First Drive

2013 Cadillac XTS Premium Collection AWD

New Caddy combines traditional luxury with newest technologies

2013 Cadillac XTS - front 3/4 view
AT A GLANCE
PRICE
$59,000 base. $63,650 as tested.
FUEL CONSUMPTION
NR Canada (L/100 km): 12.5 city. 7.7 highway. 11.0 combined.
POWERTRAIN
3.6-litre V6 engine with VVT, direct injection; 304 hp @ 6,800 rpm; 264 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5,200 rp
Pros & CONS
  • Spacious cabin, plenty of rear-seat legroom
  • Large trunk with folding rear-seats and pass-thr
  • Heated seats front and rear
  • Gear changes using paddle shifters lack crispnes
  • Digital clock display too small
  • Resume function on cruise control very sensitive

It’s obvious Cadillac has been making a conscious effort to woo younger buyers with sporty models such as the ATS, CTS and V-Series cars.

It’s a move to ensure the brand’s future as its traditional core of buyers is literally fading away. Still, there are enough of those older consumers in the luxury car segment to be worth pursuing, hence the arrival of the 2013 CadillacXTS.

This all-new large sedan puts a new, modern spin on Cadillac’s old land yachts, the DTS and STS; slick enough to satisfy younger generations, but still loaded with the comfort, spaciousness and luxury that traditionalists demand.

I had the opportunity to take an XTS Premium Collection all-wheel-drive sedan on an extended trip – more than 2,100 kilometres – that included interstate highways,secondary roads and urban streets. The route was ideal for this car, which puts the focus more on smooth highway cruising than being flicked about in sporty ventures. Sit back in the well-padded seats, with a multi-setting heating and cooling feature, turn up the superb 14-speaker Bose 5.1 Studio Surround audio system, set and forget the automatic tri-zone climate control and let the kilometers to your destination click off.

Spacious cabin

2013 Cadillac XTS - rear seat.JPG

There’s plenty of room in the beautifully appointed XTS cabin. This sedan is based on a stretched Epsilon platform shared with the Buick LaCrosse and 2014 ChevyImpala. The long wheelbase (2,837 millimetres) results in generous legroom,especially for rear-seat occupants who enjoy 1,016 mm of space for their lower limbs. That rear seat is also wide enough to actually accommodate three adults without crushing their crinolines. They are also pampered, with their own climate controls and HVAC outlets, heated seats, reading lights, a 12-volt power outlet and a 110-volt receptacle to power any type of entertainment device.

Luggage space, too, is generous with 509 litres available, and all of it readily useable thanks to the flat trunk floor and enclosed trunk lid hinges. I did find it impossible to stash some hockey sticks in the trunk – until I found the convenient, lockable pass-through built into the rear-seat’s centre armrest.Pop it open and you can slide longer items, such as sticks or skis, neatly into the cargo area. If the pass-through doesn’t solve your storage issues, the rear seat backs are split 60/40 and fold forward, adding even more capacity.

Bristling with technology

2013 Cadillac XTS - steering wheel and instrument panel.JPG

The XTS is loaded with modern technologies, including a 12-inch colour gauge cluster that can be reconfigured into four different layouts, a driver information display that can monitor numerous systems as the driver chooses, a full-colour head-up display (HUD) that can also be configured by the driver to display key vehicle information on the windshield, and the Cadillac UserExperience (CUE) infotainment system with its eight-inch, full-colour touchscreen centred in the instrument panel. I found some of these systems helpful and relatively intuitive to set up. The HUD feature, for example, was simple to configure using a trio of buttons on the instrument panel that adjusted brightness/intensity, display location and selection of information. The driver information centre, however, was less user-friendly. Trying to scroll through the numerous settings to readily find the information I wanted became an exercise in frustration. Ultimately, I had to pull off the road and play with the toggle switch to finally locate the readout I needed.

The CUE system will certainly appeal to techno geeks with its touch screen, haptic(touch-based) feedback and proximity sensing features, but I’m not sure that older buyers who are most likely to consider the XTS will appreciate, or enjoy using it. Sometimes, old-fashioned knobs and buttons are more than adequate. I did get comfortable with CUE, as well as the touch-sensitive audio and HVAC controls, during my extended time in the car, although there was an issue with the navigation system when it couldn’t find my hometown of London, Ontario. One lingering complaint with CUE – the digital clock display in the upper right-hand corner of the screen was difficult to see from the driver’s seat. A simple digital display above the screen, perhaps positioned between the HVAC vents, would be ideal.

The XTS is offered in four trim levels, starting with the base front-wheel-drive sedan, then climbing through a trio of upgrades: Luxury, Premium and Platinum –all available with either front- or all-wheel drive. There is, however, just one powertrain available, regardless of trim level: Cadillac’s 3.6-litre V6 with variable valve timing and direct injection. It produces 304 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque, delivered through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Adequate performance

2013 Cadillac XTS - engine.JPG

That output is adequate, though not spectacular in a full-size sedan that weighs 1,912 kilograms in all-wheel trim. (The front-wheel version is a bit lighter at 1,817 kg.) The XTS proved capable of accelerating fast enough to blend with highway traffic and had enough reserve to make passes safely, but if you’re looking for lightening-like response, you won’t find it here. Perhaps, if Cadillac had opted to add a few more speeds to the transmission, as some luxury segment competitors have done, the XTS would be able to deliver more snap while still maintaining competitive fuel consumption numbers. (On our drive, I had a combined consumption rate of 9.9 L/100 kilometres.)

The six-speed automatic shifted smoothly when left to its own devices, but was not crisp when the paddle shifters were engaged. Also, the steering-wheel-mounted paddles weren’t activated unless the console-mounted shift lever was dropped a notch to the manual setting – a less than convenient arrangement. Really,though, I wonder how many XTS owners will even bother to use those paddles as the car’s demeanour isn’t exactly “sporty.”

Riding on (magnetic) air

2013 Cadillac XTS - rear 3/4 view low.JPG

The XTS is equipped with GM’s excellent magnetic ride control system that continuously monitors and adjusts the suspension settings. It combines with the HiPer Strut suspension up front and the independent H-arm setup in the rear to deliver a comfortable, stable ride. There’s also an air-powered automatic leveling system that compensates for heavy loads in the rear. The XTS feels tauter than its “floaty” predecessors, though not as nimble as siblings in the Cadillac clan, specifically the ATS and CTS. Its ride comfort level is well suited to the target demographic, soaking up such surface imperfections as expansion joints and pavement seams, while maintaining the firmness and cornering stability today’s consumers expect in a luxury sedan.

The interior décor was impressive, with generous use of soft, perforated leather,wood and brushed metal trim. Every panel fit perfectly, even where multiple layers of materials came together, such as the instrument panel, doors and A-pillar. The exterior, finished in an available white diamond tri-coat,dazzled in sunlight, highlighting the car’s clean, elegant design.

The new XTS pays appropriate homage to Cadillac traditions, but is also on the cutting edge of today’s standards for the luxury car segment.   

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