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Road and Track: Cadillac CTS-V vs. Jaguar XFR

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[source: Road and Track]

Comparison Test: 2009 Cadillac CTS-V vs. 2010 Jaguar XFR

Different wrappers, same creamy filling: a supercharged V-8 and rear drive.


When a Cadillac CTS-V and the brand-new Jaguar XFR arrived at our offices, it was obvious a proper road trip was in order. But not just any old road trip would do. We needed to take these two pinnacles of sports-sedan-dom on an epic adventure, somewhere they could stretch their really long legs. After all, the CTS-V and XFR pack some serious heat, armed with 500-plus-bhp supercharged V-8s, suitably stiffened and electronically adjustable suspension systems, big brakes, limited-slip differentials and properly sporting interiors. Since a run up the RV-bogged California coast simply wasn't going to cut it this time, Road Test Editor Jonathan Elfalan and I packed our bags, grabbed our sunglasses and iPods and headed northeast toward Utah, in search of wide-open spaces, beautiful scenery and incredible driving roads.

A few scorched tires and a couple of speeding tickets later, we found all of the above. Plus a new super sedan king.

2010 Jaguar XFR

Points: 375.4

The 2010 XFR easily ranks as one of the most impressive cars ever to come from Jaguar. What makes the XFR truly "leap" is an all-new direct-injected V-8 dubbed the AJ-V8 Gen III R. This 5.0-liter actually takes up less space in the engine bay than its 4.2-liter predecessor (it's shortened by 0.94 in.) due to the relocation of the oil pump within the engine architecture, while the weight has remained virtually unchanged.

But it's the 4-lobe Roots-type supercharger that steals the show here, the high-helix rotor design pretty much making supercharger whine a thing of the past. Power and torque have jumped by 23 percent and 12 percent, respectively, from the previous 4.2-liter supercharged engine's, the new XFR putting out 510 bhp at 6000 rpm and 461 lb.-ft. of torque at a low 2500 rpm. It's that abundance of low-end torque that makes the Jag powerplant such a sweet piece to use, Elfalan calling it "a jewel with a nice snarl," and praising the V-8's "torque band that's broader and comes in lower than the CTS-V's." Although the Caddy has more torque — 551 lb.-ft. — it's produced at a higher 3800 rpm, making it more common to find yourself in one of those "wait for it" moments. With the XFR, power is always there and seemingly never-ending, like a jet airplane on takeoff.

Handling transmission duty in the Jag is ZF's 6HP28 6-speed automatic gearbox — enhanced with additional clutch plates and an upgraded torque converter to accommodate the engine's extra power. The result is 0–60 mph in 4.3 seconds. While it's true the CTS-V accomplishes the same feat 0.2 sec. quicker, it's impressive that the Jag stays as close to the Caddy as it does, considering the CTS-V has more power, a manual transmission and is 275 lb. lighter.

For the most part, the Jag's paddle-shift automatic is a pleasure to use, with seamless shifts in full automatic operation and quick gearchanges in Manual mode accompanied by strong throttle blips on downshifts, along with what we believe is the industry's largest gear indicator when in Dynamic mode. Two annoyances: In Manual mode, the transmission doesn't automatically downshift to 1st gear when you come to a stop, leaving you launching in 2nd gear if you forget to shift it down yourself. And occasionally the system won't let you downshift manually if it thinks the revs are too high.

Jaguar has long been known for an ability to tune a great ride/handling suspension compromise, and the new XFR keeps the faith thanks to its computer-controlled suspension called Adaptive Dynamics. The system automatically adjusts the Bilstein shock absorbers to suit both the road conditions and the way in which the car is being driven. Switch the XFR to Dynamic mode, and the throttle, stability control, transmission and suspension responses are set to even more aggressive levels.

Despite its size and weight, the XFR truly is a spry cat, one that can be thrown into a corner with a ton of confidence. It's only in comparison to the oh-so-serious CTS-V that the Jag falters slightly. It's then you notice the XFR's variable-ratio steering is too light and lacks precision, its suspension is set a touch softer and the Dunlop tires are a bit less grippy. Still, the XFR is a playful machine that's very controllable at the limit, aided by Jaguar's new electronic limited-slip rear differential — it gives all the handling and traction benefits of a mechanical diff, while dialing out initial turn-in understeer and eliminating low-speed diff noise.

And, given a choice of Caddy or Jag to drive from Utah back to California, Elfalan and I fought over the smoother-riding Jag...literally.

The level of workmanship throughout the XFR's interior is superb, and every feature imaginable comes standard at the car's $80,000 as-tested price. We couldn't get enough of the Jag's superbly stitched leather, plush Alcantara headliner and soothing Phosphor Blue interior lighting. Sure, the automatically opening vent outlets and rising gearshift knob are a bit gimmicky, but we like them anyway. Some, though, have questioned the "Jaguar-ness" of both the interior and exterior styling — neither seems particularly British.

But for most, what will matter is that the XFR is a fantastic sports sedan. While the standard XF and XF Supercharged were already fine-driving machines, the new XFR version jumps this cat to a whole new level of performance.

2009 Cadillac CTS-V

Points: 384.9

Few cars have been more heralded of late than Cadillac's second-generation CTS-V. First, the car set a lap record for production sedans at the Nürburgring (R&T, August 2008). Next, we set up a lap-time grudge match between BMW's legendary M5 and the CTS-V (R&T, October 2008), with the Cadillac nipping the mighty German.

So the CTS-V comes standard with hype. But contrary to what you might think for a car equipped with a version of the Corvette ZR1's supercharged V-8, what stands out the most about the CTS-V is not its power, but rather its superb handling. Much of the credit here goes to the use of magneto-rheological shock absorbers. The system's electronic sensors "read the road" every millisecond, constantly adjusting the damping to control the car's body motions. Changing the Caddy's suspension from Tour to Sport mode further ups the 4-door sports-car quotient. Body roll gets significantly checked, the car taking on a "hunkered-down set," as Elfalan put it. The levels of grip and confidence let you attack corners as if you were in a much lighter sports car.

The variable-effort steering is quick and precise in normal use. But switch the car's stability system to Competitive mode, or fully off, and extra steering effort is automatically dialed in. The result? Near perfect weighting. Grip is plentiful from the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s, to the tune of 0.90g around the skidpad and an impressive 70.1 mph through the slalom, bettering the previous CTS-V's numbers of 0.87g and 66.0 mph, respectively.

The CTS-V's pushrod 6.2-liter V-8 (called the LSA), as with the Jag XFR, uses a Roots-type 4-lobe supercharger to achieve 556 bhp at 6100 rpm and 551 lb.-ft. of torque at 3800 rpm. But unlike the raucous and beastly LS9 upon which the engine is based, the Caddy's V-8 exhibits a surprisingly muted sound, even under full throttle at high revs. The Jag sounds more muscular, largely due to intake manifold pressure pulsations ducted into its cabin.

Muted or not, the CTS-V isn't slow, launching to 60 mph in just 4.1 sec. and scorching the quarter mile in 12.3, besting the XFR by 0.2 and 0.3 sec., respectively. By 130 mph, the CTS-V is 1.7 sec. ahead of the lesser powered Jag. Drag launches are one thing, but out in the real world, when you're not always in the gear you need to be, the CTS-V feels softer than the Jag low in the rev range.

All credit to Cadillac for continuing to offer the CTS-V with a 6-speed manual (for the first time, a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters is also available). The new Tremec TR6060 transmission features a more user-friendly dual-disc clutch, while the whole unit has been significantly strengthened versus the previous T56 to handle the CTS-V's newfound torque. Shift quality is far superior to that of the old gearbox, but the throws are still on the longish side.

Similarly impressive are the CTS-V's Brembo brakes, 15.0-in. rotors with 6-piston calipers up front and 14.7-in. rotors with 4-piston calipers at the rear. The pedal feel defines the term "rock solid," giving supreme confidence when pushing the car hard on a twisty mountain road. The same can't be said for the XFR; its brakes were touchy around town and then became mushy with significantly increased pedal travel during the same period of exuberant driving.

The CTS-V's interior has seen drastic improvements. The cheap plastics of the previous model are gone and the styling has grown up, although the breastplate-like center stack stays true to Caddy's modern Art and Science theme. The Alcantara-covered steering wheel and shift lever are nice touches, although the wheel could use thicker padding. As good as the interior is, the CTS-V's is still not a match for the Jaguar's in terms of quality and presentation. Our biggest complaint focused on the optional Recaro sport seats — while their electrically adjustable bolsters offer great amounts of lateral support, the concave shape of the upper seatback combined with the forward cant of the headrest made for uncomfortable long stints.

Optional seat issues aside, the CTS-V proved to be an amazing machine, and definitely lives up to the hype that surrounds it.


As you might have noticed, the CTS-V undercuts the XFR's base price by $21,230. Not small change, for sure. But Elfalan and I decided, initially at least, to judge the cars simply on their own merits regardless of price, and let the price-sensitive points work themselves out later.

As it turned out, the CTS-V didn't need its lower price to help it beat the Jag, accomplishing the feat purely on its own outstanding abilities. The CTS-V won every Performance category save fuel economy, putting the XFR at a severe deficit it couldn't make up, despite a very strong showing in our Subjective ratings.

Although it might not look like the battle was close strictly from a numbers standpoint, people generally don't choose cars based on a points scale. This was proven, no less, by the fact that Elfalan and I were split on our personal picks — Elfalan choosing the Jag and I, the Caddy.

So what can we take from this? If you're looking for a supremely smooth, powerful and comfortable super sedan, you can't go wrong with the new Jag. If all-out performance is your thing, and you can accept small sacrifices in comfort and quality, the CTS-V is the new super sedan king. And at a bargain price, we might add.

In My Opinion I don't consider myself an avid Jaguar fan, but the XFR is an exception. While the CTS-V ultimately outguns this Jag in performance, the XFR can certainly hold its own (not to mention a gear) on a back road. The main difference is the Jag does so with the added benefits of superior comfort, sophistication and a surprisingly more sonorous exhaust note. If there ever was a perfect car to powerslide while listening to classical music, the Jaguar XFR would be it.

— Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor

Both of these sedans are so terrific, it seems a shame to choose sides. While there are few cars I can think of better suited to long miles of sports touring than the Jaguar XFR, I have to side with the more precise-handling Cadillac CTS-V. That the CTS-V is available with a manual transmission, unlike the Jag, doesn't hurt its case, either. I'm utterly impressed with the huge improvement over the old V, yet still at a bargain price. Just don't order the Recaro seats!

— Mike Monticello, Feature Editor

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