Jaguar XJ AWD
Cato: The big, luxurious XJ is one of the most intriguing designs you'll find anywhere in the world. It's not German. It's not American. It's not Japanese. And it's not old-world Jaguar, either. Jaguar chief designer Ian Callum finally convinced his bosses to embrace their fears and wrap them around true Jaguar history. It's embodied in the wisdom of company founder Sir William Lyons. In his view, Jaguar was about modernity, not a sad adherence to conservative, country club values. Not only is the car a visual treat, it's also made mostly of lightweight aluminum – so it's modern, too. And now there is the all-wheel-drive piece. Winter road warriors will like this, and so should enthusiasts. The Germans surely have taken notice.
Cato: We'll forgive Lexus for insisting on that dreadful spindle grille. No, it does not double as a snowplow in the winter. You see, the new ES is smooth, quiet and comfortable and surely it will be reliable. Shift quality is, well, unnoticeable, and ride quality is as smooth and gentle as a Lexus sales pitch. The car's dynamic qualities are adjusted via a selector that allows you to dial up three modes: Normal for everyday driving; Eco for fuel economy; Sport for more power train and steering responsiveness. Meanwhile, the ES 300h comes with an EV mode for driving short distances on battery power alone. You can even get a good hybrid version. An excellent choice for the careful premium car buyer.
Cato: Auto makers around the world are eager to offer rich people sedans that look like coupes, carving out yet another niche. That's the A7 and its racy companion model, the S7. The A7 runs with that handful of cars that are visually stimulating. These sorts of cars roll by, grabbing attention like a runway model at a fashion show in the latest slinky design. The S7 takes good looks to another level by pushing the performance envelope. If you want to get noticed, get the A7. If you want to get noticed and then leave the gawkers in the dust, get the S7. It's really that simple.
BMW 650i Gran Coupe
Vaughan: Everybody's doing a four-door "coupe" and here's Bimmer's. It gives the car a sporty profile in exchange for a cramped back seat. Consider it a 5-Series with more sex appeal and power. The Gran Coupe sold in Canada is the 650i xDrive, which means AWD and a twin-turbo V-8. It's a heavy car, compared to aluminum Jaguars for example, but power and the kind of agility and comfort expected from the Bavarians. "Efficient Dynamics" is the package of fuel saving technologies, including regenerative braking, which captures energy in a battery pack. It's all good but you're paying top dollar for the style.
Cato: Mark Reuss, who runs General Motors' North American operation and is a true "car guy," is happy to see Cadillac playing offence with a sedan like the XTS. It's been nearly forever since Caddy had a car like this. But 14-plus years into the Cadillac renaissance, GM's high-zoot brand has a large sedan – front- and all-wheel drive – worthy of Caddy's heritage. The technology is there, right down to the user-friendly CUE control system. The looks are there, too. You will not mistake the XTS for a German wannabe. Instead, the Art and Science design approach is executed in the way Caddy types envisioned back in the late 1990s – when GM started to think about turning Cadillac into a real luxury brand. The XTS? GM is on the right track.