Back-to-Back Road Test: 2013 Jaguar XJL Supercharged vs 2013 Cadillac XTS Platinum

As they say, “Go big or go home.”  Not really feeling like going home, I went big.  Cadillac XTS and Jaguar XJL big.  In days past, Cadillac and Jaguar both represented the pinnacle of big luxury sedans for their respective countries of origin.  Driving a 1960s Cadillac Sedan de Ville meant something.  It meant luxury.  It meant quality.  It meant you were driving the Cadillac of cars.  On the other side of the pond, driving a Jaguar Mark IX meant much the same, only with more tea. 

Then came the dark times.  Beginning in the mid-to-late seventies, the quality, reliability, beauty and desirability of both car makers tanked.  High gas prices, new safety and environmental regulations and all-around poor design haunted the once lauded luxury sedans.  It wasn’t until just recently that both brands turned themselves around.  Both Jaguar’s and Cadillac’s resurrections were signaled, first and foremost, by major design changes.  Cadillac adopted the “Art and Science” design strategy, and Jaguar thew out everything but the leaping cat hood ornament in favor of modern sleek designs.  Cutting edge techonolgy, a mile-long wish list of newfangled options and standard-setting performance followed soon after.

Having been a fan of both Jag and Caddy for as long as I can remember, I was very excited when the opportunity to drive the 2013 Jaguar XJL and the 2013 Jaguar XTS nearly back-to-back presented itself.  How are they?  Rest assured, the glory days of Cadillac and Jaguar are just beginning.  Which is better?  You’ll just have to keep reading to find out…

2013 Jaguar XJL Supercharged

Those familiar with the Jaguar XJs of yore will remember a traditional design with quad headlights, a long relatively flat hood, a tall greenhouse and lots of wood and leather inside.  A few years ago, all that changed.  The ye olde XJ was killed off with the introduction of an all new, sleeker, edgier and modern XJ.  At first, I was a bit unsure of the new design direction.  But, over time, my opinion changed.  

For 2013, Jaguar offers a cavalcade of trim levels and engine options for the XJ, ranging from the base XJ at $73,200 all the way to the (move over Rolls Royce Ghost) XJ Ultimate for $155,000.  Engines include a 3.0 liter supercharged V6 good for 340 horse, a 5.0 liter naturally aspirated V8 with 385 horse, a 5.0 liter supercharged V8 at 470 horse and the top dog 5.0 liter supercharged V8 with a whopping 510 horse.  Jaguar is releasing a 550 horse XJR for 2014, but for the sake of today’s article, we’re ignoring that one.

Our tester was a RWD Jaguar XJL Supercharged with the 470 horse supercharged 5.0 liter V8 and nearly every conceivable option.  Like I said, go big or go home, right?  Base price on the XJL Supercharged is $92,600 but ours priced out at $105,250.  What do you get for over $105k?  A lot:

  • Ultimate Black Metallic Exterior Color: Included
  • 20 Inch Orona Alloy Wheels with Performance Tires: $1,000
  • Leather Heated Steering Wheel: Included
  • Carbon Fiber Interior Trim: Included
  • Ivory Leather Seats with Jet Black Upper Fascia with Contrast Stitching and Jet Suedecloth Headliner: $775
  • Heated Windshield with Timer: $375
  • Illumination Package: $1,700
  • Rear Seat Comfort Pack: $3,500
  • Front Seat Massage: $800
  • Rear Seat Entertainment: $2,200
  • Adaptive Cruise Control: $2,300
  • 825W Meridian Sound System with 17 Speakers: Included
  • Bluetooth Streaming Audio: Included
  • Navigation: Included
  • DVD Player: Included
  • Hard Drive Good to Store Up To 10 CDs: Included
  • And, a Host of Standard Equipment

Suffice it to say, even with no additional options, the XJL Supercharged has pretty much every feature you could ever want and many you would have never thought of.  Okay, so that’s the back story.  Big, expensive, loaded Jag: Check.  Open road: Check.  Keys: Check.  Gas: Check.  Good to go.

Immediately upon getting into the 2013 XJL, you can really tell there is absolutely no relationship to the previous XJs apart from the Jaguar head in the middle of the steering wheel.  Gone is the slightly claustrophobic feeling.  Gone is the nineteenth century Englishman’s den styling.  The new XJ has a modern functional design and isn’t just spacious in terms of measurement.  It feels spacious.  No claustrophobia here.  The long curving dash reminds me of sitting at the helm of a yacht.  Visibility out of every window is great, except for the rear.  You can’t see much of anything out back.  The rear seats & trunk are too high and the window too small.

The seats are soft, comfortable and have eighteen-way adjustability so there is no reason not to find the perfect driving position.  Actually, it’s almost too adjustable.  I found myself fiddling forever trying to get just the right feel.  Thankfully there is memory, so you only have to do it once.  If you have a cold butt, back or both, you can turn on the furnace of a seat & seat back warmer to your desired setting.  If a baking bum is more your problem, the ventilated seats and seat backs will turn your toasty tuchus into a frigid rumpsicle in no time.  The huge 44.1 inch legroom rear seats get heating and cooling, too.  

As it was about 85 degrees outside, I opted for the ventilated seats and cranked my zone of the four-zone climate control to 66 degrees.  Great A/C!  As a person who frequently drives in Florida heat, this A/C was by far one of the best I’ve seen.  The massaging seats are nice too, though I wouldn’t recommend using them while driving, they may be a bit too relaxing.

Most of the car’s features are controlled via the eight-inch touchscreen.  Ever since I drove a Buick Reatta with a DOS touchscreen, I’ve had an illogical (but understandable) aversion to touchscreens.  The XJL’s is clear, convenient and (most importantly) intuitive to use.  Thankfully, temperature and audio controls are good, old fashioned knobs and buttons.  It’s actually a very good blend of touchscreen and physical controls.  

Which brings me to the seventeen-speaker Meridian Surround Sound Audio System.  Good gravy, it’s awesome!  Whether you’re modestly enjoying your Brahms best of or blasting Metallica, the treble is crisp and clear, the mid-range is flawless and the bass is defined with no distortion with the volume as high as my ears could handle.

Enough messing about, time to drive.  The Jaguar XJL has that pop-up, twisty knob for a transmission selector that Jaguar is so fond of.  It certainly looks cool, popping up when you turn on the car, but there is a little wobble and give in the knob itself that I don’t really like.  But, I’ll chalk it up to this being a test car that’s been driven and beaten to hell and back.  I twist the car to drive and set off.

This car has a lot of power.  Much more than I would expect in a 4,191 pound car.  The 470 horse and 424 pound-feet supercharged V8 propels the big Jag to 60 in about 4.9 seconds and will send the XJL Supercharged to a electronically limited top speed of 155 miles per hour.  Hitting the gas is a bit of a surreal experience.  You don’t really feel like a car that is 206.6 inches long and 74.6 inches wide should get up and go with quite that much spunk.  But it does.  The acceleration isn’t jarring, though.  Much like the XFR-S that we tested a few weeks back, the XJL Supercharged is smooth.  

The eight-speed gear box’s shifts are butter when in automatic or sport and very, very quick when using the paddle shifters.  Acceleration is linear and constant until you need to slow down.  And, when you slow down, you do so with a vengeance.  The big brakes slow you down to a crawl in no time.  In fact, when I first “tapped” the brakes to slow, I almost skidded to a stop.  It took a second to get used to them.  Slam on the brakes and you’ll go from 60 mph to stopped in about 103 feet. 

In a straight line, the steering is just as smooths as the trans.  Not a hint of drama which continues into the turns.  The XJL handles very (you guessed it) smoothly.  There is just the slightest hint of roll from the aluminum body in relatively high speed turns, but adaptive air suspension and Active Dynamics System cope nicely.  It’ll hit 0.88 g in the turns.  In regular driving, I couldn’t ask for a better driving car.  This isn’t a wallow-y Jaguar XJ of old.  The Jaguar XJL Supercharged definitely isn’t a boat, so no cause for seasickness.  It also isn’t a teeth-jarring super-sedan like the Audi RS6.  It balances perfectly between comfort and performance. 

I had the opportunity to really throw the car around a few off-camber turns with, shall we say, questionable traction.  I have to admit, the traction control, adaptive suspension and active differential made the entire experience decidedly less than terrifying for my passenger Cristina.  Turning all of the nanny-controls off and the big Jag was very, very easy to get back into line when forced into a drift.  (Yep, I drifted a $105k Jag XJL.  That was fun.)

After a few drifted corners, it was time to return the big Jaguar.  When I got in the car, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But, I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised.  Apart from some rear visibility issues (that are essentially alleviated by a rear-facing camera) and a wobbly gear selector, the 2013 Jaguar XJL Supercharged is a phenomenal car.  Even my passenger, wife and co-tester Crisina (who has always disliked Jaguars) was very impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the car.  To those looking for a big luxury sedan, take a look at the 2013 Jaguar XJ and XJL.  Is it better than the brand new 2013 Cadillac XTS?  You’ll have to continue reading to find out.

2013 Cadillac XTS Platinum

Cadillac, the favorite car of Johnny Cash, Elvis and several Presidents.  (Kennedy had a Lincoln and look what happened to him.)  The cars from the brand named after the founder of Detroit were so good that by referring to something as the Cadillac of whatever meant it was the best.  (Only one other car has had that honor, Duesenbergs led to the saying It’s a Doozy.)  Sometime in the mid-seventies, Cadillac was hobbled by the environmental laws championed by Ralph Nader, the death of design for American cars and an overall dearth of US automotive desirability.  

That lasted until Cadillac released the CTS in 2002.  At that point Caddy was back.  Their resurrection and complete brand makeover culminated with the release of the 2013 Cadillac XTS, the flagship big luxury sedan of the line.  If Johnny Cash was around today, he’d order his in Black Raven.

Having just driven the 2013 Jaguar XJL Supercharged, I thought it a good time to stack it up against the big Caddy.  Our tester was a FWD Cadillac XTS Platinum with a 304 horse 3.6 liter Direct Injection V6 and six-speed automatic gearbox.  Base price is $58,160.  Ours had a variety of options and came in at $62,470.  To be specific, here is the load-out of our tester Cadillac XTS Platinum:

  • Black Diamond Tricoat Paint: $995
  • Jet Black/Light Wheat, Opus Leather Seats: Included
  • 20 Inch Polished Aluminum Wheels: Included
  • Driver Assist Package with HUD: $2,395
  • Heated and Cooled Seats: Included
  • CUE information & Media Control System: Included
  • 14 Speaker Bose Surround Sound System: Included
  • Natural Voice Recognition: Included
  • Adaptive Cruise: Included
  • Automatic Front & Rear Braking and Collision Preparation: Included
  • Adaptive Remote Start: Included
  • Parking Assist: Included
  • Automatic Rear and Manual Side Window Sunshades: Included
  • Heated Leather Steering Wheel: Included
  • Navigation: Included
  • Side and Rear Collision Alerts on HUD: Included
  • And, a Host of Standard Equipment

Option-for-option, the Cadillac is similarly equipped to the Jaguar.  As far as performance is concerned, sixty comes in 6.8 seconds and top speed is a respectable 130, not nearly as quick as the Jaguar but quick enough.  Size-wise, the Caddy is about the same as the Jaguar XJL at 202 inches long, 72.9 inches wide and 4,006 pounds.  As Cadillacs should, the XTS has a huge eighteen cubic-foot trunk, more than enough for a few bodies…er…golf bags.

So, apart from speed (which makes sense as the Jag is 164 horse more than the Caddy) and price (the Caddy is $42,780 less than the Jaguar) the two cars are very similar on paper.  Yes, I understand that a better comparison would have been between the XTS Platinum and the 3.0 liter V6 XJL Portfolio (340 hp and $76,700), but you work with what you got. 

That being said, how good is the 2013 Cadillac XTS Platinum?  In a word, good.  I’ve spent a lot of time in a 2011 Cadillac CTS which has always impressed me with its drive quality.  But, unless you get a CTS-V, that generation CTS has lacked a bit in terms of quality of materials and fit-and-finish.  Not so with the 2013 XTS Platinum.  As soon as you sit down, the quality of the interior practically sings, especially if you compare it to a similarly priced Mercedes E-Class where you don’t even get leather seats.  The interior’s design is modern, functional but still feels like a Cadillac.  The wood trim is actually wood.  There are no gaps between the various components.  It is very well designed and very well put together.

The leather of the XTS Platinum’s seats is soft and supple.  While not quite as good as the Jaguar’s, the seats themselves offer as much or as little support as you desire with their near infinite adjustability.  Even the depth of the headrests is adjustable.  Just like in the XJL, I am happy for the seat’s memory, as I find myself fiddling forever trying to find the perfect driving position.  After some time, I eventually find it.  It’s really hot outside again, so I avail myself of the ventilated seats, which are powerful enough to ripply my pant legs.  I’m starting to truly like this car. 

Looking around and adjusting the mirrors, I find that visibility is great out of every window.  Better than the XJL’s.  The only major blindspot it caused by the very wide C-pillars.  Thankfully, there’s blindsport monitoring that vibrates my chair and pops up on my HUD if I’m about to side-swipe anything.

The fourteen-speaker Bose Surround Sound System is great.  I’ve always been a fan of Bose, and they don’t disappoint in the XTS.  The audio is crisp, clean, clear and rich on all channels and all ranges.  I’d say its easily as good as the Jaguar’s Meridian system, though not quite as powerful.  The whole shebang is controlled with Cadillac’s CUE entertainment system via the large touchscreen or through iPod-like capacitive “buttons”.  It really looks cool and works great.  It’s intuitive and simple to navigate, but I’m tentative on it’s ability to work well after 70,000 or 80,000 miles.  Time will tell.  

The XTS has a six-speed trans that is controlled through (hold on to your hats) a regular gear selector.  No twisty knob or push-button here.  Somehow, having a solid, tight, normal gear selector is gratifying.  Setting off, you immediately notice that the XTS could cope well with another thirty or forty horses and a few more gears.  It’s by no means sluggish, but one wouldn’t call it sprightly.  Get the RPMs up past 4,000 and into the torque butter-zone of 5,200 and the car will scoot along confidently.  As I said, this particular car is front-wheel-drive.  So, when putting the pedal down, I expected far more torque steer.  In fact, there was very, very little.  The XTS accelerated in a straight line with no real adjustment needed on the steering wheel.

Driving down the road at speed, and the Cadillac XTS Platinum is confident and smooth.  It in no way even remotely resembles the old DTS or STS.  Those were soft boats taking every bump and turn like waves on the open water.  The XTS is smooth and comfortable and by no means wallow-y thanks to the Magnetorheological shocks.  

In the turns the XTS will hit 0.83 g.  It’s very happy in the curves.  I had no qualms about pushing it up to (and in some cases past) its limit.  Steering is quick and precise with 2.6 turns lock-to-lock.  The big Brembo brakes are similar to those on the CTS-V and scrub speed off very, very efficiently.  Stopping distance from 60 to 0 is 116 feet.  

The full-color heads-up display is surprisingly clear and gives just the right information without being distracting.  Basically the 2013 Cadillac XTS is the best the new breed of Cadillac has to offer.  It’s comfortable if you’re a passenger, even if you’re in the back with your 40 inches of legroom.  It’s entertaining if you’re the driver.  And, maxed out at just over $60,000 it’s a tremendous value for the dollar. 

Verdict
So, basically, which is better, the 2013 Jaguar XJL Supercharged or the 2013 Cadillac XTS Platinum?  Both are the best representation of their respective brand’s revival whos designs principles were each spearheaded by a mid-size sedan (Jaguar XF and Cadillac CTS).  Both are big, very well equipped luxury sedans.  Unfortunately, it’s a split verdict.  I like the interior better on the XJL.  I like the exterior better on the XTS.  The XJL has a better drive and performs far better.  The XTS is $40k cheaper.  I could buy an XTS and a used Lotus Elise for the price of the Jaguar.  It all boils down to this: If you want a big, fast, phenomenal sedan and money is no object, get the Jag.  If you want a big, comfortable, phenomenal sedan and have a “limited” budget, get the Caddy.  You really can’t go wrong either way.

Back-to-Back Specs
2013 Jaguar XJL Supercharged:
Price: $92,600 ($105,250 as tested)
Engine: 5.0 Liter Supercharged V8
Horsepower: 470
Torque: 424 lb-ft at 5,500
0-60 MPH: 4.9 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph
Skidpad: 0.88 g
Wheelbase: 111.7 inches
Length: 202.0 inches
Width: 74.6 inches
Height: 57.0 inches
Cargo Volume: 15.2 cubic-feet
Curb Weight: 4,191 pounds
Fuel Economy: 15 City / 23 Highway

2013 Cadillac XTS Platinum:
Price: $59,080 ($62,470 as tested)
Engine: 3.6 Liter V6
Horsepower: 304
Torque: 264 lb-ft at 5,200
0-60 MPH: 6.8 seconds
Top Speed: 130 mph
Skidpad: 0.83 g
Wheelbase: 124.3 inches
Length: 206.6 inches
Width: 72.9 inches
Height: 59.4 inches
Cargo Volume: 18 cubic-feet
Curb Weight: 4,006 pounds
Fuel Economy: 17 City / 28 Highway 

Author: Nick Glasnovich

Founder & Executive Editor of TickTickVroom.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Now you’ll have to find an XTS VSport with 100 more horsepower and AWD to compare. I just picked up a used one and like you am impressed with this car under $39,999 with a few milesbon it.

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    • I wouldn’t consider it a bad day to take a CTS V-Sport and Jaguar XF-R head to head. Or, better yet a CTS-V versus a Jaguar XF-R S. We’re heading into a golden age of super sedans, and I couldn’t be more excited.

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