Two all-new models for 2013 have made Cadillac the fastest growing major automotive brand in the U.S. Since the turn of the last century, Cadillac has broadened their image with a return to racing and performance-tuned rear-wheel drive offerings. The 2013 Cadillac ATS is the culmination of this, and has racked up numerous awards and accolades. Believe the hype. However, there is still a legion of front-wheel drive customers out there and Cadillac has turned its attention back to them. First, the SRX crossover moved from a rear-wheel drive platform to front-wheel drive and became an instant hit. Now for the traditional full-size flagship sedan comes the other all-new model, the 2013 Cadillac XTS. It replaces both the DTS and STS, which frankly were not delivering the best of Cadillac's cutting edge styling and technology. That has all changed.
The XTS is a real knockout. Just when it looked like Cadillac was about to exhaust their "Art and Science" design language, its long, low and wide shape is an ultra-contemporary take on the classic big Caddy. My test car was the top trim level, a loaded XTS Platinum Collection, featuring a unique grille and 20-inch chrome and polished aluminum wheels, finished in Graphite Metallic. And the great styling doesn't end in the interior. Jet Black leather with Wheat accents made for a dramatic two-tone treatment, complemented by a finely-crafted uplevel wood trim package on the tester.
Old World craftsmanship in the interior meets the future in the CUE system, which stands for Cadillac User Experience. While other automakers' touch screen infotainment interfaces begin to look like variations on a theme, CUE has completely rethought this technology. Based on a clean looking eight-inch screen and a few hard buttons in the center of the instrument panel, it combines excellent graphics and an intuitive layout. It also gives you touch feedback, like a smartphone, on both the screen and the buttons. That acknowledgement you have triggered a selection reduces the time you need to take your eyes off the road; of course, there is natural voice recognition as well, for hands-free operation. Other systems either bury common functions in multiple steps, or else display numerous selections resulting in a busy appearance. CUE has the perfect solution. Minimal information is shown on the screen until you reach for it, at which point it senses your hand and lights up the options you choose for the home screen. Premium and Platinum Collection also features a 12.3-inch screen with a reconfigurable gauge cluster for an additional high-tech look.
Technological advances also abound in the safety department. The Driver Awareness Package warns you of imminent forward collisions, lane departure, blind spot and rear cross traffic. The new Safety Alert Seat vibrates in these events; different parts of the seat vibrate to indicate which direction something is being detected. It's an interesting and effective approach.
An excellent 3.6-liter V-6 engine with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing powers the XTS, coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. If its 304 horsepower isn't enough, a twin-turbo version with 410 horsepower will be available in 2014. The tester had the available smart all-wheel drive system with an electronic limited slip differential; it can transfer power front to rear based on traction, or side to side in the rear axle. Standard Magnetic Ride Control reacts to changing road conditions in five milliseconds and delivers that smooth Cadillac ride you expect, without feeling mushy when cornering. This system is lifted straight from Cadillac's high-performance V-Series, as are the Brembo brakes.
Jaguar XJ AWD
A luxury liner from the other side of the pond, the Jaguar XJ launches into the 2013 model year with a new V-6 engine, new eight-speed transmission and available all-wheel drive. After decades of evolutionary styling, the XJ dropped jaws for the 2011 model year with an all-new look.
This supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 becomes the new base engine for the XJ lineup. Derived from Jaguar's naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8, it offers comparable performance and better fuel mileage. An automatic start/stop system helps save gas by shutting the engine off when the car is stopped. The accessories still operate and the engine automatically restarts when you take your foot off the brake pedal.
Offered only with the V-6, the new "instinctive" all-wheel drive system feeds power primarily to the rear wheels during normal driving to retain the XJ's rear-wheel drive handling characteristics. In the event of slippage, up to 50 percent of power can be delivered to the front. Selecting winter mode will divert thirty percent of the torque to the front wheels automatically. The system is electronically controlled and monitors driver inputs and traction levels for the most effective application of power for best traction; it also works in conjunction with the stability control and anti-lock braking system, which can also apply brakes to individual wheels to correct a skid.
Having driven a few examples of previous generation XJs back into the 1980s, I've always appreciated their sporting character. The 2013 XJ did not disappoint. The 340-horsepower V-6 delivered ample power in a much quieter fashion than supercharged Jaguars of years past. It helps that the new eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF always has the right gear to make use of the engine's wide power band. My week with the XJ included only dry road driving, though I did do some exercises in reduced traction conditions at recent Jaguar consumer event, so I have had a taste of the all-wheel drive's effectiveness. The XJ exhibited great grip and balance when cornering, making it feel exceptionally nimble for its size. Wrap this package in a streamlined shape and around an interior with materials and finish quality rivaling fine furniture, and you have a vehicle at home in a snowy commute or on a transcontinental trip.
Returning for its ninth annual edition, the Concours D'Elegance of Southwest Michigan will take place once again at Lake Bluff Park in St. Joseph on August 10th. This charity event continues to grow with over 100 vehicles this year, compared to 40 when it first started. The featured marque this year is Cadillac, with several examples on display including the invitational field's oldest vehicle this year, a 1912 Cadillac 30 Phaeton. Vehicles from a variety of makers up through the 1970s make up the rest of the concours participants, with a few newer and special-interest vehicles on exhibit as well. Three Pass-in-Reviews will take place, where each concours vehicle will be driven down the street, with the elucidating commentary of F. Edward Lucas, well-known announcer for the Meadowbrook and Amelia Island concours.
Another featured class will be Lady Owned vehicles. "I'm most excited to have Margaret Dunning of Plymouth, Michigan attend," said concours founder and chairman Dar Davis. "She is 103 years old and regularly drives and shows her 1930 Packard 740 Roadster."
The featured designer this year is William Porter, who had a 39-year career as studio chief at both Buick and Pontiac. His work spanned from the 1968 Pontiac GTO and LeMans to the 1995 Buick Riviera with lots more in between. "His biggest claim to fame might be the second generation Firebird and Trans Am of 1970," said Davis. A 1973 Trans Am will be there, along with some other vehicles Porter was responsible for. He will give a talk on the night before, after the welcoming reception entitled "Bombs and Fins: Auto Design of the 1950s."
"One of the most elegant vehicles you'll see is a 1937 Railton limousine," said Davis, who scoured the Great Lakes region and beyond to stock the show with accurately restored vehicles. "It's British, one of a kind, built on a Hudson chassis and engine...It's stunning, it was the 'It' car at Hershey last year."
Admission charge remains $5 per person or $10 for families with school-age children, with proceeds benefiting Hospice at Home and the St. Joseph Library. According to Davis, the concours has donated nearly $50,000 to local charities and nonprofits over the last eight years. Once again Shore Magazine will present the award for Design Excellence as one of sixteen awards. Gates open at 10:00 a.m., with pass-in-reviews taking place at noon, 1:30 and 3:00 p.m.