Cadillac re-enters the large luxury-car market for 2013 with the elegant and thoroughly modern XTS sedan.
With the automotive marketplace leaning heavily toward smaller cars and crossovers these days, it’s difficult to remember a time when American motorists truly lived large. Expansive sedans with cavernous cabins and mighty V8 engines ruled the roads in the 1950s, ‘60s and into the ‘70s, with fuel economy being largely an afterthought.
Cadillac enjoyed its greatest success during that era, selling outsized and opulent autos like the DeVille and Eldorado to upwardly mobile car buyers. By contrast, the brand’s top-selling current model, the midsize CTS sedan, would have been laughed off the lot at one time as “too small” to be a Cadillac.
Yet large cars still have an appeal, particularly among those with a penchant for interior spaciousness. Case in point is the new-for-2013 Cadillac XTS full-size front-drive luxury sedan, which replaces both the previously discontinued STS and DTS in Cadillac’s lineup of alphabet-soup-named autos.
Priced from $44,075 to $60,385, depending on the version, this is a truly handsome vehicle inside and out, with a rich look and feel to it, particularly in higher trim levels. The exterior is capped by a mammoth front grille and narrow lower air dam, flanked by angular rearward-reaching headlamps. Featuring a swept-back windshield and tall beltline, the XTS’ exterior is devoid of unnecessary creases and curls. Unfortunately the rakish roofline tends to scrape the heads of taller riders entering and exiting the car.
Unlike the land yachts of old, the XTS isn’t packing eight cylinders, but rather a direct-injected 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces a willing 304 horsepower. It’s neither the smoothest nor the fastest engine in the luxury segment, but it gets the job done nicely and with respectable fuel economy at 17/28 mpg. Still, a turbocharged six would add some extra oomph here. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard.
As one would hope and expect from the largest Cadillac sedan, the XTS rides smoothly, absorbing even the most punishing potholes and pavement irregularities like a sponge, while handling surprisingly well for such a large car, or at least one that isn’t branded “BMW.” This is thanks to a sophisticated front suspension that virtually eliminates torque steer (the tendency of a front-drive car to pull to one side under heavy acceleration) with Magnetic Ride Control that adjusts the stiffness of the shock absorbers instantaneously according to the driving situation and road surface. All-wheel-drive is optional to help maintain traction under inclement conditions.
The XTS’ spacious cabin can accommodate five adult riders in comfort with generous leg, shoulder and hip room. The leather-trimmed dashboard features attractive accent stitching and subtle LED accent lighting. Large and legible configurable electronic gauges can be augmented by an optional heads-up display that projects vehicle speed and other information onto the windshield in the driver’s line of sight.
The automaker’s CUE (for Cadillac User Experience) multimedia control system is standard and uses a large display that responds to both touches and gestures, along with clumsy “touchpoints” on the dashboard instead of buttons and knobs. While it provides some tactile feedback when executing operations, we found CUE to be difficult – and distracting – to operate while driving.
The XTS offers all the requisite luxury features, though the latest high-tech safety gear is optional. These include lane departure and blind spot warning systems and both front and rear collision detection with automatic braking (the latter kicked in a few times during our testing to help prevent us from nudging the car behind us while parking). An available Safety Alert Seat gives feedback to the driver from the aforementioned systems via a vibrating seat cushion, in tandem with other visual alerts. In practice it feels like one’s driving over a highway rumble strip, and while it’s certainly less annoying than loud chimes or beeps, it takes some getting used to.
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