THE ALCHEMY AND THE X-STASY
2013 Cadillac XTS
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Tue, Nov 27, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Words and pictures by John Grafman Helios II, a joint effort in early 1976 between West Germany and NASA, launched the fastest spacecraft known to man, traveling at speeds of 157,000 miles per hour. Yet, Cadillac is moving much faster, nearly light-speed. One doesn’t have to think too far back to recall the portly sedan in GM’s luxury line-up, the DTS. This car came from a land, or perhaps a brand, that time forgot. Dinosaurs roamed the world, and petrol could be had for less than two bucks a gallon. When one thought of spirited big sedans the DTS never really came up in conversation, or at least not for anyone too young to be a member of AARP. Since the time the DTS was developed a lot is changing at the wreath and crest, and at GM. Cadillac is improving with each and every successive model. These are now aspirational products. All of this is happening in rapid fashion; there’s no foot-dragging going on here. The XTS, the descendant of the DTS, not only looks cool, but it drives with purpose, control, and—dare I say—performance. The model comes in a standard version, and is upgradable to one of three optional Collections - Luxury, Premium, or Platinum.
The iconic feature that’s hard to ignore is the sheer size of the XTS. This is what we think of when one talks about Cadillacs. From tip to tail this as big as anything on the road, short of the largest of SUVs. The designers of this make good use of this oversized canvas. Subtle body sculpting that would be lost on a small car provides flow in a large blocky body. In contrast to the other surfaces, the front grill and fascia are bold and unmistakable. This provides a heightened sense of drama. The tail, like the body side, is a bit understated. But the crisp, angular lines, and a hint of tail fins of yore are in keeping with the overall styling. Inside, this doesn’t feel any smaller. This car must have been designed, engineered and manufactured specifically for Texas (because everything is bigger in Texas). The interior design of the dash and doors only amplifies the size. Looking around, there are few flies in the ointment, but not many. The upper dash cover, which is overall fitting, has a few minor stray lumps and bumps that indicate the parts underneath (like the airbag). The well-crafted instrument panel is handsome, and aside from one small panel, this is well what one expects from a luxury car. There is added storage in the center console beneath the armrest, which in part makes up for the lack of space in the glove box. The side window sunshades in the rear are manually operated, and do provide protection for the sun and paparazzi, but the shape could closer reflect the actual shape of the window. Also, the rich-looking shifter, which is placed to the left of the cup holders instead of placed in the center of the console, is slightly encroaching on the roomy feel the driver otherwise enjoys. Also, the visor mirror, like many other cars, has illumination that blinds the user. What’s the point of a mirror if you can‘t see? Okay, enough grousing. There is a ton that the XTS does right. The overall quality of fit, finish, and materials really speaks volumes on how serious GM is. The use of indirect lighting accents the interior’s lines perfectly. A pleasing use of wood is found on the surfaces of the steering wheel, doors, center console, instrument panel, and the previously mentioned shifter knob.
The massive Ultraview double panel glass sunroof is impressive. The transparent sunshade provides the right blend of privacy, shade, and illumination. Care was taken in engineering so that the sunshade seats well along the edges and leaves no irritating gaps. Occasionally, it’s not what you see, but what you don’t. Gone is the predominate clock on the dash. Is Cadillac insinuating that when inside a timeless car, who needs a clock? Gone are the gauges and physical indicators for all the instruments from the speedometer to fuel. All of the stylish bezels around these have given way to a colorful and entertaining digital version. Before moaning the passing of the bits of plastic and metal, note that the new version allows for some incredible and useful graphics and allow far more information to be displayed, all of which is driver adjustable. Not a bad trade off. The Heads Up Display, or HUD, is another feature that isn’t just a gimmick, but proves itself to be a worthy addition. This allows the driver to focus on the road, and still get useful information reflected into the windshield. The driver can vary the height and intensity of the image. The latest and greatest on the tech front is the Cadillac User Experience, or as it’s more commonly known as, CUE (no relation to the James Bond character Q). CUE features several industry firsts, including several novel touches like capacitive-touch control with proximity sensing, haptic feedback, and gesture recognition. This controls many of the systems via a touch screen. The system provides a physical feedback acknowledging the command with a slight vibration on the screen. The system itself does take a take a little getting used to, and nine times out of ten responds correctly. However, as with most touch screens, it requires shifting the driver’s attention away from the road. The solution in the XTS is the display controls in the digital instrument binnacles, which allow the driver to just glance down and use the toggles on the steering wheel to control many of the same features. These are displayed in full color, and include navigation and audio, including XM satellite radio. The audio display in the left binnacle of the reconfigurable instrument cluster provides the station number, name, artists, and song title. The controls feed into a very capable Bose system that brings life to everyone from Frank Sinatra to Jim Morrison. And yes, audio from hand-held devices can be imported too. The standard eight-speaker system is upgraded to the available 14-speaker Bose system with an energy efficient amplifier in upper level models.
Now a quick word about the nav system, confused. For some crazy reason the navigation couldn’t provide a proper path from Orange County to LA. The system wanted to take us on Mr. Toad’s wild ride to everywhere but where we wanted to go. Maybe a software upgrade is in order. The new Natural Voice Recognition is also hit and a miss. When it works as it should this couldn’t be better. But the frustration grows when even simple names can’t be understood. Also counterintuitive is the address book that lists the contacts by the first name instead of the last. CUE only exceeds this hiccup by not even showing some of the contacts. One of the signature system employed on the XTS is the advance warning on The Driver Awareness Package. The radar that warns of parking proximity also alerts drivers of impending collisions while driving. If the system notices the Cadillac closing too quick on an object, or vise-a-versa, the Safety Alert Seat feature will initially vibrate the driver’s thigh bolster in the seat. The proper side is vibrated in relation to the side of the vehicle that’s in danger. If that doesn’t earn the proper driver’s response, the HUD will flash an actions warning into the windscreen that’s near impossible to ignore. This is a user active system, so, it’s up to the driver to take appropriate measures. The available The Driver Assist Package offers Adaptive Cruise Control and other countermeasures whereby the XTS will brake the car to avoid an unwanted situation if the driver doesn’t. Also out of sight is a little cubical behind the center console lower panel, just beneath the CUE display screen. The touch activate release exposes the hidden compartment, just large enough for a phone or other valuables, or… well use your imagination. Shifting into reverse activates the rear back-up camera on the center-mounted display. This feature a color image and a helpful, active trajectory via the dynamic guidelines, showing where the car will travel in relationship to the steering input. The now commonplace keyless startis, as expected, standard fare. Throughout, all surfaces have a nice tactile quality, and it shouldn’t be a surprise when passengers are caught massaging door panels and the dash. Personally, I prefer a thicker steering wheel, but this isn’t bad at all. Plus, the various controls on the wheel means never having to take your hands off until the car reaches its final destination.
The heated and vented front seat are very comfortable for any length drive, albeit these aren’t sport seats for those looking to tear it up. However these do have built in audio speakers, and the headrests adjust forward providing greater comfort and protection. While the front seats do have adjustable front thigh supports, even in the retracted positions these can be a bit long for drivers with shorter legs. As one would expect in a Cadillac, the leather seating is top-notch. Soleil Keisel leather seating surfaces with mini-perforated inserts are standard on all model levels. This continues onto the rear, which is suitable for three abreast seating, even for oversized Americans. If one can’t be the driver, the rear isn’t a bad place to be with 40-inches of legroom. This also comes with seat heatersfor the two outboard positions. An extra bonus is the split fold down rear seats allowing mega amounts of space for extra long objects, like skis, surfboards, and keyboards. Aside from the very longest of items, the spacious 18 cubic feet of trunk space can handle almost anything, so bringing the entire closet and a mini fridge on road trips is a thumbs-up. Owners can get gear in the rear than even an Audi A8L, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class can’t. What you won’t find in the trunk or beneath the car is a spare tire. But, this saves cost, space and fuel economy. With the Lincoln Town Car a distant memory, the Cadillac XTS is a perfect option for an executive car when a limo is just too much. However, the trunk doesn’t come with a one-touch closing as a standard feature. In other words, the interior is a mix bag of high tech could be advances, and an undeniable gratifying design and use of materials. Certainly, the interior is perfect for lounging, but the driving experience is what keeps up wishing for more seat time. This comes with six, not eight, cylinders. Before anyone gets up in arms, this is plenty except in the most demanding circumstances. This is a big vehicle, and the 264 pound-feet of toque is typically enough, unless we are on steep terrain. But, the direct-injection 3.6-liter with 304 horses is plenty to keep a quick pace on freeways. The surprise isn’t that this keeps up with traffic, it’s that the XTS likes to lead the pack. This feels good closing in on triple digit speeds. This does pick up ground in a hurry, in part due to a six-speed automatic transmission with tap-shift paddles on the backside of the steering wheel. The Haldex all-wheel drive system is able to get the power to each corner. The Haldex system sifts the power from front to rear, and side-to-side, providing better handling all the way around. I’m sure the V6 is more efficient, but the EPA estimate is 17 city and 26 highway. Yes, a big improvement from yesteryear. Nevertheless, an extended range electric version would be a nice offering as well. But, for now this will do very well. The icing on the cake is the suspension on the Cadillac XTS. The use of the Magnetic Ride Control, as found in the Corvette, along with the rear air springs allows this to offer both a comfortable ride, and a solid capable performance. Turns and sweeps don’t upset this car in the least bit. This isn’t aggressive, where chasing down twisty roads becomes diversion from life’s daily travels, but this doesn’t get weak in the knees either. The ultra-high strength steel used in the chassis provides a stiffer car, which in turn benefits the handling and safety in the event on a crash.
The attractive 19-inch wheels cover the powerful Brembo brakes up front that offers drivers peace of mind know that the car can shed speed and come to a stop as drama free as it accelerates. This Cadillac can push the outside of the envelope and haul it back in. This comes complete with electric nannies to keep this on track even when we don’t, like Stabilitrac. Other niceties abound like the Rainsense automatic windshield wipers, and visual details like the Illuminating door handles. Both of which are standard fare on all Luxury, Premium and Platinum collections While Cadillac XTS doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles standard that some carry, buyers can find almost anything imaginable on one or more of the three upper levels that are available. But, this does offer something most premium full-size cars don’t offer – an affordable price. For $44K for the standard model, and at less than 56K for a base Premium Collection model ($59,425 as tested), this pricing goes head to head against European competitors. Plus, this far less expensive than the flagships from the competition. The Cadillac Premium Collection even beats out the Hyundai Equus in pricing by five percent for base models! One aspect the other car companies can’t offer at any price is the heritage and gratification that comes from owning a machine from a legendary American brand. True, the XTS won’t even break the speed of sound, but if Cadillac offers a XTS-V that might just change! SUMMARY JUDGMENT The Cadillac XTS is another hit from GM. The brand isn’t just back in the game; it’s here to win! For more information about Cadillac products, go to www.cadillac.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Cadillac XTS Price: $55,800 (base) $59,425 (as tested) EPA mileage estimates (city/highway): 17/26 miles per gallon Engine type: 3.6L, V-6, VVT, DI, Aluminium block, and Cast Aluminium Heads Horsepower: 304 at 6800 rpm Torque: 264 pound-feet at 5200 rpm Transmission type: Hydra-Matic 6T70 six-speed automatic Drive configuration: front engine/all-wheel drive Suspension: Front: high-performance coil-over strut, hollow direct-acting stabilizer bar, Magnetic Ride Control suspension Rear: Linked “H”-arm with air springs and Magnetic Ride Control Wheels and tires: Front: 19 x 8.5-in. painted aluminum with chrome inserts (base)19 x 8.5-in. polished aluminum (Luxury and Premium), P245/45R19 all-season blackwall Rear: 19 x 8.5-in. painted aluminum with chrome inserts (base)19 x 8.5-in. polished aluminum (Luxury and Premium), P245/45R19 all-season blackwall Brakes: Front: Vented discs 13.6 x 1.2 / 345 x 20 diameter Rear: Vented discs 12.4 x 0.9 / 315 x 23 diameter Electronic Stability Program (ESP) Dimensions Overall length: 202 inches Overall width: 72.9 inches Overall height: 59.4 inches Curb weight (lbs): 4,215 (AWD)/4,006 (FWD)