Review 2013 Cadillac XTS | Toronto Star

Photo 2013 Cadillac XTS Review
By Brian Early, Toronto Star
With all the attention that’s being given to Cadillac’s award-winning, new for 2013 ATS, it’s easy to forget that there’s another new Cadillac at the opposite end of the brand’s lineup, the XTS. The XTS replaces both the slow-selling STS and the septuagenarian-oriented DTS sedans, effectively serving as the wreath and crest division’s flagship – at least until (or if, ever) the company’s long-rumoured Mercedes S-Class fighter becomes reality.
Built right here in the GTA, at GM’s Oshawa Car Assembly facility (as well as Lansing, Mich.), XTS uses the same long-wheelbase version of the corporate “Epsilon II” platform that underpins the Buick Lacrosse and 2014 Chevy Impala, a front-drive architecture with available all-wheel drive. Epsilon’s European roots (principal engineering was undertaken by GM’s Opel division) promise good driving manners, and that is the case here. With standard Magnetic Ride Control to rein in vertical motion and HiPer Strut front suspension to improve steering feel and accuracy, the XTS is much more STS than DTS when driven with any enthusiasm, and my tester’s all-wheel drive eliminated any noticeable amount of torque steer. That Brembo front brakes are standard says a lot.
The “S” in STS stood for Seville, the “D” in DTS for DeVille (the “TS” is “Touring Sedan”), but it’s tough to say what the “X” in XTS stands for. If I had to make a guess, perhaps Generation X, as in the younger buyer base that it’s doubtless hoped this new car appeals to.
Perhaps to that end, there’s lots of tech available in this car, in terms of not only driver aids – a term I’ll use loosely – such as lane keeping, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control, but also in the vehicle/driver interface, which, on upper-level models, includes a fully rendered LCD instrument cluster and colour Heads-Up Display. All XTS’s feature Cadillac’s new touch-operated infotainment and climate system, dubbed “CUE” (Cadillac User Experience).
I consider myself to be reasonably tech-savvy, able to puzzle my way through most of whatever Windows, Apple or the most aggravating electronic devices throw my way, so when it took me, no exaggeration, five minutes of monkeying to find and reset the trip odometer upon picking up my $61,955 White Diamond Tricoat XTS “Premium Collection” tester, it was an inauspicious start. Not to mention that were one so inclined, they’d probably need to consult the owner’s manual to find the dash-mounted button to open the glove box to get the owner’s manual. You get the idea.
With a few days of familiarity time, navigating the various functions of the reconfigurable, fully screen-based instrument cluster (which in and of itself is very cool) and CUE’s infotainment system became relatively easy, however the whole User Experience left me cold. CUE is intended to mimic the functionality of high-end electronic devices like iPads and smartphones, so someone please tell me why I have to swipe a touch surface to adjust the volume, when every such smart device I’ve ever encountered has had dedicated hard buttons for that purpose? Yes, there are steering wheel controls for that too – they’re not very helpful for the passenger.
Cadillac is not alone in this blunder – many recent Ford and Lincoln models have gone to touch-operation of functions handled readily – and intuitively – by knobs and buttons, and at least the Caddy’s seat heaters respond within seconds of start-up, not the 30-60 seconds and two menu screens required by the last Lincoln I drove.
Still, my faith in the big Caddy’s software wavered a bit when secondary displays and the nav system’s zoom reverted to settings other than what I’d left them at upon restart, and my iPod began playing tracks alphabetically when I’d been listening to a single artist before. Noticing that the exterior-mirror mounted puddle lamps were inexplicably on while I was driving one night didn’t help, either.
With a starting MSRP of $48,995, the XTS is close to the price of many mid-size luxury models, from loaded Acura TL’s through to Volvo S80’s, with the odd 5 Series or E-Class within easy spending range. Traditionally though, Cadillacs appeal more to domestic-oriented buyers, and that’s likely to be the case with the XTS more than it would be with the sportier CTS and ATS. While you could fairly argue that upper-range versions of Chrysler’s 300 fit the bill, the XTS’ most natural competitor is Lincoln’s MKS.
Like the XTS, the MKS is based on a more mainstream, front-drive-based model (the Ford Taurus, in this case), however AWD is standard on the MKS, where it is an option on the XTS. Both feature a 304 hp V6 (the Lincoln having incrementally more torque), but the Lincoln also offers a 365 hp twin-turbo motor. The Caddy trades a small amount of cargo room for greater rear seat space, though you could hardly call its cavernous trunk cramped, and the seatbacks will fold to accommodate the White Rose Gasoline sign you discovered playing “Canadian Pickers”. Both feature touch-operated climate and audio, so no winners there.
While perhaps looking a bit too much like the other sedans in Cadillac’s lineup (a charge that can be levelled against other automakers as well), the XTS does still have presence. There’s no arguing that the interior – the rear seats and trunk in particular – are massive compared to many of those foreign-branded competitors, and Cadillac no longer has to apologize for their interiors; my tester’s cabin looked decidedly upscale, with plenty of stitched trim and soft touch surfaces in all the appropriate places. Indirect lighting and satin-metallic trim brightened what would have otherwise been a sombre black and dark-wood work environment.
Despite the rap-star appeal of the big Escalade SUV and the successes of the CTS, Cadillac still has some way to go to have the street cred of many premium brands. With the XTS, it takes a big step in the right direction. Hopefully Cadillac exorcises the CUE system before it becomes their i-Drive, because that debacle aside, the XTS is actually a really nice car.
2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium Collection
Prices: XTS/XTS Platinum Collection AWD/as tested, $48,995/$64,975/$61,955
Engine: 24 valve 3.6L V6, DOHC/VVT/GDI
Power/Torque: 304 hp/264 lb-ft
Fuel Consumption (L/100 km): Cty/Hwy/as tested, 12.5/7.7/11.7
Fuel Required/Recommended: 87 (octane)
Competition: Lincoln MKS, Chrysler 300, Lexus GS, Mercedes E300, Hyundai Genesis
What’s best: Roomy cabin, rear especially; Cadillac-worthy interior finish and fittings (LCD gauges unexpected); Big Caddy without a traditional big-Caddy ride.
What’s worst: CUE! Might be some minor software patches needed; no optional engine like most competitors.
What’s interesting: Adaptive Cruise Control with full-stop capability is optional.