Put through the paces: Jaguar XK and XK-R

Joining the infamous Jaguar two-door sports car family is the 2012 XK and XK-R. Starting at a base price of around $85k with the XK and rising to just above $100k with the R badge.

The base model XK, though the normally aspirated of the two, is no slouch. The free breathing V8 brings a healthy 385 Bhp in at 6500rpm and supplies 380lbs of torque at a lowly 3500rpm. All that power is put to the rear wheels via crisp six speed electronic paddle shifters. Keeping it shiny side up is Jaguar’s own adaptable traction and stability control systems.

When you’re taking it easy in automatic it’s easy to sit back and appreciate the luxury of the roomy and finely crafted interior. Neither the driver nor front passenger will ever complain about getting cramped. Only plan on bringing along one friend though. The back seats are a joke even if those two extra friends are double leg amputees.

When you finally do put the power down and hit those country roads this cat comes alive. If at all possible go for the soft top, on a nice day regrets are impossible. The suspension is soft enough to hit bumps and potholes without a second thought but firm enough to handle the corners like a pro.

The XK-R takes the range to the next level. Combining the same snappy transmission as the XK, stiffer suspension and the added supercharger you can tell where Jag is heading with this one. The R model gets a massive 510 horses blown into it and a tire melting 461lbs of torque to up the ante. These figures make for an exciting ride through the corners as well as add to the auditory experience. Select ‘R’ on the shifter knob and the exhaust opens up to a symphony of a baritone V8 and the soprano supercharger. Driver be warned though, while lateral grip of the XK-R is impressive mid-corner, exiting a corner can be hair-raising. The rear tires spin under power all too easy and you may be hard pressed to tell when they do let go.

Stiff suspension or not the convertible is the way to go on either model based on vocals alone. With the top down on a nice day you wont care how may bumps you hit. And when stringing a few switchbacks together you’ll be glad you only have one friend because the legless guys in the back would’ve only upset your weight distribution…

Put through the paces : Jaguar XF-R

Priced just shy of the 100k mark, the Jaguar XF-R enters serious territory. The XF-R is Britain’s answer to Germany’s beefed up GT cars: Audi RS6, BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG.

When you first step into the XF-R it feels like an executive GT sedan should. There is plenty of room both for driver and passenger, even 6+ footers like me. The options and accommodations help drive home the luxury car feel as well. Heated and ventilated seats along with a simply laid out console makes any long drive more than enjoyable.

As you start to explore more of the car’s options you notice where the sporting feel creeps in. Alcantara roof lining and bits of carbon fiber catch your eye and you wonder why racing materials are in your GT sedan. As you customize the seat adjustments to your liking you notice you can bring the side supports in for a real bucket seat hugging feel. Next you see the setting marked ‘R’ on the gear selector and you’re not NOT going to put it into Race mode… then you hit the accelerator and it all makes sense.

A 5.0-liter super charged V-8 burbles back at you, the burble turns to a grunt and then a roar with the unmistakable whine of a super charger. Before you know it you’re above highway speeds and you realize you weren’t even close to half throttle. Give it the full weight of your right foot and the big cat will do 60 mph from a stand still in 4.7 seconds.

Taking the materials and the acceleration time away from a compromised track car, the XF-R could easily be mistaken for one… on paper. After driving around English backcountry roads all afternoon you’ll learn it is the furthest thing from it. Even with the larger wheels, low profile tires and stiffer spec’d suspension than the base model it rides incredibly smooth. Despite the 1 ton weight, the executive 4 door can handle country corners with ease and still absorb the ancient Roman road work.

In the fight against the Germans the Brits have brought a serious contender. The simplicity and user-friendly capability definitely swings in the Jag’s favor. The power and everyday drivability makes this beast the healthy alternative to the Bavarian big 3.

Following Cadillac: Looking Forward

“History repeats itself”, one of the most used cliché’s in the English language. Nevertheless, a cliché that proves itself true time and time again. For a certain car company, I would imagine they are banking on that.

In 2002 Cadillac unveiled the Cien concept at the Detroit Auto show. With a 950 bhp, mid-mounted 7.5 liter V-12, a design inspired by the F-22 Raptor and an exotic European stance, it looked like the epitome of what a performance car should be. Sadly, though, it was never to be put into production. It was more of Cadillac just flexing their muscles.

Now jump forward 8 or 9 years. Cadillac has, arguably, one of the best performance sedans and coupes in its class. Coincidence? I think not. When car companies produce a concept never to see light or even a halo car that makes it to production, the trickle down effect is inevitable. The CTS-V may not have a 950 horse V-12 in the back seats, but if you dilute and filter the Cien enough you sure would come close to it. And that’s saying a lot.

The point I’m trying to make is that Cadillac is at it again. Cadillac unveiled the Ciel at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. One of the most prestigious car shows in the world. It is home to the most expensive and luxurious cars known to man, past and present.

The Ciel is powered by a twin turbo 3.6 hybrid V-6. I know that doesn’t sound like much compared to Cadillac’s of old nor does it even hold a candle to a Rolls or a Bentley V-(insert large number). But that’s because Cadillac is aiming this luxury car at the 99%ers, if you will. The level of luxury however could easily be mistaken for a 1%er. From the swooping lines and suicide doors on the outside to the smooth olive wood dash and elegant yet simplistic interior, it robs from the rich and gives to the middle class. Passengers, who you might mistake for the owners, have more   than enough room for comfort. The headroom has to be measured in miles due to the drop top.

If Cadillac follows a similar path to that of the Cien to CTS-V route, starting with the Ciel, the possibilities are limitless. At the very least I would suspect a car that could easily compete with the top range BMWs, Mercs and Audis in the luxury and grandeur department yet still be half the price.

If history has anything to say about it, the Germans should start to worry… again.

Following Cadillac: Forerunners Again

My ’93 Cadillac STS had loads of luxury items that lots of other ’93 cars did not. This is in part because GM would always test new options on Cadillacs as standard equipment. In High School I was rockin’ out with Bose Gold series speakers, CD and cassette player, heated seats and adjustable lumbar support to go with it. Even though I graduated in 2007 I imagine I would have been the coolest kid on the block in 1993.

But this luxury equipment was all with in GM. Countless other luxury cars had these options as well. Cadillac didn’t stand out as it once did. They weren’t the first to do anything ground breaking for a long time.

As of recently that has all changed. Cadillac has introduced CUE. The Cadillac User Experience. Cadillac has just become the first company to use tablet technology that is fully integrated in the car right off the production line. The system simplifies the user experience of in car infotainment. Cadillac has gone back to its grass roots and brought to production something that will be copied and imitated by other car companies. And all for the better. They’re back as forerunners in in-car technology for once. With help from CUE Cadillac is dusting of there old motto of being “the standard of the world”.

 

Following Cadillac: Converj – A New Direction

“Today marks the new beginning of GM”. The GM boss Rick Wagoner said this at the first showing of the Converj concept in early 2009. To put the scale of the situation and the weight of those words into context, a very brief Cadillac history lesson… Through out it’s prime Cadillac was known for its big displacement engines and countless cylinders. But in the late 70s the US went into a fuel crisis and Cadillac had to down size its whole line of cars and engines to cope. Sadly, it seems, Cadillac was not prepared. Small cars and small engines?, un-traveled territory for Cadillac for many decades. In the following years Cadillac fell far from ‘The Standard of The World’ pedestal that it had long been perched on.

Fast-forward to today’s fuel crisis and Cadillac faces a similar problem. Having reinvented themselves recently they are poised to win this title rematch in the global arena.


 GM have recently approved (then canceled, then re approved) the Converj concept for production. Having the under pinning of the successful Chevy Volt, the Voltec hybrid system. The system is described as a fuel assisted EV. Which essentially means, on paper at least, it is a plug in hybrid that scarcely visits the pump (once a year theoretically). The exciting bit and the part that plays into Cadillac’s hands is that’s where the Chevy stops.

Aside from what makes it go everything this car is a Cadillac. With the new direction of styling that Cadillac is going in and their new level of luxury, this is exactly what Cadillac needs to come out on top. When the average person thinks of a hybrid, nothing exciting or grand comes to mind. Sure there is a Lexus or two that uses a hybrid system but they’re over priced and not nearly as efficient.  Cadillac is using a unique system that works which is built upon the brand’s new standard of luxury.

The Coverj concept is definitely the 1-2 combo Cadillac needs to battle through this generation’s fuel crisis. It shows that you don’t need to sacrifice style and luxury for efficiency. Well played Cadillac, well played.

Following Cadillac: The New Mantra

Since about 2004 Cadillac has redesigned its self to compete with the European luxury brands. However, now a days it isn’t enough to just be a lofty road yacht. To compete you also have to have power, performance and sleek modern styling along with the first class comforts. Below I posted 2 Commercials that aired in the U.S that show Cadillac’s new intentions. Both videos make claims to a heritage once forgotten. I believe that Cadillac are on the right track to prove to a new generation that they once were the standard of the world and are gunning to retake that crown.

Following Cadillac: A brief history

Named after the founder of Detroit its self, Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac, the Cadillac Automobile Company had a meteoric rise to fame with in the industry. The company was founded by Henry Leland in 1902 and bought by General Motors in 1909. But by 1908 it had already won the prestigious Dewar Trophy from the Royal Automobile Club of England by showing off its capabilities of interchangeable parts in a reliability test. Thus being the first American Automotive company to win the coveted award. Cadillac went on to win the award a second time in 1912 for putting state of the art electric lighting, starting and ignition technologies into a production car. It is from this foundation that the company acquired the slogan ‘Standard of the World’.

There are many primal amenities that your car contains that were pioneered and first put into production by Cadillac. Cadillac was the first car company to put into production cars with fully enclosed cabs protecting the occupants from the elements. Simple yet ahead of the curve. Probably thought to be the most logical system on a car today was first introduced by Cadillac making the act of driving and learning to drive elementary: accelerator pedal on the right, brake to the left of that and clutch to the left of the brake. Systems that came before what we have today were much more complicate and not very user friendly. Also worth mentioning in 1964 Cadillac introduced the first climate control system allowing the driver and passengers to set desired temperatures with automatic heating and A/C. And for those reading who know how a modern transmission works, Cadillac also introduced the first clash-less syncromesh transmission. It was innovations such as these that hoisted the company to be the premier car company in the U.S and to what the world looked to for the new standard in the industry.

In 1927 Cadillac introduced ‘designer styled’ body work as opposed to the function following form, auto-engineered cars driving around at the time. From then on Cadillac was recognized by its outrageous styling. As the trunk lids and hoods stretched and grew to aircraft carrier credibility, there was more room to play with when it came to styling. In the 50s and 60s some companies went the route of jet age styling and designed fins into the bodywork. Cadillac went above and beyond, as was their nature. The Tail fins that Caddys ran with were comparable to tail fins on actual planes at the time. So much so that it be came a signature dish for them for years to come. Even the new models that Cadillac produces references those tall taillights of the era.

Trouble struck in the late 70s. With Gas prices rocketing and the market plummeting it was beginning to look like Cadillac had dug its self into a whole. From the late 70s all the way through the 90s and the early part of the 00s Cadillac was far from the standard of the world. With European manufacturers taking the reigns, Cadillac struggled to produce a truly desirable car in way of styling or luxury (apart from the ’93 STS of course). Around 2004-2005 there was a big overhaul and plan to get back on top selling a world standard car to the upper echelon of society. Up until this point the type of person buying a Cadillac probably got discounts at restaurants and went to bed around 5pm… a loyal Cadillac customer of yesteryear then. Going after the European companies that knocked Caddy of the top of the podium, they are going in the direction of performance luxury. Their new philosophy is ‘Art and Science’. The bold sharp lines used in the new designs are supposed to evoke a feeling that cutting edge technology designed the cars while the inside translates that cutting edge technology is used to work the car. Theses are just small steps in the direction of a contemporary standard of the world.