2013 Cadillac XTS Review
Cadillac jumps back into the large-car market and turns up the luxury.
- Beautiful interior
- Controlled handling
- Big back seat and trunk
- Not as sporty as the competition
- Pretty thirsty
- High-tech control interface will intimidate some buyers
For the first 90 or so years of its existence, Cadillac was known for building large, luxurious automobiles. Those big old Caddies from the 1950s, '60s and '70s were cool and the pinnacle of luxury at the time. But by the '90s the brand was viewed as an example of everything wrong with the American auto industry; that is, its cars were too big, too inefficient and not reliable. Cadillac became a bit player in the luxury-car game.
The automaker experienced something of a renaissance in the new millennium, though, thanks to the quality and sportiness of the midsize CTS. It's one of brand's most popular models as well as the only domestic entry that can truly compete with the top European and Japanese entry-level luxury cars. It offers Cadillac style and luxury in a performance-tuned car that doesn't kill you at the pump.
For 2013, Cadillac is returning to its large-car roots with the XTS. While we don't see the XTS making as much of an impact as the CTS — mainly because it doesn't offer the driving dynamics of its main rivals like the CTS does — we do think its luxurious nature and stable, controlled ride will appeal to anyone looking for a luxury ride that is somewhat nimble and a joy to drive.
The 2013 Cadillac XTS is offered in four trim levels: Base, Luxury, Premium and Platinum. The $44,075 Base trim is well equipped with features such as leather upholstery, HID headlights, universal garage-door opener, Bluetooth connectivity, a Bose audio system with HD radio, 19-inch wheels, and 10 airbags, including front knee bags and rear side bags. The $49,610 Premium trim adds a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a rearview camera. The $55,810 Premium gets a head-up display, adaptive headlights, and a Driver Awareness package that includes blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, and a unique driver safety seat.
The $58,160 Platinum trim is loaded, adding a panoramic sunroof, 20-inch wheels, and a Driver Assist package with adaptive cruise control, front and rear automatic braking to avoid low-speed collisions, and automatic collision preparation.
Under the Hood
The 2013 XTS comes with only one engine, General Motors' LFX direct-injected 3.6-liter V6. It produces 304 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque, and is mated to only one transmission, a 6-speed automatic with manual shift capability through a pair of standard steering-wheel paddles.
The XTS is offered with front- or all-wheel drive. The AWD is a Haldex system with an electronic limited-slip differential that transfers power front to rear and side to side along the rear axle. Environmental
Protection Agency fuel economy estimates are 17 mpg city/28 mpg highway with all-wheel drive and 17/27 mpg with front-wheel drive.
The XTS represents a new benchmark in Cadillac interior quality. Not only does the attractive, sweeping design feature soft-touch materials at all the touch points (dashboard, door tops, armrests, etc.), the rich materials also extend to the lower portions of the dash and doors.
Space up front is generous. The seats are soft enough to be comfortable and firm enough to prevent fatigue on long trips. They have lots of travel, so even tall drivers will have plenty of legroom.
Tall folks will be comfortable in the back, too, thanks to a lengthy 40 inches of legroom. The rear seat is well contoured as well, making the XTS one of the more comfortable cars for up to five passengers. The trunk has a spacious 18 cubic feet of space, which is one of the largest on the market, and split-folding rear seats increase the cargo hold's versatility.
When the Driver Assistance or Driver Awareness packages are added, the XTS comes with a safety alert driver's seat. It vibrates on the left, right, or both sides to warn drivers of potential dangers, such as front or rear obstacles, drifting from the chosen lane, traffic crossing behind, or when approaching traffic too quickly. The system works well, but we wonder if drivers will always recognize which potential hazard it is indicating.
The XTS is equipped with Cadillac's new Cue (Cadillac User Experience) control system, which achieves the goal long sought by luxury automakers of virtually eliminating buttons in the dash. The system features an 8-inch touch screen in the center stack that handles most of the entertainment, communications, navigation and climate controls. Only the volume control and some frequently used climate functions are separate, located on a touch panel below the screen. Cue reacts to voice commands as well.
Cue is also available with a 12-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster that is driven through a 5-way controller on the right side of the steering wheel. It has four screen choices, and each can be programmed with all kinds of tidbits, including trip computer, navigation, entertainment and phone info. The screen has digital depictions of analog gauges and can be as simple or as complex as you like it.
We found Cue to be one of the better advanced control interfaces on the market. The touch feedback lets you know if a control was indeed pressed. Cue reacts quickly to driver inputs, and we like the iPad-like drag-and-drop functionality to move icons and pinch-and-stretch feature to zoom in or out. Our only complaint: The downward click on the 5-way controller isn't very responsive.
On the Road
The XTS isn't built on the sportiest architecture, but Cadillac has employed a lot of suspension technology to make the XTS a very capable handler. The most important of those features is the Magnetic Ride Control suspension. The system monitors the road every millisecond and adjusts the firmness of the shocks every five milliseconds.
In addition, the XTS uses GM's HiPer Strut setup in the front, which eliminates torque steer and improves steering feel. And at the rear, it has GM's H-arm suspension, which improves ride quality and reduces road noise, and air springs that control the ride height.
The result of all this technology is a car that doesn't ask to be driven aggressively but doesn't complain about it, either. The suspension firms up in corners and stays supple over bumps, creating a smooth ride and less body lean than this car would have naturally. The car tracks through corners quite well, and only begins to push forward in turns when driven very hard.
GM's 3.6-liter V6 is the lone engine, and it's a good one. It feels strong off the line. The engine works well with the 6-speed automatic transmission, kicking down responsively to provide highway passing punch.
Right for You?
The XTS is a stylish sedan with plenty of room for five, a beautiful interior environment, and the latest in high-tech and safety features. Shoppers looking for a true sports sedan or more power, however, will be better served by any of the rear-wheel-drive competitors from Europe and Japan.
(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report.)
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.