For decades the battle for the domestic luxury crown was fought out between two of the staunchest rivals in the premium segment: Ford's Lincoln division and GM's Cadillac brand. Although the fire between these two automakers may have cooled somewhat as each company has gone in somewhat different directions over the past couple of years, there are still a number of models that face off head-to-head for the dollars of well-heeled new car buyers.
Let's compare four Lincoln and four Cadillac automobiles on this list of eight American luxury cars squaring off for the title of best domestic premium option.
The 2012 Lincoln MKZ offers mid-size sedan buyers a tech-heavy package that counts features such as a THX surround system, a touchscreen navigation system, a blind spot warning system and the SYNC multimedia and communications interface as part of its mix of optional and standard equipment. All versions of the Lincoln MKZ come with highlights such as heated leather seats, power everything and Bluetooth integration, making it reasonably well-equipped for its class. The sedan also offers a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that puts out 263 horsepower and 249 lb-ft of torque, matched with a six-speed automatic transmission and the option of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
The 2012 Cadillac CTS also competes in the mid-size segment, but the sedan edition of this particular nameplate adopts a sportier, rear-wheel drive platform (although all-wheel drive also available), targeting it at a slightly different premium car shopper. The Cadillac CTS sedan also offers a one-two punch in the engine bay, starting out with a 265 horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 as its base engine followed by an optional 3.6-liter V-6 that churns out 318 horses and 275 lb-ft of torque. In keeping with its sporty image, the CTS can be ordered with either a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed automatic, making it the more playful of the two automobiles being compared and more of an enthusiasts choice versus the comfort-oriented MKZ.
The 2012 Lincoln MKX is a five-passenger crossover that prominently displays the brand's signature dual waterfall grill as the centerpiece of its front fascia. The stylish Lincoln MKX can also swallow up to 69 cubic feet of cargo and it features the new MyLincoln Touch LCD gauge display and vehicle interface that ties in with the SYNC voice command system to offer one of the most advanced driver experiences in its class. The MKX's drivetrain consists of a 3.7-liter V-6 that generates 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, sent to either the front or all four wheels (via its optional all-wheel drive system) by a six-speed automatic transmission.
The 2012 Cadillac SRX features a more angular look than its Lincoln competitor, but in terms of seating (five passengers across two rows) and cargo capacity (61 cubic feet) the vehicles are quite similar - although the MKX edges out the SRX in terms of headroom and total storage space. The Cadillac SRX doesn't offer quite as many electronic bells and whistles as its crossover rival but it does offer a substantial load of luxury gear including adaptive HID headlights, three zones of automatic climate control and a navigation system.
Hiding under the SRX's hood is a 3.6-liter V-6 that provides 308 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, numbers that do a manageable job with the somewhat heavy curb weight of the crossover. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional, and although the Cadillac certainly looks the business most fans of sporty driving will in this instance want to sample the more agile and somewhat quicker Lincoln MKX.
The 2012 Lincoln Navigator is a grizzled veteran of the luxury SUV game, one of the initial full-size competitors that kicked off the plush truck craze. Although its appearance might have evolved over the past 15 years the Lincoln Navigator's general imposing shape and cavernous interior room (up to eight passengers and as much as 128 cubic feet of cargo space in extended-wheelbase L editions) remain the same. The Navigator also comes with one of the most decadent equipment lists in the industry, making it an incredibly comfortable ride. Lincoln has given the SUV a 5.4-liter V-8 engine that offers up 310 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque, and a six-speed automatic transmission handles the gear shifting duties for the truck. Four-wheel drive can be ordered with the Navigator to help it better deal with inclement weather conditions.
The 2012 Cadillac Escalade was right there along the Navigator when it first came out in the late 1990's but it has since eclipsed its competitor in popularity as well as in most of the important luxury categories. The Cadillac Escalade matches the Navigator's eight passenger seating but the longer ESV model pushes cargo capacity past the Lincoln to an impressive 137 cubic feet. Both vehicles feature relatively comparable lists of available equipment, but the Escalade surges ahead in the power department thanks to the inclusion of a 403 horse, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that also produces 417 lb-ft of twist. A six-speed automatic transmission comes with the Cadillac's stout standard motor, and all-wheel drive is available for additional traction.
We've already discussed the gasoline-edition, but the 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is worth a mention for several reasons. The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is priced the same as its entry-level sibling, which makes it a rarity amongst eco-focused luxury cars. It also offers substantial fuel economy, with a rating of 41-mpg in stop and go driving and 36-mpg in the city that places it near the front of its class. The MKZ Hybrid is motivated by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that in partnership with an electric motor produces a total of 191 horsepower. The front-wheel drive Lincoln makes use of a continuously-variable automatic transmission, and it can also be had with almost all of the premium equipment found on the gas-only version of the car.
We know what you're thinking: comparing the MKZ Hybrid to the 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid? Before you think we've completely lost our minds, consider this: the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is the only battery-assisted model, which means that it gets pitted against the MKZ Hybrid almost by default. Despite the fact that the Escalade Hybrid crushes the Lincoln in terms of power (379 horses from a combination one 6.0-liter V08 and two electric motors), fuel mileage doesn't even come close - the heavy full-size SUV is rated at 20-mpg city and 23-mpg highway. Although those numbers might fall short of the MKZ Hybrid's impressive efficiency, they are still a significant improvement over the much thirstier gasoline version of the Escalade.