2013 Cadillac XTS Review
We try out the new flagship Caddy.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: September 19th, 2012
Cadillac is working hard on rehabbing its image to appeal to a younger demographic, since a brand with world-class luxury aspirations must do more than just be big in Boca Raton, and launching the flagship XTS sedan, along with the 3-Series challenger ATS, is the next step in that process. The brand makeover began with the successful CTS, and now it's up to the XTS to provide a credible challenge to the large luxury cars like the Hyundai Genesis, while also offering a lower price of entry than the Lexus LS or Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Will the XTS be able to wipe Caddy's last flagship, the unlamented DTS, from our memories? Read on.
Features & Prices
The biggest newsmaker on the features list is Cadillac's CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment system. Standard on the XTS, CUE takes a few "cues" from smartphones, such as allowing uses to pinch fingers together to zoom out on the map screen. Haptic touch feedback is also part of the CUE experience--the screen vibrates in response to user input. CUE also has a proximity sensor that brings the menu to the forefront when it senses the user's finger approaching, and menu icons can be dragged over the configurable instrument cluster.
Besides CUE and the reconfigurable instrument panel, the XTS offers features such as: a capless fuel-filler, adaptive cruise control, OnStar, heated and cooled front seats, a Driver Awareness Package (lane-departure warning, a blind-spot alert system, a rear-cross traffic alert system, and a "Safety Alert Seat" that vibrates to warn of potential collisions), dual-zone or tri-zone climate control (depending on trim), 19- or 20-inch wheels, and heated rear seats.
There are four trims for the XTS: base, Luxury, Premium, and Platinum. Front-wheel-drive is standard and all-wheel-drive is available on all but the base trim. All XTSs are powered by a 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 that pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Our all-wheel-drive Premium tester came standard with 19-inch wheels, a heated steering wheel, wood trim, a 60-40 split-fold rear seat, satellite radio, a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, keyless entry and starting, a remote start, the heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats, tri-zone climate control, the Driver Awareness Package, adaptive headlamps, and a rearview camera. Total cost without additional features: $55,810.
The only options were a sunroof ($1,450), the white tricoat paint ($995) and rear window sunshades ($250). With the $920 destination charge, our tester topped out at $59,425.
On the Road
As curious as we were about CUE, we also wanted to know if this car could perform. We weren't expecting the CTS' muscle, nor did we expect it to handle the way Cadillac claims the ATS can. And it didn't, but buyers in this class generally aren't looking for that. They are looking for on-road competence, not necessarily outright performance.
Power delivery is strong, but the XTS isn't light, so that hampers overall acceleration to some extent. The magnetic ride control suspension gives the car stability in cornering, but it doesn't feel particularly agile. Steering feel is unremarkable at best, but it's certainly not overboosted, which is a positive. We found the ride firm but not punishing--gone is the soft float of big Caddys of yore.
We found that the safety seat could be intrusive at times, especially when parking, but it does get the driver's attention. The heads-up display has an integrated warning that alerts drivers when they're following too closely, and we kind of liked it, even though it seems like a bit of technology safety-net overkill.
CUE was both interesting and confounding. One editor was bugged by some hassles with iPhone integration, and another couldn't arrange his musical playlists in the fashion he preferred. We have concerns that older buyers might be confused by CUE, despite Cadillac reps' protests to the contrary. The haptic touch feedback was both cool and creepy at the same time, and the system does take some getting used to.
On the other hand, the pinch method worked for zooming in and out on the map. CUE does offer some neat tricks, and it seems less buggy and more intuitive than Ford's MyFordTouch/MyLincolnTouch system. The reconfigurable IP is cool, too, offering easy to read gauges that can be easily customized to driver preference.
Otherwise, the XTS interior is on par with other current Cadillacs, with class-appropriate materials that feel nice but a notch below what's offered by Lexus and Mercedes. The interior is also nice and quiet, which is what buyers want in this class.
The XTS follows Cadillac's angular "Art and Science" design theme, and as such, it reminds of a stretched CTS without that car's muscular posturing. It's attractive yet conservative for the buyers in this class, buyers who rarely like to rock the styling boat.
Fuel Economy and Safety
In addition to the high-tech safety features already listed, the XTS has the usual goodies: stability control, traction control, ABS, and the standard complement of airbags.
Fuel economy is rated at 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway--not great, but about right given the car's size and V-6 powerplant.
Cadillac has cooked up a competent flagship sedan, but that will be overshadowed by the attention paid to CUE. The XTS won't satisfy enthusiasts, but it should do well among the typical well-heeled buyers who shop this class.
It's rare to refer to a Cadillac as a good value proposition, but the XTS does undercut the heavy hitters in price, and it offers a better experience than the Lincoln MKS while being on par with the Genesis. It doesn't quite compete with the Germans (as well as Lexus) in terms of interior class, but it's close enough that we suspect most buyers won't care.
The XTS doesn't blow us away, nor does it shoot to the top of the class. But it's solid enough that it will be very competitive. The same can't be said of the--wait, what was the name of Caddy's previous flagship? DTS? Memory-erasing mission accomplished.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2013 Cadillac XTS, click here: 2013 Cadillac XTS.