickness in both sedans, and in terms of presentation and utility, both sedans recoup points -- but still trail the Germans. Driving position is a toss up: the XFR delivers smoother paddle shifts and more initial seating comfort, but the Cadillac has better outward visibility, quicker steering, and racier Recaros.

While these two warriors feature similar powertrains and suspensions, the tale of the tape reveals that they are not the dimensional equals of the first round. While the M5 and CTS-V were mirror images of each other, the Jaguar is 3.7 inches longer, 1.4 inches wider and half an inch lower than the Cadillac. Significantly, the Jaguar is not nearly as powerful for all of its size and heft.

With a mere 510 horsepower, the Jaguar's 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 gives up 46 horsepower to the Cadillac's similarly blown 6.2-liter V-8. A 90 pound-feet gap in torque (551 vs 461) separate the two, which is considerable given the XFR's 4378 pound fighting weight. Pound for pound, the Caddy weighs less, and hits harder.

Yet at the track, the two are but an eye blink apart through the quarter-mile. At launch they are even through 30 mph. By 40 mph, the Jaguar is a tenth quicker. At 60 it's a tenth behind (4.4 seconds to the CTS-V's 4.3). That lead holds to 100 mph and past the finish line as the CTS-V clicks off a 12.6 second run at 114.6 mph. The XFR is 7.9 feet behind -- 0.1 second and 0.5 mph slower. They don't get much closer than that.

That both 4200+ pound sedans can hit 60 in under 4.5 seconds is as mind warping as their ability to stop from that speed in less than 110 feet. Only three feet separate the two at rest but there is a profound difference in the way they feel under full deceleration. This is primarily a difference in suspension tuning rather than brake set up, as the Jaguar noses down more under load. The Cadillac? It just stops. Fast.

Handling also favors the CTS-V, facts supported on our figure 8 course where the Cadillac breezes through 0.8 seconds quicker. The skidpad is where the real story is told, as the CTS-V outgrips the XFR by a considerable margin, 0.94 g vs 0.87 g. It is in this realm that the CTS-V clearly KOs the XFR. Though the CTS-V has a distinct advantage in total engine output and pure speed, it is the Jaguar's velvet hammer shifts, bottomless pit of pull and enthralling exhaust note that drew raves from our staff. Same goes for the overall fit, finish, and styling. The two were close, but the judges gave the nod to the Jaguar's sexpot-with-a-switchblade attitude. So how does the CTS-V beat an XF-R that looks and launches better? With the same knockout combination it used to fell the M5 -- the exquisite balance of luxurious ride and full race handling.

To be fair, the XFR is no slouch on regular roads at sane speeds. Most preferred its long legged grace and single-malt-smooth ride. Problems begin as you pick up the pace; the XFR chassis weights up and the tires begin to complain and to lose grip. Even with the sharpened steering, suspension, and throttle responses of Dynamic Mode, the Jaguar loses handling clarity and composure as the turns pile up. Steering becomes muddled and the nose bobs and weaves, as though the magnetically juiced struts can't contain all the shifting mass. At this point, aggressive traction control cuts in and out, which is good, because the XFR will go headlong in to a barrier if you let it.

As the XFR comes apart, the CTS-V only gets better. In situations where the Jaguar goes light in front and tail happy, the Caddy hunkers down, poised to pounce. Front grip is tremendous and near telepathic steering feel through the fuzzy Alacantara trimmed wheel is surprising for a vehicle so massive and massively overpowered. Yet it absolutely adores high speed direction changes and devours all manner of corners - banked, off camber, decreasing radius, blue sky - with equal gusto. Sure, it will also step sideways through careless use of the throttle, but the difference is its oversteer is imminently controllable. Paddle shifts also feel a bit slower and rougher than in the XFR, but then you can just slot the lever to Sport mode and forget shifting entirely. That's the way Heinricy did it on his way to clocking a sub 8-minute lap around the Nurburging Nordschleife.

So while the Jaguar has the look and snarl of a backstreet brawler, the CTS-V packs the more potent punch of a pure driver's car. Who's the next contender? How about the Merc's E63 AMG?

First Place: Cadillac CTS-V
Dances like a butterfly, stings like a 556-hp bee. Lacks the flair of the XFR but exquisite ride and handling balance make it the superior driver's car.

Second Place: Jaguar XFR
Superior style and brilliant power delivery hide chassis limitations. Tail happiness at the limit discourages go-for-broke driving. Like Tyson, this one will bite you.
 
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