By on November 12, 2013


A colleague and friend of mine just bought himself a Tesla Model S (the fast P85 edition). I’d been wanting to find a suitable car to compare it against, so I approached a major European car vendor’s media relations people, asking for a loaner so I could do a head-to-head comparison.

The response: “Unfortunately, Mr. Large And In Charge [not his actual name] isn’t interested in a comparison against the Tesla, Dan.” Knowing I’d never have the pull of Top Gear to get the gear I wanted in hand, I resolved that I’d do it some other way.

Recently, I received a card in the mail, inviting me to a Jaguar ALIVE Driving Experience. I’ve been to things like this before. They feed you mini-muffins, they let you tear around a mini-autocross track, you leave with a baseball cap, a mini-grin on your face, and mini-spam in your email box for months to come. I decided to invite my Tesla buddy along and see if I could get an expensive Jag in one side of my brain and compare it to the expensive Tesla in the other side of my brain. Here’s what happened.

First, let’s just look at them side by side, shall we? From the front, the Jaguar XF and the Tesla Model S have distinct personalities. The Tesla’s oval mouth probably has more in common with a Maserati Quattroporte, but the headlights have comparable anger to them. Both of these cars are snarling at you to get out of the way. Here’s a rear view.


The resemblance is clear. The Tesla’s hatchback and the Jaguar’s trunk are cut from the same cloth. You can see how much wider the Tesla’s hatch is, though, making it much easier to get big stuff in and out. What about the mirrors? Our own Sajeev loves to obsess over the little triangle where the mirror joins up with the front window. Here we go.


Tesla’s mirror is a bit more svelte, but there’s more than a passing resemblance. Now wait a minute, you might be complaining, how can you possible compare these two cars? The Jaguar XF starts around $50k with a two liter turbo four-cylinder and runs well north of $100k by the time you’ve got a firebreathing supercharged V8 installed. The cars are comparably sized, at least on the outside, although the Jag’s back seat is cramped, versus the entirely adult-compatible Tesla. Both vendors are clearly going after the same buyers.

Jaguar notably didn’t bring along the two liter. I sadly only got to drive the insane supercharged V8 for exactly one lap. (Summary: it’s got huge gobs of power and lots of electronic nannies to keep you alive. Since they required us to drive with the nannies on, all I can say is that it was holding back my flooring-it throttle inputs until it felt it safe, and it was readily applying its massive brakes even when I thought it didn’t need to.) Since that’s the car they’re using to show off the line, and it’s priced roughly the same as the P85 Tesla Model S (yadda yadda government subsidies vs. gas guzzler taxes, yadda yadda), the comparison seems fair game to me.

The Jaguar’s interior is pretty much what you’d expect at this price point from a conventional car. It’s got nice fitted leather seats with contrasting stitching and that fantastic new car smell. It’s got a touch screen (deep, sometimes confusing menus), voice recognition (not terribly useful), and a bunch of buttons. The Tesla has their unlike-anything-else spartan interior. I’m including a photo here of the nav screen with direct sunlight on it. It’s bright enough that it’s still entirely usable. Anybody who knows their way around a modern smartphone will have no trouble operating the Tesla. This is the future.


What about a performance comparison? Handling! Acceleration! Growling exhaust! I didn’t have anything even vaguely resembling the opportunity to do an apples-to-apples comparison. Suffice to say that the P85 Tesla’s acceleration is instantaneous and violent. And silent. On paper it’s faster than the über Jaguar and my butt dyno and I totally believe it.

Instead of that, I’ll offer a more direct comparison of the sort that automotive journalists usually ignore: sound-system quality. My buddy’s Tesla has their uprated stereo system. I asked the Jaguar folks if I could get some quality time with their sound system and they happily left me alone in an optioned-up XJR. I paired my phone, via Bluetooth, and cranked my favorite test tunes through the Jaguar’s Meridian sound system and later ran the same exact tunes through the Tesla.


If you’re the sort of person who reads audiophile reviews, you’ll know they come in two varieties: “meaningless adjectives alongside descriptions of the reviewer’s favorite tunes” or “soulless test measurements”. Since I didn’t exactly have serious test gear in hand, nor do I wish to bombard you with meaningless adjectives (“a light, airy sound with a tight thunderous bass”), I’ll say that I used one classical orchestral piece, one late 1950’s jazz studio recording with Ella on vocals, and two bits of carefully chosen 90’s techno that will drive any subwoofer to submission.

In a nutshell, the Jaguar’s sound system was perfectly fine on the orchestral piece (lots of dynamic range, etc.), was a bit muddy with the famous female jazz singer, and the techno revealed the dreaded one-note-bass-thud-thud-thud, of the sort that you’d expect from somebody’s riced out Honda Civic. The Tesla was similarly fine on the classical piece, was slightly better on the jazz (something a bit off in the upper treble of Ella’s voice), and was 95% there on the techno, with different bass notes sounding notably different. (In my previous Tesla Model S encounter, that car didn’t have the uprated stereo. I played the same tunes there, and they were noticeably worse. If you want to listen to anything more demanding than talk radio in your Tesla, pony up for the good sound system. And somebody please invite Tony Stark Elon Musk to listen to a good pair of ribbon speakers so he knows what to shoot for.)

Before I go, I’ll offer a couple quick words on the other Jaguars. The XK is still the best looking Jaguar out there. Below is a tricked out XKR-S, with matching contrasting stitching. Oh, and the driver’s seat is set perfectly for me (5’10”). Those ain’t back seats. They’re parcel shelves.


They also let us drive the new F-Type, in supercharged V6 and supercharged V8 form. This car is every bit the hoontastic screamer as the XK, and for a slightly less outrageous price. The only thing you’re giving up is the rear parcel shelf seat. However, I’ll draw your attention to the gear selector (photo below). This is guaranteed to be misunderstood by the first valet you give the keys to, who will promptly back your car up into traffic and destroy the poor thing. You see, to put it in “park”, you press the “P” button on the top of the stick. If you just move the stick up, like every other automatic ever made, that’s just “reverse”. (Pro-tip: buy a manual transmission. Oh wait, you can’t.)


And, last but not least, when I first saw the XFR-S in its “French Racing Blue” (vraiment?), the comparison that sprang to mind was the dearly departed Pontiac G8. Is it just me?


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36 Comments on “UR-Turn: Tesla Model S vs. Jaguar XF...”

  • avatar

    French Racing Blue: the classic Renault Gordini colour. Example:

    I think it’s quite funny to offer alternatives to British Racing Green.

  • avatar

    How did the Jag compare to the Tesla in the spontaneous combustion test?

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    “And, last but not least, when I first saw the XFR-S in its “French Racing Blue” (vraiment?), the comparison that sprang to mind was the dearly departed Pontiac G8. Is it just me?”

    It ain’t only you. I have always seen a lot of VE Commodore in the Jag. Actually I think the XF is what the next generation of the Commodore should have looked.

    • 0 avatar

      You also quickly realize how ugly the G8 is compared to the XF. I never found the G8 to be particularly attractive, and that picture highlights its worst angle.

      • 0 avatar

        @Spartan — see I don’t really get that at all. I have always thought the G8 was a very good looking sedan, excellent proportions, nice large greenhouse, etc. I could see not liking some of the Pontiac details like the grill but I can’t see “ugly”.

        Like when people say a Juke is ugly, I can see that even though I personally like the Juke, the weirdness can be interpreted for ugly. But that G8 picture really does look exactly like the Jag above it. So how can you say one is ugly and the other isn’t?

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          The Commodore and its clones are great-looking vehicles. My only complaint is the way the window-line curves down on the A-pillar in order to meet the cut-line of the door. But that’s a design trait that has been present on many GM vehicles for quite a while, including the Equinox and Terrain. And I suppose there wasn’t much else they could have done with that line…

          • 0 avatar

            That curve to the cut line is what gives the G8 the more airy greenhouse. Look at the pictures above and see how the Jag has more of the gun-slit windows that everyone likes to complain about, but the line leads straight from the window to the hood.

  • avatar

    Interesting how after the C-XF concept debuted, the Tesla prototypes suddenly morphed from a bulbous vaguely (old) Mazda look to a near straight XF copy. Still like Callum’s original better, but if you’re going to copy someone, might as well copy the best in the biz. ETO on the other hand needs some help doing uber-aggressive without becoming outright garish. XF/R, XK/R = drop dead gorgeous, aggressive and sophisticated. XFR-S, XKR-S/GT = aggression without class, which defeats the point of a Jag.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Yeah, the special edition Jags are some kind of awful. They just lose everything that was special about the original designs.

      And I’d rather the Tesla, just because it screams FUTURE for all the world to see.

  • avatar

    Don’t get me wrong – testing sound systems is a good idea, and using BT in both cases is at least fair enough.

    Still, BT definitely doesn’t fit any serious audiophile review. You have no means of making sure which Codec will be used for your A2DP connection. It might be the original codec (either AAC or MP3) or it could be the miserable SBC Codec.

    For an audiophile review I’d rather suggest a lossless source like FLAC or ALAC – which of course means using the headphone jacks, itself with its own limitations.

    While I do not know if any of these two sound systems natively support lossless audio, they definitely should to qualify as audiophile.

    Finally, to all those who’ll shout that you can’t hear a difference – YES YOU CAN.

    Edit: apparently, the Model S does support lossless, while the Jag doesn’t. This clearly disqualifies the Jags sound system as being premium.

    • 0 avatar

      Paradigm’s website has one of the best descriptors of coloration, and the resonant frequencies causing it:

      AAC is considered transparent (i.e. artefact free) at 160 kbps, as well as MP3 at 192 kbps. But with cheap storage nowadays, even I use 320 kbps for my favorite recordings.

      • 0 avatar

        “AAC is considered completely artefact free at 160kbps ..”

        Having googled this, I found only vested interests claiming such. Doesn’t square with my experience, but it’s good enough for a car.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right that Bluetooth is far from ideal. If I had more time, I’d prepare USB sticks with high-bitrate MP3 files (or ALAC or FLAC), which I know should work in the Tesla and might also work in the Jaguar. The Jag at least has a traditional CD player, so I could have brought a mix CD. Tesla has no CD player…

      Still, the differences were readily apparent and I’ll wager had nothing to do with compression artifacts. In particular, lossy audio compression tends to utterly decimate the high hat cymbals in a jazz combo, and those sounded just fine here.

    • 0 avatar

      This all may matter for the driver of the Rolls reviewed nearby. If you spend a lot of time in an aural isolation booth on wheels or parked in traffic, it may be a consideration too. Over on a Porsche site, people were debating getting a Burmester audio $y$tem. For a car with 20″ wheels. With Michelin Pilot Sport 2s. And wondering how their aftermarket catback exhaust would affect the sound quality. Let me know when the audio has accurate real-time noise canceling.
      None of it matters to me, because I can tell you how to gang-saw aluminum siding for gable ends. With a Skilsaw and inadequate hearing protection. Pro-tip – turn a rip blade backwards. Its scarcely louder than standing near an airshow flight line when the Blue Angles or Thunderbirds take off.

  • avatar

    The colour on the Tesla is incredibly boring.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Like Mister Mehta, I appreciate it when automakers are thoughtful about how the wing mirrors are attached, rather than just bolting them on wherever they feel like it. Tesla’s implementation is one of the best I’ve seen. Another arrangement that I like is one in which Volkswagen Group vehicles use vertical stalks to mount the mirrors to the metal of the doors, and then have small triangular vent windows window where the plastic mirror mount points would normally be (Touareg, Cayenne, Panamera, Continental GT/Flying Spur, Mulsanne…).

    As for the Jaguar XF, it is starting to look very long in the tooth (as is the XK, but we won’t go there) and uncompetitive. The XF is the oldest design in its class and lacks some of the polish that other automakers’ vehicles have. The little screen in the instrument cluster was previously red-or-blue monochrome, but was swapped out for the color unit from the XK during the MY2012 refresh. However, even *that* looks cheap, appearing to be about the same quality as the one that’s in the Mitsubishi Lancer and previous-gen Outback. The navigation system (which also got upgraded for 2012) is quite hard to use and easily the worst in the class. The exterior looks dated despite the grafted-on XJ fascia. And that’s not to mention the still-scary prospect of owning a Jaguar out of warranty. The Brits are second only to the Swedes for letting designs rot on the vine (ridiculous that the S-Type lasted through MY2008), so let’s hope the XF gets redesigned sooner than later.

    • 0 avatar

      This runs counter to what I see in LA and NYC. The XF still draws stares like no 5-series or E-class could dream of, as much today as when it debuted. Maybe the 6GC or CLS come closer in street presence, but then there’s that whole sophistication and class thing that Jaguar and Aston seem to have mastered. I doubt the XF’s styling will look dated before this generation runs out- sales, while improving, remain a pitiful fraction of the German stalwarts’, and its (much to Jaguar’s dismay) continued rarity will only prolong its head turning ability.

      Consider how much “enthusiasts” bitch and moan that all Astons look the same- then watch people’s reactions when a V8V or DB9 drives down the street, even though the design has essentially remained the same, more or less, for coming on 10 years. I’m not saying the criticism is completely unfounded- just that it makes a real world difference when you don’t sell in 911 numbers, and of course, when you’re drop dead gorgeous to begin with. I’ve always found it fascinating to observe how the non-enthusiast population, the majority of people out on the streets, instinctively recognize Callum’s designs as something beautiful, without knowing what it is. A joy forever and all that.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Oh yeah. I agree with you there. Aside from something like a new M5 painted in the same color as that XFR-S in the above picture, BMW’s can just about be ignored for their utter ubiquitousness. And they really *do* look the same. They may generally be more polished-looking than their British counterparts, but they lose some of that passion in the process, as though they were designed via some kind of clinical algorithm. So it’s a tradeoff…

        • 0 avatar

          Oh I dunno I saw a silver circa 08 M5 just yesterday. The lower stance and wheel arches made me notice it, and I said “mmm v10” out loud in the car. Didn’t seem like anybody else around me was noticing, though.

          I also saw a circa 08 Quattroporte this morning, and said “mmm” too. Medium blue with that brownish leather. For the same money, I’d rather have the Quattroporte. Surely it won’t be much worse off reliability wise than the Jag. And you’ll always look stylish.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree that BMWs are more pedestrian than Fords these days, and Astons just have a natural beauty that, like you said, even non-enthusiasts are drawn to. I for one am glad they don’t change them so much.

        But the only reason I can see for an XF drawing any attention is shock at how large and imposing it is. It looks like a giant Kia, and it most definitely isn’t beautiful like an Aston. I sincerely doubt the fashionistas in LA or NYC are impressed by them.

        • 0 avatar

          The XF doesn’t seem large to me! It’s 1.2 inches longer than an Infiniti M, less than 4 inches longer than a CTS, and less than 5 inches from a Maxima. The CTS and the Maxima are actually wider as well, and the M, CTS, and Maxima are taller.

          It’s thoroughly midsize.

    • 0 avatar

      Sometime next year, cars will start allowing smartphones to hijack the in-dash screen (see, e.g., Apple’s announced “iOS in the car” — This will be a sea change, because the apps on your phone are updated all the time, and it’s relatively cheap to upgrade to a new phone. This also suggests that the Tesla idea of having a great big touchscreen is a harbinger of the future, since no set of hard buttons around the edges will be able to drive all of your apps.

      Amusement: I was using the Google Music app to stream my music to these cars. The Jaguar’s screen didn’t have anything particularly useful to say. The Tesla managed to pick up the song names, album names, etc. However, the album art on my phone was completely different than the album art on the Tesla screen. Maybe the Bluetooth A2DP protocol doesn’t have an album art extension, so Tesla went and found the album art on its own. In the future, Google Music will just own the screen and will display things its own way.

  • avatar

    Not to get all Sajeevy, but I find the Tesla’s mirror to be pure art, the Jag’s…not so much, even if it didn’t have the dreaded Plastic Triangle of Fail.

  • avatar

    Those two cars look less different from each other than the 1964 Chevrolet and the 1964 Chevelle.

    The TEsla’s cleaner, though.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Both cars will have terrible resale value.

  • avatar

    Really nice comparison, considering the circumstances. Way to be inventive.

  • avatar

    Doesn’t the Tesla’s shifter (borrowed from Mercedes – tap up for reverse, tap down for drive, tap the button for park), effectively work about the same as the F-Type’s (which looks rather similar to BMW’s – press the shift button and nudge forward for reverse, nudge back for drive, press the top button for park)? Which is to say, unless your valet is in their first night on the job, they’ve probably experienced pretty much whatever shifter they have.

    I also wouldn’t mind having both of these in the driveway eventually.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Ironically, it was BMW who first pioneered that kind of gear selector in the E65 7-Series. And I was surprised that Jaguar eschewed its corporate dial-style gear selector in favor of a BMW-esque one. Of course Chrysler copied Audi’s T-shaped electronic selector, so there’s plenty of that going around…

    • 0 avatar

      When you’re dealing with the Tesla/Mercedes gear selector, up on the steering column, you’re not in the “oh, just another automatic” mode. Okay, back in the 1970’s, it was common to have the automatic gear selector up there, but not any more. Conversely, with the F-Type, it’s right down there where most every car money can buy has the automatic gear selector. You might actually think it’s normal and treat it that way.

      I assume the reason Jaguar did this was that they wanted to allow manual gear selection from the gear selector stick, not just the flappy paddles. That’s not possible with the dial, so they had to do something different. They could well have put “park” above “reverse”, solving the problem, but they didn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        Like I said, BMW’s been using the same setup as the F-Type for several years now in a few of their models, and it’s not uncommon for hybrids (or at least the Prius and Lexus CT/HS) to have it. It sounds like the shifter in the 8-speed Charger and 300 is roughly what you’d like (albeit without the manual selection option). It’s a little finicky though, very easy to shoot through reverse.

  • avatar

    Here’s the problem with the Tesla’s giant screen interface – can you use it with a blindfold on? In other words, without looking at it? Didn’t think so.

    I can operate 95% of my (non-iDrive) BMW’s stereo and HVAC interface without looking at it. Two knobs and a row of buttons for the stereo. Two knobs (main temp), a thumbwheel (face temp), and some (rarely used)buttons for the HVAC. Navigating an iPod with it is about as easy as such things get. Twist and push. You can do it without looking if you know the order of your playlists or albums… The two-line display is more than enough to get the relevant information across.

    If only Jaguar would bring over their wagon – it is utterly gorgeous. Make mine either the 2.0T with stick. Or the diesel. THAT would make a lovely replacement for my BMW wagon, though I am sure I would be stuck with some sort of ridiculous touchscreen or mouse thing. Sigh.

    • 0 avatar

      My 2005 Acura TL has the same property. You can do all the traditional HVAC and stereo stuff without needing the touch screen. But when it comes time to dig into the menus and do something unusual, a touchscreen on my 2005 TL is much easier to deal with than the scroll-wheel monstrosities I’ve seen on more recent Acuras.

      For Tesla, they get around the common-controls thing with thumb wheels and buttons on the steering wheel. I think the left wheel is stereo volume and the right wheel is configurable. I’d probably have mine adjust the fan speed.

      I figure the ultimate answer is going to be something akin to the Tesla but with a few more hard buttons and knobs for the common stuff.

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