Cadillac XTS — A new direction in luxury

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Cadillac has done a remarkable job designing a new flagship sedan endowing it with a stylish exterior, a comfortable modern Cadillac-like ride, just enough performance to be satisfying, an elegant interior with first-class materials, and a gee-whiz suite of technology.

We didn't warm up to the all-new 2013 XTS from the start, it took a couple of turns behind the wheel to win us over, but we concluded by the end of our stint that Cadillac had succeeded in creating an acceptable modern rendition of the iconic "standard of the world" sedan.

The marshmallow land yacht ride and the over-boosted lack-of-road-feel power steering of the past are gone — thankfully — replaced by a taut and tidy driving demeanor that still somehow retains the Cadillac persona. What remains is a spacious cabin with rear-seat stretch-out room. Traditional buyers of big Caddys will be pleased and owners of German machines who venture into a Cadillac showroom might be surprised.

But there are aspects of the XTS that will perhaps turn off the German sedan owner including a just-OK 3.6-liter V-6 making 304 horsepower, decent but not sports-sedan-like handling that doesn't measure up to BMW and Audi. Cadillac's direct-injection six is mated to a six-speed automatic. The engine has been used very effectively in the smaller CTS and it performs well in the heavier XTS accomplishing 0-to-60 runs in around seven seconds.

While it won't set you back in your seat, it proved luxury-car effective in most all driving situations. And it can be shifted manually with steering wheel paddle shifters. But a top-of-the line luxury car should have a bigger, more powerful engine available, especially if it has aspirations of competing against the best the Germans and Japanese have to offer. Gas mileage is acceptable, EPA-measured at 17 city and 28 mpg highway in front-wheel drive and 17/26 in all-wheel drive.

The Cadillac styling language — now more than a decade old — is well done in the XTS with a prominent grille and sharply creased surfaces. It rivals the German brands head-turning design. Our AWD Platinum Collection XTS test car with stylish 20-inch aluminum polished wheels with chrome inserts, and a special Black Diamond Tricoat paint ($995 option) got many second looks.

The new XTS — measuring 202 inches in length (five-and-one-half inches shorter than the DTS) with a 111.7-inch wheelbase — has been tasked with replacing both the large DTS and the slightly smaller STS in the Cadillac lineup. Cadillac officials say a new larger ultra-luxury model is in the brand's future.

The XTS is loaded with cutting-edge technology. One of the safety features we found interesting — and even entertaining — was the vibrating driver's seat that Cadillac calls "directional tactile sensation." The vibrating pulse occurs on the left or right side of the seat to alert drivers of danger on either side, or if the car has drifted over the outside traffic line or the center line. Threats from the front or rear trigger pulses from both sides of the seat.

Cadillac has a vast array of available safety including blind spot alert, cross traffic alert, and lane departure warning. But what we found distracting at times and difficult to use was inside the cabin in the form of Cadillac's new CUE, an over-complicated infotainment system, which debuted in the XTS.
The high-tech touchscreen is state-of-the-art, but it can prove a headache and like most of these advanced systems, forces the driver to take his eyes off the road to accomplish what was once a simple task in less complicated times. But the question looms, will the aging owners of the DTS throw up their hands in dismay and buy something else?

In base form the XTS is loaded with amenities starting at $44,995. The Luxury trim level will perhaps be the most popular beginning at $49,610.

Other features we liked included a14-speaker Bose surround audio system, which is standard equipment on the Premium and Platinum editions. Our favorite option is adaptive cruise control with low-speed automatic braking, which comes in the Driver Assist Package for $2,395. All-wheel drive at $2,225 is available on all but the base model.

The top-line Platinum Collection trim has a base price of $59,080. Our optioned-out Platinum test car carried a bottom line of $64,695.

We think traditional Cadillac buyers will like the XTS on first blush — and there's a lot to like — but may be turned off by the advanced technology systems to the point that they seek an alternative. So the question is will enough younger buyers be attracted to off-set senior citizen defections?

Base price, $44,995; as driven, $64,695
Engine: 3.6 liter direct injection V-6
Horsepower: 304 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 264 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 111.7 inches
Length: 202 inches
Curb weight: 4,215 pounds
Turning circle: 38.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 18 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 26 highway, 17 city
U.S., Canadian parts content: 62%
0-60: 7 seconds (Edmunds)
Also consider: Lincoln MKS, Lexus ES 350, Mercedes E-Class

The Good
• Spacious cabin
• Cutting-edge technology
• All-wheel drive available
• First-class interior materials

The Bad
• Only one engine available

The Ugly
• CUE infotainment distracting