Jaguar F-Type VS Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class
- Tarmac-tearing performance
- Surprising comfort
- Just look at it
- Short on active safety tech
- Tight entry/egress
- Sleek styling
- Beautiful cabin
- Ride and handling
- Limited rear legroom
- Higher entry price into range
- No diesel variant
After a long gestation period where a variety of Jaguar corporate overlords toyed with the idea of a successor to the all-time iconic E-Type, the F-Type finally emerged in late 2013 to a global intake of breath.
Over time the formula has become more complex, with the arrival of a coupe version, powerhouse R and full-fat SVR variants, special editions including the exotic Project 7, and more recently, 2.0-litre, turbo four-cylinder models to make this stunning two-seater more accessible.
A late 2019 update added some extra catnip, including a redesigned nose and this is the flagship F-Type R, complete with supercharged V8 power and performance-focused underpinnings. Time to dive into this latest chapter of the Jaguar F-Type story.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
There are people who probably wish the Mercedes-Benz CLS would just go away. Call security, have it escorted off the premises. That’s probably because they don’t agree with its styling. For them, it’s not how a large four-door Mercedes-Benz should look, with its ‘rude’ coupe roofline.
“You don’t surrender a segment… a vehicle has to do 100 units to justify bringing it – this will do 100 units no problem sat all,” were the exact words from Benz’s head of communications David McCarthy.
You could say Benz created the four-door coupe segment when it launched its first-generation CLS 14 years ago, triggering its rivals to fire back with their own four-door coupes - the Audi A7 and BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe.
Far from surrendering, the CLS has evolved again with this third-generation bringing new engines and styling. So, what do you gain and what will you have to surrender (for lack of a better word) if you choose to go down the non-traditional route of the CLS?
I found out when I drove the new CLS 450 4Matic for the first time on Australian roads at its recent launch.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Mercedes-Benz CLS has proven to be a niche hero, creating a segment and then evolving into something even more elegant, while keeping its unique appeal. A beautiful, modern cabin and the new engine in the CLS 450 provides the swiftness to match those looks.
Do you wish the Mercedes-Benz CLS would just go away or do you think it's just perfect? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Also, check out Matt Campbell's video review from the CLS's international launch:
Although it kicked off as a roadster, a coupe version of the F-Type was always part of the plan. In fact, Jaguar's C-X16 concept, that in 2011 previewed the eventual production car, was a hardtop.
Following the Coupe's public reveal at the 2013 Los Angeles motor show, I asked Jaguar's then head of design, Ian Callum, if the bean counters had vetoed the concept's ultra-cool side-opening hatch door; one of many styling hat tips to the E-Type. His response was a wry smile and slow nod of the head.
It's a shame that door didn't make it to the showroom floor, but the E-Type is still a strong design influence on its successor.
At close to 4.5m long, around 1.9m wide, and a fraction over 1.3m tall, the F-Type R looks more compact in the metal than it does in photographs, arguably the hallmark of a successful sports car design.
A long, flowing (front-hinged) bonnet (Jaguar calls its shape 'liquid metal' sculpture) projects forward from a rear-set cabin, with broad but tightly wrapped haunches behind it. The 20-inch, 10-spoke rims (in 'Gloss Black' with diamond-turned finish) fill the wheel arches perfectly.
I'm a huge fan of the tail-light cluster design, subtly reprofiled in the late 2019 update, which echoes the shape of the Series 1 E-Type and other classic Jags, but found it harder to warm to the outgoing F-Type's squarish headlight treatment.
Always a subjective call, but to my eyes this car's slimmer, more feline (LED) eyes and ever-so-slightly larger grille deliver a better front to rear balance. And slender, flush-fitting pop-out exterior door handles remain sub-zero cool.
Our 'Santorini Black' test car had been optioned with the 'Exterior Black Design Pack' ($1820) for an extra hint of menace. It applies body-colour to the front splitter, side sills, and rear diffuser, at the same time blacking out the grille surround, side vents, side window surrounds, rear valance, Jaguar script, F-Type badge and 'Leaper' emblem.
Jaguar describes this two-seater as a '1+1', confirming the F-Type's focus on the driver, and our test car's tan leather interior emphasises the fact.
Tan dash on the passenger side, complete with flying buttress-style grab handle for extra support when g-force starts to build. Contrasted by all black and all business on the driver's side.
A broad centre stack houses the 10-inch multimedia touchscreen, with easy-to-use dials for the climate control system below. And the 12.3-inch reconfigurable hi-def instrument cluster (with graphics unique to the F-type) is a model of clarity and simplicity.
The latter offers a choice of display themes, including full nav map, but the default mode highlights a large central tachometer. Nice.
An impressive design feature carried over from the previous model is deployable front air vents. The dashtop remains flat until a given climate control temperature setting causes an upper section, housing a pair of adjustable vents, to gently rise. Very cool (no pun intended).
The new-generation CLS has arrived looking slipperier than a cake of soap on the bottom of the bath. This model has always had svelte styling, but things have become even smoother with Benz’s design chief Gorden Wagener insisting more lines be removed in the creation of this latest version.
So, while there’s the familiar profile of that roof tapering down into the boot lid, the long rear overhang and that sliver of a window opening arching and turning down sharply at the rear, it's a more flowing design now that there are less edges to break it all up.
A new ‘shark nose’ grille opening, and broad bonnet adds a hunk of muscle car toughness to the CLS’s face. But it’s refined thuggery, with that single-louvered ‘diamond studded’ grille flanked by flush-mounted headlights. The tail-lights, too, are so contoured to the body around them they look painted on.
As CarsGuide senior editor Matt Campbell pointed out in his review of the CLS at the international launch, the car looks far better in the metal than it does in any photo.
The CLS is based on the E-Class, sharing its platform and technology, but it’s about 20mm longer (at 4988mm) end-to-end. That’s almost 50mm longer than the previous generation CLS, too. At just over 1.4m tall the CLS is low-slung but wide at 1.9m across (almost 2.1m including mirrors).
The CLS’s cabin mirrors that of the E-Class, too, with a sweeping dashboard which flows through into the doors, two large landscape displays for your instruments and media, an oversupply of air vents and some darn sexy lighting. It’s a luxurious, stylish, comfortable, but snug setting cocooned by padded leather and polished surfaces.
The Australian CLS has been fitted standard with the AMG interior and exterior packages.
You can pick from 11 colours – eight of which are no-cost options and include, 'Polar White', 'Obsidian Black', 'Iridium Silver', 'Citrine Brown', 'Graphite Grey' and 'Cavansite Blue'. Optional colours include 'Hyacinth Red' and 'Selenite Grey Magno'.
If you're intending to daily drive your F-Type R, make sure your yoga fees are up to date, because entry and egress are for the fleet of foot and flexible of limb.
Once inside, though, within the bounds of its two-door coupe format, the F-Type offers an array of storage options, including a decent glove box, centre storage box/armrest, small door bins, a netted pocket on the top of the bulkhead between the seats, and a pair of console cupholders.
Power and connectivity runs to a 12V socket in the dash, with another in the central storage bin, alongside two USB-A ports, and a micro SIM slot.
Notwithstanding the (alloy) space saver plonked on the boot floor, the F-Type Coupe delivers worthwhile cargo space, with 310 litres on offer, rising to 408 with the load cover removed.
That's enough to swallow small (36-litre) and large (95-litre) suitcases together, and there are two (nicely chromed) tie-down anchor, as well as elasticised retaining straps at either end of a small ledge on the bulkhead.
Remember how I said you were going to have to surrender something if you wanted a CLS? Well, yes, you’ve have to surrender your hard-earned money, but you’ll also have to give up quite a bit of practicality.
That swooping roofline makes entry into the front seats a bit precarious for people of my height (191cm) trying to swing themselves into the cockpit without clocking their heads on the A-pillar.
The impracticality only gets worse with entry into the back seats, and legroom in there for me is tight, too.
I can only just sit behind my driving position thanks to the contoured seat backs. Headroom is also limited.
It’s worth pointing out that this time the CLS is a five-seater – the previous generation sat just four.
Storage isn’t bad, running to a deep centre console bin with a split lid, there are two cupholders up front and another two in the rear fold-down armrest along with another covered drawer, and all doors have small bottle holders.
The CLS’s boot capacity is 520 litres, and the rear seats fold 40/20/40 to provide extra space.
Price and features
It's hard to pin down direct competitors for the $262,936 F-Type R, except one; Porsche's 911 Carrera S, a clear price and performance rival at $274,000.
With a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo 'flat' six producing 331kW/530Nm the 911 is capable of accelerating from 0-100km/h in just 3.7sec, which (surprise, surprise) exactly matches the Jag's claimed performance number.
Cast the net a little wider and you'll snag the likes of Nissan's GT-R Track Edition on the low side ($235,000), and the Mercedes-Benz S 560 Coupe ($326,635) for around $50K above the F-Type's asking price. So, the standard features list needs to be impressive, and long story short, it is.
Drilling down to the depths of detail on this car's equipment spec would need a review of its own, so here's the highlights package.
The 10-inch 'Touch Pro' multimedia screen manages a 380-watt Meridian audio system featuring 10 speakers (including subwoofer), digital radio, dynamic volume control and a 10-channel amp, as well as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity.
It's also the gateway to the car's configurable dynamic set-up, 'Navigation Pro', phone connection, ambient lighting, reversing camera, and a lot more.
Full-grain 'Windsor' leather is applied to the 12-way, electrically-adjustable (plus memory) performance seats. There's also a 12.3-inch customisable digital instrument cluster, cruise control (and speed limiter), keyless entry and start, auto rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming and power folding heated door mirrors (with memory), a switchable active exhaust, LED headlights, DRLs and tail-lights, as well as an electrically adjustable steering column (with memory), climate control, powered boot lid, 20-inch alloy wheels, racy red brake calipers, and specific 'R' branding on the leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, door tread plates, and centre console.
Benz has dropped the 250d grade, which means you can no longer have your CLS with a diesel engine. That also means the new entry fee is higher with the CLS 350 kicking the line-up off at $136,900 (list price).
You’ll be rewarded with a decent amount of equipment for the outlay, though. Coming standard on the CLS 350 are those two 12.3-inch screens, a head-up display, a 13-speaker Burmester stereo, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, surround view camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats, 'Brown Ash' wood trim on the centre console, wheel-mounted shifting paddles, AMG exterior and interior packages, auto-parking, 20-inch AMG wheels, air suspension, proximity key and privacy glass.
The CLS 450 4Matic lists for $155,529 and adds air filtering in the cabin, power closing doors, a sports exhaust system and all-wheel drive.
At the top of the three-grade range is the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic+ for $179,529. The extra money buys you nappa leather upholstery, wireless charging, the ‘Night’ body kit, an AMG exhaust system, and of course, a lot more grunt which you can read about below.
Engine & trans
The F-Type R is powered by Jaguar's all-alloy (AJ133) 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine, featuring direct-injection, variable (intake) cam timing, and an Eaton (Roots-type) blower to produce 423kW (567hp) at 6500rpm, and 700Nm from 3500-5000rpm.
The AWD system is based on an electro-hydraulic multi-plate (wet) clutch, controlled by a centrifugal electro-hydraulic actuator. Default front/rear drive balance is 10/90, although Jaguar claims even a full shift of power from 100 per cent rear to 100 per cent front takes just 165 milliseconds.
The IDD system continuously monitors each wheel's speed and traction, suspension compression, steering angle and braking force, as well as the car's rotational state.
It then uses an algorithm to determine which wheel(s) are likely to lose traction, and before grip is lost, transfer drive to the wheels that can make best use of it.
If you’ve skipped straight to this bit you’ll have missed news that there’s no longer a diesel engine in the CLS line-up. Instead you have a choice of three petrol engines – one for each grade and all of them are new to the model.
The CLS 450 4Matic has a 270kW/500Nm 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine with a twin-scroll turbo and like the Mercedes-AMG 53 above it has an integrated electric motor called an EQ Boost. While it’s a hybrid system of sorts the electric motor doesn’t drive the wheels, instead it recuperates kinetic energy and charges the battery.
The CLS 450 uses the nine-speed auto, as well, and is all-wheel drive.
The Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic has the same transmission and engine as the CLS450 but has been given a heftier twin-scroll turbo charging system and tuned to produce even more grunt at 320kW/520Nm. The 'EQ Boost' performs the same function as in the CLS 450, but also provides power to an electric turbocharger. The Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic is also all-wheel drive and uses a nine-speed automatic.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 11.3L/100km, the F-Type R emitting 269g/km of CO2 in the process.
Despite the standard auto stop/start function, over close to 350km of city, suburban, and freeway running we recorded a (dash-indicated) average of 16.1L/100km.
That's a solid drinking habit, but it kind of goes with this performance territory, and we did lean into the throttle on a regular basis.
Recommended fuel is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 70 litres of it to fill the tank. That equates to a range of 619km in line with the factory claim, and 434km using our real-world number as a guide.
This is a good place to remind you (again) that only one CLS grade was available to drive at the Australian launch – the CLS 450, and we were only given the claimed fuel economy figures for that model.
After 197km through, on a route that bumper to bumpered its way out of Melbourne CBD and headed the long way to the airport via Woodend. our car’s trip computer was reporting close to an average of 10.0L/100km.
Yep, no surprise, the 2021 Jaguar F-Type R is a proper, rip-snorting, beast of a machine. Weighing in at just over 1.7 tonnes, with 423kW/700Nm to propel it forward, in terms of straight line acceleration, it's every bit the scalded cat.
Bury the right foot and it will storm from 0-100km/h in just 3.7 seconds, with furious aural accompaniment courtesy of the 4.0-litre supercharged V8 and sports exhaust system. Electrically-actuated bypass valves in the latter's rear silencer remain closed until they automatically open under load, and boy, do they open up.
Prospective F-Type R owners wishing to remain on good terms with their neighbours will be pleased to know there's a 'Quiet Start function', but once you're a few blocks clear the engine is capable of alerting the entire suburb to you presence, complete with raucous crackles and pops on the overrun.
All 700Nm of maximum torque is available from 3500rpm through to 5000rpm, and mid-range thrust is ferocious. If you have access to a long enough private road Jaguar claims this car will storm on to a (electronically-limited!) maximum velocity of 300km/h.
The eight-speed auto transmission has picked up several tweaks courtesy of the XE-based SV Project 8, and it's brilliant. A conventional torque-converter based unit, rather than a dual-clutch, it's dubbed 'Quickshift', and that it does. Manual flicks between ratios, using the wheel-mounted paddles, are rapid and positive.
Head for your favourite B-road, and it's the F-Type R's ability to put every bit of its power down, without fuss, that impresses next. Push into a series of tight corners and the car grips, settles, and simply surges from one bend to the next, the tricky AWD system seamlessly shuffling torque between the axles and individual wheels.
The standard electronic active diff, and torque vectoring (by braking) also help keep everything under control, turning backroad tryhards into apex hunting virtuosos.
Suspension is by (aluminium) double wishbones front and rear, with revised springs and anti-roll bars added in the 2019 upgrade. Continuously-variable dampers underpin the 'Adaptive Dynamics' system, learning your style and adjusting accordingly.
The electrically-assisted power steering combines great road feel with satisfying accuracy, and the car feels balanced yet agile and responsive in enthusiastic driving.
In a more relaxed mode the adaptive set-up detects rough road conditions and adjusts the suspension settings for greater ride comfort. According to Jaguar, the damper valves and control algorithms have been recalibrated to improve low-speed comfort and high-speed control, and I can vouch for their effectiveness.
Not long after steering this F-Type R I spent some time in the supercharged V6 F-Type P380 R-Dynamic, and this R is far more compliant.
Rubber is a specially-developed Pirelli P Zero (265/35 fr - 305/30 rr), and the supremely efficient brakes are ventilated 380mm at the front, and 376mm rear.
A reminder again, folks – Mercedes-Benz only had the CLS 450 available to drive. Okay? On with the review…
Nobody likes a traffic jam, apart from maybe taxi drivers. But sitting in a CLS deep in Melbourne’s CBD, stuck in road-work-infested roads, choked with cars going nowhere was as pleasant as the experience could be.
Plush seats, pretty lighting, air filtered and fragranced, air suspension cushioning the patchy tarmac underneath as we wriggled our way north towards Mount Macedon and country roads.
If you read another review calling out a large degree of wind noise filtering into the cabin, they’re right and wrong. See, the weather was apocalyptic as we hit the motorway. Trees doubled over kind of windy, and sure you could hear it rushing past the windows when we were at 110km/h, but you could also hear it clearly when we were at 30km/h.
I like gadgets and so it was about 15 seconds into the motorway stint that I tested out the active cruise control, and automatic lane changing, which works near perfectly.
As the roads became more winding, I switched drive modes to 'Sport', firming up the suspension and steering, at the same time prompting the transmission to kick back into a lower gear.
This is a stable-feeling car, well balanced and effortless to steer. Smoothness is a word for everything it does, including covering the ground quickly.
While that acceleration is rapid, it’s not quite exhilarating, and the engine note under load is a little high pitched for a thug like this.
CLSs of the past were known for being a bit more aggressive and feistier, but this one seems to have mellowed in its third generation. I don’t see any issues with this. There are other angrier Benzs if that’s your thing.
The F-Type hasn't been assessed by ANCAP, but as well as the usual active safety suspects like ABS, EBD, traction and dynamic stability controls, the R features an AEB system operating at speeds above five km/h, Vehicle detection is in place at speeds of up to 80km/h, and pedestrian detection up to 60km/h.
The AWD system facilitates specific 'Rain', 'Ice', and 'Snow' modes, plus there's active high-beam, lane keep assist, a reversing camera, as well as front and rear parking sensors, and a 'Driver Condition Monitor.'
But cross-traffic alert (front or rear) is missing-in-action, blind spot assist is an option ($900), as is park assist ($700), and tyre pressure monitoring ($700). Any car that's crested the $250K barrier should have all of these as standard.
If an impact's unavoidable there are six airbags (front, side, and curtain). But remember, the front passenger seat is a no-go zone for a rear-facing child restraint. And Jaguar says, "A child should only travel in the front passenger seat if it is essential and national or state legislation permits it."
The second generation CLS was never crash tested and this new one has yet to be as well. So, while it hasn’t been given an ANCAP star rating, given it shares so much with the five-star rated E-Class we’d expect it to score nothing less than that, too.
Along with nine airbags, ABS, and traction and stability control the level of advanced safety equipment onboard the new CLS is seriously impressive. There’s the 'Driving Assistance package Plus' which brings AEB with cross traffic function, evasive steering, blind spot warning with an active function and lane keeping assistance.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top ether anchor points.
Jaguar covers its Australian new car range with a three-year/100,000km warranty, which looks particularly stingy next to the mainstream market norm of five years/unlimited km, and lags other premium players like Mercedes-Benz and Genesis, both sitting at five years/unlimited km.
On the plus side, paint and corrosion (perforation) are warranted for three years, and roadside assistance is complimentary for 12 months.
And on the big plus side, scheduled servicing for the F-Type (determined by an on-board service interval indicator) is free-of-charge for five years/130,000km.
The CLS is covered by Mercedes-Benz’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12months/25,000km for the CLS 350 and CLS 450, while the CLS 53, like all AMGs needs to visit at 12month/20,000km intervals.
Mercedes-Benz says a capped price servicing plan will be available, but has yet to release the prices. We’ll update this as soon as the costs have been announced.